Honorable Bandit – A Walk Across Corsica
By Brian Bouldrey
Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press – $26.95
Brian Bouldrey teaches creative writing at Northwestern University in the USA, has already written six books and edited several others; including three volumes of Best American Gay Fiction. So in coming to read Honourable Bandit – A Walk Across Corsica (my first of his books), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – but somehow had a feeling it would probably be anchored within the parameters of good writing.
Suffice to say, I wasn’t disappointed.
A textured, snapshot view of the Corsican hiking trail through Bouldrey and his German friend, Petra’s eyes, does indeed, make for an interesting, if not overtly American travelogue; that is both thoughtful and philosophical. Thoughtful, because of the gentle considerdness of the writing, philosophical, because of some of the issues contained within the actual writing: ”If you steal a loaf of bread, you go to jail; if you steal a railroad, you’re a senator” (‘Why I Walk – Walk-Off’); ””I have walked myself into my best thoughts,” said Soren Kiegegaard, ”and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it;”” ”I do my best thinking in crowds, oddly enough, at the symphony or during a play. Dull plays are best for thinking. My playbill is always coated with notes scrawled in the dark concert hall or theatre, sad inscrutable scribble, and usless once the lights are up. When walking, the only thing that can save me from my own shallow thoughts is civilized conversation with a fellow walker.
”Shut up, stupid German girl.”
”Shut up, stupid American boy.”” (‘Jet Lag’).
Comfortable, colourful and simultaneously witty, Honourable Bandit is a pleasant and slightly provocative read, that, although perhaps a little too opinionated for its own good (although said dictum could just as readily be applied to most writing); is still nevertheless distinctive enough to linger.
As Tim Miller – he who wrote 1001 Beds has been quoted as saying: ”A remarkable achievement. Deeply felt, humorous, and extremely wise, Honorable Bandit takes the reader on a journey across Corsica, but even more takes us on a charged – Dantean, at times – journey that explores the nuanced corners of life: our most intimate infernos, purgatories, and paradiosos, all on one island.”
To a degree, I cannot help but agree – as there really is a very deep sense of thought taking place amid these 234 pages. As for Dantean thinking, I’ll leave you with the following excerpt (from ‘Lammergeier’): ”I must rephrase my wonder – how is it that beautiful things come out of ugly things? There is Dante again, betraying his own personal hatred, his own voceru, until it turned into lyric in The Inferno. Picasso’s Guernica transforming genocide, if not redeeming it. What art, after all, isn’t begotten of pain? Could something beautiful come out of all the terrorism, all our military maneuvers? And who will do the transforming?”