Thursday, March 5, 2015

Writing About A New Place

Travel contains complex pitfalls and challenges for a writer. It has been said that a writer needs to have a deep sense of place in order to write well about it. Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, and John Updike are just a few examples that come to mind It can take many years to understand a place well enough to write convincingly about.  When you visit a new place you usually don’t have that much time. Still, it’s easy to get seduced by this exotic new land full of strange new foods, customs, and peculiarities. When this happens there’s a danger of losing your voice and becoming a touristy write
But it must be said that when you visit a new place you experience it with fresh sensibilities. When I first came to Thailand I was amazed to see entire families on motor scooters. Sometimes I’d see a father, young child, baby, and mother at the rear. JoAnn and I playfully dubbed these “four-tops” and were delighted whenever we saw one. But after being in Chiang Mai for three weeks I noticed that my amazement at this phenomenon began to fade. A whole family on a motor scooter? Oh yeah, that's pretty cool. I started taking it for granted. I wonder if there’s a way to reconcile these two dichotomies—exotic newness with deep knowledge?


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