The estate where we live is not in the slums. It’s a nice middle-class neighborhood — about ten acres with a big stone wall around them, and a whole community of small shops and apartments and houses and cow-grazing patches inside, all connected by winding dirt trails that run through the scrub.
The long low buildings are communal houses where Swahili people live. The little shacks with signs outside are stores — butcher shops, beauty salons, convenience stores, phone top-up stands. Everything you want, you can find within the estate, sold by your neighbors.
For the traveler, there are three kinds of countries.
There are the clockwork countries like England and Germany, where everything is so organized that nothing can go seriously wrong; where you can go as a tourist and do most of the same things you do at home, except you can take photos of things your friends haven’t seen, and collect stories about “foreign” customs and language mix-ups.
Then at the opposite extreme you have countries like Syria and Somalia, where you only go if you have a specific mission, because what’s mostly happening there is that things are getting blown up and people are trying to leave. Those aren’t adventure countries. Those are end-of-the-road countries.
Night can make you feel like a stranger, even when you’re home
Last night, when the power had been out for twelve hours and the sun finally set and left me in the dark, and someone knocked on my door to hand me candles, and I lit the candles and sat on the bed and listened to the shouting outside — that was when I realized how alone I was.
The Revenant takes place in Montana in the 1800s, but most of it could’ve happened any time since the last Ice Age, in any cold part of the earth.
There’s the snow. The wind. The trees. The slow shaggy meaty animals and the quick fierce ones that bring them down.
Men in heavy furs trudge across this landscape. They carry spears and bows. They know the trick of making fire. They catch fish with their hands in the cold river. When a storm blows through, they cut the trees and build shelter.
…if you want to be a good writer. Or just an interesting person
Each of these books will teach you new ways of thinking about things you’ll face — or are now facing — in your twenties. If you’ve already read some of them back in high school, read them again now that you’re older and wiser. They will tell you new things. As you approach the end of your twenties in particular, these books are signposts that will point your way through the woods. Oh yeah, you know the woods I’m talking about. You’re right in the thick of it.
All right, enough intro. Let’s talk about great books. These are in no particular order, because ranking your favorite books is stupid.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do next.
My plan had been to live in Florence, my favorite city in the world. I rented a very charming, rustically decorated flat there. The flat is right in the center of Santa Croce, in an old stone building that the Medici family probably built, where the roof beams in the bathroom still have their original decorative paint from the 1600s. I was there until midway through December, writing all day and going out for aperitivo and wine every night.
Then I found out something I probably should have looked into before.