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Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) was the author of In Patagonia, The Viceroy of Ouidah, On the Black Hill, The Songlines, and Utz. His other books are What Am I Doing Here and Anatomy of Restlessness, posthumous anthologies of shorter works, and Far Journeys, a collection of his photographs that also includes selections from his travel notebooks.
In 1977, British travel writer Chatwin seemed to achieve overnight success with In Patagonia. His unconventional, highly literate, and semi-autobiographical style evolved through six more books and numerous articles, but it was only after his sudden death in 1989 that his early development as a writer and his pre-Patagonia work came to notice. An earlier collection, What Am I Doing Here? (LJ 7/89), showcased his own selection of shorter works, but this collection aims to fill the gaps, with fiction, short autobiographical pieces, and book reviews. Also included are the surviving remnants of Chatwin's study of nomadism, most of which he had destroyed as unpublishable. Although always interesting, these 17 pieces are not Chatwin's best‘some read almost like parodies‘and add little to his reputation. A good collection of his short work is still needed. With an excellent bibliography and notes; for specialized collections.‘Shelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale, Ill.
Chatwin (In Patagonia), who died in 1989 at 49, was a brilliant writer of travel-related essays and fiction. This aptly titled posthumous volume brings together nearly all that remains of his uncollected writings. Even the book reviews fit Chatwin's passion for renunciation of anything tying one to a fixed abode. The collection scrapes the bottom of the barrel, for included is a long letter to his London publisher projecting a book on the nomadic life he would never complete. However, two essays intended for it follow, and they make the reader regret the decision to abandon the book. Two autobiographical pieces set his life in context, describing his beginnings as a writer and the background of his rejection of "things." Of the four short pieces characterized as fiction, at least two are also closely autobiographical. Chatwin quotes Robert Burton (The Anatomy of Melancholy) as claiming that everything we experience in nature teaches us "that we should ever be in motion." Whatever hampers mobility, Chatwin contends‘and urban civilization is the chief obstacle‘diminishes independence by attaching us to emotional and economic "anchors." These disparate pieces hang together thematically but will be attractive largely to Chatwin's legion of loyalists who want to learn more about him. (Aug.)