I read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star a few years back. Unfortunately I couldn’t remember what exactly it was about and whether I liked it or not. Being a fan of Paul Theroux I decided that I had the time and I wouldn’t mind reading another book about trains (aside: reading travel books about trains is almost as relaxing on trains).
The book takes the reader from London to the farthest corners of Japan (north and south) largely by train. There are a few ferries in the middle and a few airplane rides when necessary but most of this book is viewed from a train. And it’s lovely. The writing is evocative and it makes the idea of sitting unwashed on a train for seven days across Russia interesting.
Highly recommended if you enjoy travel books.
I kept more notes than usual in this book as the vocabulary was challenging at times without being overly pompous or unnecessary.
- “Without change there can be no nostalgia”. Lovely phrase I captured in the book. We all like nostalgia but without trying new things, failing, moving, and trying again then the past will be just like today.
- “Yes, and mainly from scholars. Scholars need to validate the status quo, or they will lose their funding.” We all need to eat of course but recent articles point out that a) not much of what is considered science is read and b) much of what is considered science is not replicable. Which means that scholars are basically validating the status quo.
- Orotund: had to look this up. It means full, round, imposing.
- frotteurism: doing a nasty bump-and-grind. Basically what perverts do on subways.
- Hokkien-speaker: a Chinese dialect in wide use across Asia.
- adumbrated: to produce a faint image or trace of something.
- A joke about the old Soviet Union (which also works for Comcast by the way): “You know the joke?” she said. “A woman wants to buy a car. She is given a voucher and told, ‘It will be delivered in ten years.’ ‘Morning or afternoon?’ she asks. ‘Why do you want to know?’ She says, ‘Because the plumber is coming in the morning.’ It was like that.”