- Taschenbuch: 288 Seiten
- Verlag: Virago; Auflage: New Ed (15. Januar 2004)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 1860499953
- ISBN-13: 978-1860499951
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 20 x 1,9 x 14,5 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 235.750 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 15. Januar 2004
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Her writing is sensitive, sincere and sparkling. Morning Star (Diski's) near-erotic musings on the dreaded weed almost made me want to take up smoking again. And that's saying something. Irish Times Beautifully written Times
In spite of the fact that her idea of travel is to stay home with the phone off the hook, Jenny Diski takes a trip around the perimeter of the USA by train. Somewhat reluctantly she meets all kinds of characters, all bursting with stories to tell and finds herself brooding about the marvellously familiar landscape of America, half-known already through film and television. Like the pulse of the train over the rails, the theme of the dying pleasures of smoking thrums through the book, along with reflections on the condition of solitude and the nature of friendship and memories triggered by her past times in psychiatric hospitals. Cutting between her troubled teenaged years and contemporary America, the journey becomes a study of strangers, strangeness and estrangement - from oneself, as well as from the world.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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It is an account of two extended train journeys in the USA. The first begins on a freighter across the Atlantic then takes trains from Savannah, Georgia to Tucson, Arizona. The second is even more ambitious: a round trip starting in New York and heading anticlockwise around the USA via Portland, Sacramento and Albuqerque. The main setting throughout these journeys is the smoking compartment (or equivalent) set aside for smokers and the interaction of those taking refuge within it. This environment is so well portrayed that I could smell the cigarette ash, see the drifting haze of smoke, sense the tired boredom of the occupants, visualise the varied conversations.
The book is both a hymn to the ritual of smoking and a meditation on the importance of a boundary between self and other. It becomes clear as Jenny’s daydreaming leads to reminiscences about her childhood and adolescence, that her need to maintain a distance from others in these superficially routine smoking compartment interactions, is no mere philosophical affectation but a deadly earnest struggle for survival of “self” rooted in an emotionally traumatic childhood and exemplified by significant in-patient psychiatric admissions (age 14/15, 1962, 5 months; age 20, 1967, 4 months; age 21, 1968, 9 months). This continued fear of intrusion from others adds an urgency and interest to her account that makes this much more than yet another travel book fulfilling a contractual obligation. Even the circuit of the USA has its parallels with how at age thirteen she would routinely spend all day travelling the London Underground Circle Line on its continuous circular route.
Here she is talking about the smoking carriage on her first journey:
“The smoking carriage was an oasis of tawdriness. It was a slum at the centre of the train that was in every other part designed to please the paying customer. Even in coach the seats reclined and were upholstered, there were carpets, windows that had been cleaned at least at the start of the journey, air conditioning that worked. …… The smoking coach, however, was the sin bin, the punishment cell, a capsule of degradation where those who were incorrigible would suffer the consequences of their obduracy. And it was wonderful.”
“The misfits and miscreants of the train, obviously in the real world a complete range of society, were equalised in their smoking-coach selves into a homogenous group with a fundamental set of values. Whatever our place out there, we were as Shakers or Albigensians in our train life: a despised community existing on sufferance in a world that no longer permitted itself the luxury of burning heretics.”
And here she is musing on her relation to others:
“What I experience most with other people is my estrangement from them, the distance of a mutually unique separation that words or touch never quite bridge. Unlike cats, people interfere with my apprehension of reality, they muddy how I can know myself, confuse my understanding of how I am, which is centred around the notion that solitude is a state of perfection, and the simplicity of being alone a desired goal.”
“A sense of belonging has always evaded me. For as long as I can remember I have felt myself to be not quite in the right spot, not exactly where I should be, in the wrong place, uneasy where I am, but uncertain where it is I used to be.”
I enjoyed this book. It held my attention throughout. I really appreciate Jenny Diski’s ability to articulate her unique viewpoint, and value the way she does not fit neatly into the conventional world.
There is perhaps, as another reviewer notes, rather too much on the author’s many periods in mental-care hospitals, and the recounting of these multiple stays seemed almost nostalgic as though they proved strangely more enjoyable, or at least more comfortable for her, than the train journeys in this book.
Given the state of Amtrak these days this may well be true of course.
As a former smoker (or ‘gasper’) I can empathize with the author’s difficulties with finding somewhere in America where she could still smoke, and I recognize the importance that smoking has in giving pleasure and comfort. It is those malodorous smoking cages that the author meets the people she writes about as the puff and chat she notes the details of their lives and offers us each of those ‘stories’.
Not the book I wanted, but overall an interesting perspective on America and travel.