Reasons to hate really good writers

Some day, I’m going to get on a train at Nizamuddin Station, perhaps the one that wakes us up at three am because it has such a quiet, mournful hoot, and take it to the end of the line, and find another train, and take that to wherever it’s going, and so on and so forth.

Yeah, well, Paul Theroux did that already. Great Railway Bazaar.

Fine, no problem. So I’ll take a look at where colours come from–ochre, Indian yellow, gamboge (what a name, eh?), lead white, which killed off so many fashionable women, cochineal…

Victoria Finlay. Colour: A Natural History of the Palette.

Cities, then. How about exploring an Indian city through the stories of people who live on the fringes? Delhi through its eccentrics, its lunatics, its obsessives…

Yawn. Suketu Mehta, Maximum City. It’s Bombay, but you don’t want to do the me-too book.

Or it might be fun to see what Kubla Khan’s Xanadu was all about, or if we’re talking long, continent-hopping journeys now, who could be a better guide than Ibn Battuta?

William Dalrymple, In Xanadu, Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Travels With a Tangerine.

How about climbing Everest? Or doing the inside story on the Deep South, or Venice? Or no, wait, how about I just get in the car and drive? Across the subcontinent, as far and wide as the roads will take me, screw the deadlines (guilty voice in head saying, but who’ll feed the cats can be ignored), just follow the highways and the little bumpy potholed roads and see what happens?

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air; John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, City of Falling Angels; Way too many post-Kerouac writers been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Dammit. Going to have to give up reading, aren’t I?

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