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Faster, They’re Gaining (Peter Biddlecombe, 1998)

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ISBN 0-316-078905-X


Further Reading

By the Same Author

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Faster, They’re Gaining is one of those ‘sampler’ books, in which each chapter is a different city or a different country or whatever; there is no theme, no voyage, no unity. Yet, within those limitations (if limitations they are) Biddlecombe tells an amusing story, with economy and with wit. I think the comment on the jacket cover, claiming Biddlecombe to be "a raconteur of genius" is a trifle over-stated, but I’d recommend this book all the same. (Actually, I have seen the same quote on the jackets of all his books; evidently such testimonies are not compromised by an expiry date.)

Jacket notes notwithstanding, the introduction – three or so pages of the author’s least favourite, travel-related things – is the only laugh-out-loud piece of writing. The body of the book is, for want of a better word, ‘just’ interesting. But, in my view, simply describing foreign places and customs is a perfectly legitimate goal for the genre, and if you can be interesting while you’re about it, so much the better.

My favourite tract from the whole book is a deep insight; worth repeating here and indeed, when I lost the page, worth skimming the whole book again to relocate it. (It’s a shame I didn’t think to flick through the Introduction first….)

‘But worst, worst, worst of all are the tourists who travel the world with their jars of homemade marmalade wrapped up inside their Marks and Spencer carrier bags but never leave England. Take them anywhere, show them anything, tell them anything – they are not interested. They are only interested in getting back to their hotel rooms, where they can secretly brew another cuppa with tea they smuggled in from England because they didn’t want to risk touching anything foreign.

‘Worse still, they are devaluing and destroying the places they are not visiting: the pyramids; the ancient city of Pompeii; the Taj Mahal; Ayuttaya…. They and many, many more places, are being destroyed not by people who love and honour and respect them, but by people who are utterly indifferent to them.’

Sobering comment, that.

Recommendation:  Recommended.  If you haven’t read any of Biddlecombe’s books yet, then highly recommended.

Look and Feel:  Thick paperback.

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