REVIEW by Mike Parker

NWR Issue 106

Travel Writing and Wales

by Kathryn N Jones, Carol Tully & Heather Williams (eds)

Travel writing is a curious beast. Ostensibly intended to broaden horizons, it often does quite the opposite, boiling down a place to little more than its hoariest clichés. ‘Fashion points out a certain route for fashionable tourists, which they seldom are at the trouble to digress from, by which they lose many objects worth seeing, and see as many that are uninteresting,’ wrote Elizabeth Isabella Spence in 1809; nothing much has changed two centuries on.

It is not hard to work out Wales’ place in the pattern. As this fine study of travel writing about Wales reminds us on more than one occasion, it was Katie Gramich who most pertinently nailed it when she wrote that ‘the majority of authors who turn their steps towards Wales are English or European travellers seeking out accessible Otherness.’ (my emphasis).

Accessible Otherness! It’s not perhaps a slogan that Visit Wales are likely to adopt, but it might as well, for it has long hit the bullseye of our USP...

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previous review: In Reality: Selected Poems
next review: Story Volume 1 and Story Volume 2


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