Mr. Hudson Explores: The Gay Man’s Travel Companion
“We created a site that is all about destinations for gays, but not necessarily about gay destinations,” writes ace vacation curator Bastiaan Ellen in the introduction to Mr. Hudson Explores: The Gay Man’s Travel Companion (Gestalten. $29. www.mrhudsonexplores.com), a stylish print spin-off of the invaluable online resource he co-founded. “We don’t assume that all gay men want a gay holiday: there’s nothing wrong with partying and enjoying the local scene, but there are plenty of us who want to experience the very best a destination has to offer, in addition to those parts of cities reserved for the gay community.” If you’re a regular Passport reader, you no doubt share this sensibility, which emanates from
every sleekly designed page of this wanderlust-inducing volume. Twenty extensively photo-illustrated chapters each focus on a recommended urban destination, including some of the usual gaycay hot spots (Berlin, San Francisco, London), while also encouraging exploration of less homo-hyped locations, including Lisbon, Vienna, Brussels, and Shanghai. Rather than focusing on obvious sightseeing highlights that are thoroughly covered in other travel guides, the writers and editors here train their attention on offbeat boutiques, distinctive restaurants, and locally owned hotels in each destination that attract gay-friendly mixed clientele through attentive service and creative flair. Addresses and other contact information are located in an index, so the chapters read remarkably smoothly, whisking you around town and introducing you to a variety of local gay artists and business owners along the way.
In Kathleen Jamie’s compelling new essay collection, Surfacing (Penguin. $17. www.kathleenjamie.com), the nature-besotted writer travels through both space and time. The opening piece, “Reindeer Cave,” finds her stepping out of day-to-day life and into a cave that she informs us was discovered many decades ago; moving deeper into the past, she explains that bones discovered here have been carbondated as 45,000 years old: “sixteen million days and nights had passed in the upper world.” That upper world (our modern world of texting and email and all manner of attention deficit) is recast as a mere few frames of an epic slow motion story in Jamie’s pieces here, which suggest how reconnecting with the natural and spiritual worlds can help our understanding and appreciation of time. She takes us to places with very different paces: the Alaskan village of Quinhagak…“no roads, just green scribbly waterways and meltpools”; the Scottish coast, where Neolithic farm villages remain standing today; a Tibetan Buddhist monastery where a sense of peaceful eternal stasis is contrasted with the day’s news of student protests in Beijing. Poetic and meditative, Jamie’s writing serves as encouragement to simultaneously live in the moment and consider the long view.
Novelist Helon Habila, who divides his time between Nigeria and the USA, introduces readers to a host of characters from the contemporary African diaspora in Travelers (W.W. Norton & Company. $25.95. www.helonhabila.com) an easy-to-read but profoundly resonant mosaic of stories about the meanings of home, alienation, and belonging. The narrator is twice removed from his native country:
he’s a Nigerian graduate student who’s been living in the USA for several years who moves to Berlin when his American wife wins a prestigious academic fellowship. In Germany, he becomes enmeshed with a community of African immigrants and refugees, many of whose lives have been dramatically different from his own privileged experience. There is Mark, a transgender Malawian, whose visa troubles expose our protagonist to the Kafkaesque bureaucratic side of immigration; Portia, the daughter of a world-renowned Zambian writer;
and Manu, a doctor from Libya, now working as a nightclub bouncer and anxiously anticipating a reunion with his wife and daughter. These and other characters experience a fascinating, sometimes harrowing, blend of liberation and dislocation from their homelands. While his book is set in Europe, Habila connects readers to nuanced psychological dimensions of immigration frequently missing from the constant news coverage of America’s “border crisis.” Presented in short chapters that move at a rapid clip, Habila’s insights are well worth exploring.
Holiday: The Best Travel Magazine That Ever Was
From 1946 to 1977, jetsetters and fantasizers alike escaped into the pages of the periodical once edited by Pamela Fiori, which she celebrates in Holiday: The Best Travel Magazine That Ever Was (Rizzoli. $85. www.rizzoliusa.com). The handsome hardcover collection features 180 full-color photographs and illustrations by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Al Hirschfield, along with excerpts of finely crafted feature stories by some of the magazine’s esteemed contributors, including Joan Didion, E.B. White, Graham Greene, and Truman Capote. The magazine’s concept, photographer John Lewis Stage, once said “was basically to get famous authors who had maybe one or two weeks in between their books or projects to go and travel and write glorious pieces.” Contemporary travel buffs and magazine aficionados will appreciate the uniquely artful and idiosyncratic approach of the magazine’s vintage layouts, but will also recognize just how dated a magazine that shuttered in the 1970s is today. The glamour of airline travel?! Ha! The lily whiteness of the travelers—Phooey! The absence of authentic culinary exploration, ecological consciousness, and same sex couples—Lame! This book works better as a time capsule than a model for would-be magazine publishers.