: New: Book Report: My Dateless Diary

It's a memoir/travelog: An author from India travels in the USA in the 1950s. Although at the time he liked America, with some hindsight, this book reminds us that "the good old days" were not so good after all. At the time, the intelligentsia thought of India as "cool"—but of course it was largely a strange version of India as projected by folks who knew just enough to appear silly. Traveling in the South, his dark skin means he's not supposed to ride in the front of the bus. He goes to a Key station, the old San Francisco commuter train system, and I perked up, ready for a nostalgic tale of a local transit system of yesteryear—but drunken louts try to shake him down for money in the station so…yeah, not so much with the glowing nostalgia. Traveling wasn't so easy back in those days of not-so-advanced communications systems. Folks might say "oh yeah, before the web you couldn't just go online to shop for travel tickets, you had to talk to people." But it wasn't just that; long-distance calls were expensive and complex; talking to far-away people to reserve tickets/whatever wasn't to be taken lightly. And one can't help but wonder if conductors would have kept ignoring his first-class tickets and tossing him into coach if he'd had lighter skin…

It wasn't all miserable times back then. He has fine conversations about literature with Authors You've Heard Of. He has fun conversations about other things. Nice folks welcome him into their homes. He tours movie studios and other things. He liked the Grand Canyon, which shows his good judgement; the Grand Canyon is still pretty good. I'm glad Senthil Kumaran loaned me this book; thanks, Senthil!

Tags: book travel writing

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