Wouldn't it be great if one of the world's best travel writers,
after 60 years and fortysome books, went back through her work and
notes and plucked out hundreds of haunting, revelatory, shimmering
moments— brief encounters that "have been sparks of my work," she might
say, "if often only in glimpses—a sighting through a window, a gentle
snatch of sound, the touch of a hand . . . fleeting contacts [that]
have fuelled my travels down the years, generated my motors, excited my
laughter and summoned my sympathies."
Such a collection, you
would think, might be astonishing in its range and prove, again and
again, that the finest writing has to do with sharpness of eye and ear
and enormity of heart. Even the tiniest stories, the briefest meetings,
are crammed with meaning and emotion if seen from the right angle, yes?