WHAT AM I DOING HERE by Bruce Chatwin
Kirkus Star


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A vibrant, mischievous collection of 35 profiles, stories, and travelogues by the author of The Songlines and In Patagonia, these impressively idiosyncratic pieces acquire a terrible poignancy in light of Chatwin's untimely death last January. Chatwin's predilection for the bizarre runs riot here (""my whole life has been a search for the miraculous,"" he admits), as his wanderings to weird corners of the world bring him up against some exceptional--and exceptionally strange--characters and events. In Benin, he is arrested as a mercenary; in Boston, he meets self-proclaimed avatar Mel Lyman, who idolizes Charles Manson and draws cosmic meaning from the Super Bowl; in Hong Kong, he learns the tricks of the geomancer's trade. The best pieces profile Arthur Koestler and Werner Herzog (""the only person with whom I could have a one-to-one conversation on what I would call the sacramental aspect of walking""), both experts at living on the fringes. Chatwin himself tweaks the reader at times with queer opinions (""Russia's revolution is the outstanding intellectual event of the century""), but most often he lets his varied oddballs speak for themselves. A flamboyant early Chinese Emperor obsessed with horses, an Indian wolf-boy, an expatriate American who paints nothing but postage stamps--on and on, the cavalcade dazzles, and Chatwin clearly delights in the telling. Irresistible, for those who like the offbeat--and a reminder of how it hurts when a novel literary voice is lost forever.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0140115773
Publisher: Viking