Sunday Morning! “Two Serious Ladies”


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Aaron David

    The distinction between tourists and travelers is one I find both interesting and superficial. And rather personal. When I travel, I like nothing more than to be mistaken for a local, which in some cases is completely impossible (language, dress, and such are completely incompatible.) But for all that, I would still be a tourist, as long as I simply going to a place to see, and not to be, if that makes sense. If I am driving down to see my father before he passed away, I am not a tourist but rather a traveler, no matter the means of travel or length of any staying I may do. But, if I go to Germany or Africa or New York, no matter how long I am there or how I got there if I am there just to experience that local, then for all my self-righteousness I am just a tourist.

    I am reading a war-time English travel narrative about the internal canal system and its peculiar denizens. Narrow Boat. Quite enjoyable.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Aaron David

      That sounds like an interesting book, I’ll have to look it up.

      I’m currently in the midst of reading Paul Theroux’s latest travelogue, On the Plain of Snakes, in which he motors around Mexico.

      Theroux, throughout all of his travel writings, has demonstrated an ability to immerse himself in the culture of wherever he is at the time. That said, he is always an outsider with plans to leave. I’m not sure I’d call him a tourist, though. Cultural observer?

      It is an interesting juxtaposition you come up with, though.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Slade the Leveller

        I would say that the act of being a working observer changes it.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Slade the Leveller

        The tourist/traveler/pilgrim distinction is one I could probably write a book about. In fact, I sort of did- my dissertation was on the French Romantics who pioneered pleasure travel to the Levant directly after the Revolution. They started in hopes of reviving Medieval pilgrimage at a time they felt was spiritually arid. It was never as doctrinaire as they hoped- even Chateaubriand, who started the trend, wasn’t a doctrinaire Catholic. Later “pilgrims” like Nerval, were more in the mystical/esoteric vein- what you’d associate with 60s hippies traveling to India and seeking enlightenment.

        But a lot of the ideas of what makes a voyage a significant event in one’s spiritual autobiography carried over to more secular travelers. It wasn’t long before even people who went for a few weeks werel claiming to be the real travelers and the *other* Europeans they saw in exotic places were “touristes”- a particular dig on the English. What’s interesting, though, is actual religious pilgrimages developed around the same time and eventually the same industry sprung up to service pilgrims to religious sites as much as the regular tours to more secular places. In the end, a pilgrim can easily become a tourist and a tourist can find himself a pilgrim.

        Of course, what this means is I read a *lot* of travel literature, although I can always read more. It’s endlessly fascinating writing. I will say it was not the best choice to read accounts of travels in Egypt and Greece and places like that during my winters in Buffalo!Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck

    Eighty years on and this book could be describing people who are Big On Social Media. “think of themselves as leaders without once having gained the respect of a single human being”, “I just reside in my house and try not to be too unhappy”, self-medicating for the trauma of existence through alcohol; we hear this music every day; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that, in the book, one of the characters goes on a tear about how they think they’re just faking their entire life and terrified of ever experiencing a real challenge…Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F.

    Again, though, the book has the advantage over social media stars in that it’s funny in a very arch, deadpan way that’s probably hard to convey in a post. For instance, there’s a scene in which the Mrs. Goering character is looking for a jazz cabaret and asks directions from a farmer who gripes the place used to be better when they had trained poodles jumping through flaming hoops and steaks big enough you could rest your chin on them. The lady then takes this very seriously and she debates whether or not you can really compare trained poodles to jazz musicians, since they’re really very different types of performance. The conversation becomes gradually more and more absurd. While bloggers are also unaware of their absurdity, it helps that Jane Bowles has a good ear for it.Report

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