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Fiction Chronicle

November 2012

Go walkabout

by Stefan Beck

Coverage of Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis, A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, The Lower River by Paul Theroux, and Voss by Patrick White.

Before tourism there was travel,” wrote the critic Paul Fussell, “and before travel there was exploration.” This statement, from Fussell’s Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars (1980), seems uncontroversial, even banal. But he didn’t mean merely that exploration was a precondition for travel, and travel for tourism. Rather, he meant that travel was all but dead, and that the ashes of exploration had been scattered to the four winds: “Because travel is hardly possible anymore, an inquiry into the nature of travel and travel writing between the wars will resemble a threnody, and I’m afraid that a consideration of the tourism that apes it will be like a satire.”

It’s possible to read this part of Fussell’s critique as satire with a straight face, but nevertheless, it caused some offense. In The New York Times, Jonathan Raban called Abroad

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Stefan Beck is a writer living in Hudson, New York. He has contributed on fiction and other subjects to The Wall Street Jounral, The New York Sun, and elsewhere.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 November 2012, on page 31

Copyright © 2014 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com

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