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Calling It Postmodern Doesn't Mean It Should Be All Navel-Gazing, All the Time
on April 24, 2014
I got this book as an ebook. I saw some chumps, sitting there in a cafe, attempting to read books in actual *book* form and I scoffed to my slightly grubby self. I'd been hunting in the outback for days for this book, cobbling together the contents from purloined internet signals while I was driving the Outback Google Maps Street View car. Chapter twelve got stuck in my dreadlocks, which had formed from all the dust and filth accumulated whilst driving around, trying to hold the street view camera and WiFi signal stealer in place.
I was being *authentic*, man. If I was going to read a book I was going to make sure I was a *reader*, not just a letter recognizer, like most of the chumps out there. But once I had my ebook I was just, like, sitting in a car, driving around the outback, careening around the odd kangaroo, sacred stone, drop bear. I was unsatisfied. I felt like a ritzy reading magazine version of a reader. Well that's not what I'm all about.
So I took the ebook on a plane. Not just on a plane, like on the *inside*, like a lot of chumps, but I taped the iPad with the ebook on it to the *outside* of the plane. Picked it off again in Egypt, where I struck out for the desert. Four days in I sat down with my iPad to read the book. But I'd been playing Angry Turtles while I was walking to get well and truly lost, so my battery had run dead. So I walked back to civilization, recharged my batteries. Then I headed back out into the wilderness. This time I played less Angry Turtles and more ASCII Art Ninjas, which is way easier on the battery.
I wound up in the White Desert, and, after a bit of a struggle, got myself perched on top of one of the white rock pillars, where I could idly throw stones at passing camel caravans and read my book, like a real reader. So I did. But then, after getting through chapter one, then chapter two I began to think I was reading it all wrong. I mean, *any*one can read a book from start to finish. But to really *read* something I would have to strike out into the woolier passages without a guide, without any idea where I really was. I started just reading every other letter on a few pages, then jumped to a random page, read the third and seventieth letter on the page. But I wanted more. So I began reading with my eyes closed for an even more authentic experience. I achieved such an amazing reading of this book that I probably levitated. I couldn't tell because I had my eyes shut, but I'm pretty sure I had. Oh, I also met a Danish girl and a Latvian skinny tall guy who plays the guitar and sings opera for a lark floating on nearby stone pillars, which was cool. Ha HA! Andorrrrrrra!
The endnotes in the ebook version were interesting, in that you expected just yet more navel-gazing, and so weren't disappointed or looking for much more. And a few of the notes provided some small insight into a travel writer's process and the business. But the main articles, all stuck in one concentrated, Rolf-y blob, were a bit too much to stomach. I suppose it's the danger of travel writing -- you tend to travel with yourself, and some part of you becomes the story, because you're telling about your travels in your voice. I don't know if I just didn't get on with Rolf or what, I didn't enjoy his projects, his desperate need to be more than tourist. I've enjoyed plenty of travelogues, from Bill Bryson to Douglas Adams to Laurence Sterne. Just not this one.