Thank God for John Rayburn

Mark Ford

  • Hunting Mister Heartbreak by Jonathan Raban
    Harvill, 428 pp, £14.00, November 1990, ISBN 0 00 272031 0

‘Travelling,’ Jonathan Raban once remarked, ‘is inherently a plotless, disordered, chaotic affair, where writing insists on connection, order, plot, signification.’ Even the best contemporary travel writing is haunted by the self-consciousness that grows out of this contradiction. It’s embarrassing to read about seemingly spontaneous encounters with exotic people in far-flung countries, and then suddenly to remember that the whole thing has been set up just so the author can convert it into so much copy for his or her book.

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