John Gimlette at


Next month at the Writers page, I interview John Gimlette, who authored At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig (about Paraguay) and Theatre of Fish (about Newfoundland). Unlike many of my other travel-writer interview subjects, Gimlette has keeps a day job — as a lawyer in the U.K. “Being a lawyer, I am not dependent on my earnings as a writer,” he tells me. “That’s quite liberating. I can write what I want, when I want — and writing is therefore (for all its hardships) still a joy for me. It also funds the writing. Even if you can write a book that’s included among the New York Times’ ‘Books of the Year’ (as both mine have been), the financial returns are slender. I can’t therefore imagine that there will ever be a day when I give up plodding round the courts, and that’s fine with me.”

Here are some more outtakes from our interview:

  • “I feel culture shock very acutely, however well I have researched a place and however much I think I know what to expect. Very often it means that I don’t really enjoy the first week of my travels, and I just hope the feeling will pass. Even Paraguay — which I adore — does this to me, and I feel horribly alien and out of place. But the feeling does pass, or I get used to it, and so it’s not really a challenge at all. That leaves just loneliness. I can’t stand being by myself for more than a day or so, and begin to crave company — almost any company. Perhaps this is an advantage to a travel-writer. Looking back through my writing, I always seem to team up with the oddest of people; drunks, bums, philanderers, a fascist lawyer in Paraguay, bear-trappers in Labrador, and a homeless tramp in the Scottish Highlands. I remember one critic commenting that the only people I ever seemed to meet were oddballs and hucksters. Well, try being me; these are the people I meet, when I’m on the road.”
  • “I love the research. The only difficult bit about it is that — at some stage — I have to stop absorbing the detail, and start painting the picture. The writing is harder; some days it flows, and some days I have to take a break. The sheer effort of wringing out the imagination is exhausting, and yet — at the height of it all — I can’t sleep. That’s when I have to go back to being a lawyer for a while, and sleeping like a baby.”
  • “It’s a source of real pride seeing your work in print and out in the shops, but it’s a pretty transitory thrill. There’s no doubt that the best bit of any book is the travel itself.”

Full John Gimlette interview online here.

Posted by | Comments Off on John Gimlette at  | December 31, 2007
Category: Travel News

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