Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book by Duncan Fallowell
|Going as Far as I Can: The Ultimate Travel Book by Duncan Fallowell|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A very personal and meandering look at a long-term trip to New Zealand. The style and interests of the author are so varied they might just hook you in, but they could as easily turn you off.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 288||Date: August 2009|
Duncan Fallowell is not your average travel writer. When I read a much older book of his, a long time ago, called To Noto, I couldn't be a hundred per cent sure beforehand that the title was in English. In my defence it might have been some foreign phrase I'd not come across in my ignorance. Still - hands up who knows where Noto actually is. With this current volume's title in isolation, it gives little away - I feel like I'm saying too much when divulging where he's going (New Zealand) and what he's doing there - pottering around, meeting associates, and their acquaintances, and finding stunning buildings, partly revolving around an Olivier and Leigh tour together back in 1948. While there he also tries to appreciate the wine, the architecture, and some of the men.
This is all written for us in a nice style, which can switch easily between concerning one of the wider narratives (checking into all the hidden, semi-derelict theatres, chasing a decent rose wine) and giving us a quick, three-line piece of essay. There is a fracturedness to the narrative, and we often get flashbacks to people met with before departure, and conversations ramble just as much as our traveller.
He might not be your ideal companion for looking at New Zealand. He sexualises many people he meets, for one - and more: shrubbery is pubic, a dock is a vulva. But you might just find yourself happy that he does the tour - he's certainly knowledgeable about the buildings he finds, and I wouldn't know a flame tree if it popped up in my soup, to use the phrase. Fallowell provides us with an erudite look at what he's interested in, and finds NZ unfortunate in having bulldozed much he was seeking. The fact he does our donkey work for us - if we are fortunate enough to empathise with his concerns - saves us a long journey, as the title, opening and more stress.
But the book, for all its nomadic content, stays on pretty much a straight track. By the end I found there was getting to be too little New Zealand, and too much religious talk, politics (I'm so much more pro-American since September 11th, aren't you?, quoth he) and sex. This means we're getting more Fallowell, so I'll leave it to you to find if that's a good thing or not.
There is mention of the continual spray of new scenes the trek offers up. This could be said of the book, but some will be turned off by the dislocated narrator, the man removed, and pre-disposed to such a fidgety mind.
I must thank Profile Books for my review copy.
For similar meandering, personal, erudite travels you might savour The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk. For more on picture theatre in New Zealand we can recommend Celluloid Circus: the Heyday of the New Zealand Picture Theatre by Wayne Brittenden and for an equally esoteric look at architecture in New Zealand we have Architecture Uncooked: An Architect Looks Around New Zealand Holiday Houses by Pip Cheshire and Patrick Reynolds.
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