Travel Writing Jan 17, 2013
I read Greene's "The Lawless Roads" before reading "Journey Without Maps," perhaps should have reversed the order. In "Maps" Greene maintains a careful, almost reporter-like distance between himself and the account of his trip through Liberia of the mid 1930's; in "Lawless" his prose is less formal and closer to his experiences in Tabasco and Chiapas. "Maps" is an amazing book because of Greene's beautiful writing and equal-opportunity respect and/or loathing for humans. If you like travel writing and would like to know some of the roots of Chatwin, Sebald, and even to some extent Frazier and Wheeler, "Maps" is a great place to start. Caveat Emptor: Like "Lawless", "Maps" is not precisely a happy book. If you read it when, for example, you are ill, such as with flu (as I read it), you will be in awe of the writing even as it intensifies your sense of illness! Greene is at his writing best when feeling his worst (or remembering the feeling), and he felt pretty badly walking the Liberian bush.