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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Travel as a Stimulus to Writing

In Taos, at the Fonda Hotel, I went into a locked room, a curtain was pulled back, and I got to see twelve of DH Larwences's forbidden paintings, with a very knowledgeable guide, all for three dollars. These were part of the paintings seized shortly after the opening of his show in London by Scotland Yard, after a successful showing in Italy. The naked women all seem to have the face of Frieda, his wife, and the men, Lawrence's face.

This is a long lead into the topic of travel and creative writing. Lawrence was a citizen of the world. He wrote Kangaroo in Australia. The Plumed Serpent in Mexico. He had a ranch outside Taos, given to him by Mabel Dodge Lujan, and he wrote about the Pueblo ceremonies.  According to my guide, he gave her the royalties to Sons and Lovers in return.  Lawrence supported himself often by writing wonderful travel pieces, especially of Italy.  Graham Greene was another great adventureer: "Our Man in Havana." and a novel on Vietnam in the late fifties predicting American failure there which got him banned from travel in the US.

No question about it. Put your body in a new landscape, in a new culture, and the creative juices begin to flow. Travel was a great trope for the beat writers. In Zen there is a great deal of talk of seeing the divine in the ordinary ans everyday, and Throeau talked about travelling well in Concord (while taking trips to Maine and Minnesota).  That's good too, Nothing wrong with that.  But hit the road also , Jack. Make a new plan, Bertrand. Get yourself free.

Travel can unsettle you, get you to question your basic assumptions.  Sartre said something to the effect that the great thing about travel is that it engenders fear.  Fear always gets the gears of the brain turning.

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