“Far and Away” by Andrew Solomon is a travelogue covering some 83 countries from every corner of the globe. It is not a travel guide.
Each stop is its own story. Each stop is a moment to ponder.
Solomon, an art historian and psychologist, seeks to find the world in the place where he currently stands. Trying to understand that place on this small planet may help explain a bigger world. Or the spot may just define that place.
The book was written in 2016 of travels that covered two or three decades before, including living with Russian artists in the early 1990s. How were these artists reacting to the changing Russia with its hope for a new burst of individual independence? You might be surprised at what he found.
Those surprises, or just new discoveries, continue in his writings from Greenland to Afghanistan, always seeking out the artists of every kind who attempt to define where they themselves are in life.
The impact of this work is not just what he found, but is haunting in what these places and people became. Often the portent from what he wrote became the reality of the near future.
That future is seen in retrospective insights offered for all the pieces, many of which were written for the New York Times Magazine.
Travel can be a precarious journey. We go to see and experience, but all too often only see the new place in terms of where we came from.
Solomon expressly seeks to avoid this error by looking at the now and the ahead, not the road behind. That provides a much clearer picture of what he sees and hears, unfiltered by expectations or desires.
I came to believe this is far more than notes of a traveler. This was a search for what makes the world what it is. As global as much of life is today, the differences in this world stand obtusely angular to the potential for a world united.
This work helps one understand that fact, but not without hope derived through the many Soloman introduces to us.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, “The Innocents Abroad, Roughing It”
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2017 season is his 11th with the club and 32nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
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