Ah yes, vacation. That lovely thing people do, to get away from it all and get as close to the idea of heaven on earth, as they can. They sip blue drinks on beaches, or visit ruins from a long gone time or even pack their cabana wear and get on a cruise ship to sail the world. It truly is a lovely thing to do. Unfortunately, I can barely afford to get myself drunk. So what do I do? Well, I read and write or at least, read and then think about writing. I know most of you are in a similar boat, if you’re reading this it means you are most likely an artist yourself, whether you make jokes, paint, draw, write, play music, take pictures, make films or dance, I imagine you are just as broke as myself. Which means; you are not going to be taking a vacation anytime soon. With that in mind, I present my favorite vacation books.
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Conrad’s classic, a book most of us were forced to read at some point in our academic careers, whether it was High School or College. Of course, when I read it in High School, I barely paid it any attention as was my prerogative with everything during that time. Luckily, I have read it about five times since and now it’s one of my favorites. A lovely tale about an impressionable man, who takes a boat trip up the Congo river and returns, well, different.
2. The Sightseeing Adventure.
The Torture Garden – Octave Mirbeau
This book is a little more obscure than the first. Which means, you can read it and then tell people about it and that will make you seem cool. Because, knowing about things that other’s don’t, makes you cool. This is logic, no? The Torture Garden was once known as The Little Green Book. It received this name because the cover was always printed green. It also had a stigma, if you were seen with this green book, people thought you were insane. It is a strange tale about rich westerners who visit a prison and feed the prisoners rotten meat. That’s quite a vacation. Though, feeding starved and tortured prisoners was not the only reason these sociopaths were visiting, it also featured the most beautiful garden in the world. One which was essentially fed with the blood and excrement of the poor souls who were unlucky enough to call the place, home. Mirbeau’s mocking dedication of the book alone, makes it worth a look: “To the priests, the soldiers, the judges, to those people who educate, instruct and govern men, I dedicate these pages of Murder and Blood.”
3. The Island Getaway.
Galapagos – Kurt Vonnegut
Our next selection takes us to the beautiful Galapagos Islands, the place where Charles Darwin wrote his classic fuck you to religion, On the Origin Of Species. Read gayly as the human race becomes infertile and the only remaining people who can reproduce eventually evolve into strange seal/shark/human hybrids. Always good for a laugh, Vonnegut exposes our one true enemy, the human brain. Luckily, people rarely take those with them on vacation.
4. The Road Trip.
Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs – Hunter S. Thompson
The first of two non-fiction choices on our list, Hell’s Angels follows everyone’s favorite journalist, Hunter S. Thompson as he takes a vacation, following America’s most notorious gang at the time, The Hells Angels. Read Gonzo journalism at its best, as Thompson essentially joins the Hells Angels and barely gets out alive.
5. The Human Safari.
The Fight – Norman Mailer
Our second non-fiction and second trip to the Congo comes by way of Norman Mailer’s, The Fight. Documenting the famous Ali v Foreman fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, Mailer brings us a glimpse from the inside of one of the most famous events of the modern era. This classic also contains what might be the greatest line ever written:
The mood was awful. It was as if somebody had told an absolutely filthy joke that absolutely didn’t work. A devils fart.
So with summer coming and it’s impending, immobilizing heat and lack of escape, sit back and take a trip to all the places these books go and maybe forget for a moment, that you can’t swim in the East River or the Hudson.
Article by Timothy White. You can follow him on Twitter @TipToTheHip