Part inspiration, part armchair travel, ?In Search of the Strange? is a highly readable collection of short travel stories that will feed the adventurous soul. Edited by ex-Out There editor Dominique le Roux, the book comprises a collection of stories that go further than being just travelogues, to provide welcome inspiration for the adventurous at heart.
It is this soulful element that runs through each short story ? and they are short; most originally appeared in Out There, Getaway and others ? that is both the book?s strength and its weakness.
It unites the stories under an appealing theme while maintaining each writer?s distinct voice. Each piece is refreshingly unique, while at the same time providing the kind of inspiration that South Africans on the whole really enjoy.
'In Search of the Strange' provides a unique kind of soul food to enjoy over breakfast, indulge in during a coffee break or slip in before bedtime. Here, travelling, for those with an affinity for the adventurous, takes on a whole new meaning.
For those uninitiated into adventure travel, however, some of the stories may come across as slightly exclusive. In the search for soul, some of the writers? tones become too gung-ho and there are some holier-than-thou pronouncements on life that could make you squirm.
It?s easy, if you?re not used to this trait among adventurers, to end some of the stories feeling slightly inferior or even left out. But these are so few and far between and the collection so diverse, that you can always ditch these boo-boos and skip on to the next.
Highlights include Don Pinnock?s ?In Search of the Strange?, about climbing in northern Madagascar, a story so rich in imagery and colour that his personal quest becomes secondary to the people and the place in which it takes place. ?Dhow Dreaming? by Justin Fox, is another example of how a gifted writer is able to subjugate his own ego and allow the beauty of his environment to flow through him. His characters and setting truly speak.
Dominique le Roux?s ?Storm?s Warning? and Tony Weaver?s ?Surviving Withels? are survival stories that go beyond ego into the realm of the cathartic, where the reader is afforded a glimpse into the complications that dog the adventurous soul.
Those into uplifting I-did-it stories will enjoy Jackie Stein's ?Big Air, Big Attitude?, Brett Cormick?s ?The Ice and the Northern Lights? and Andy de Klerk?s ?The Throne Room of the Mountain Gods?, where each writer lets that little bit more of themselves out into the open than the rest. These tales are rendered more courageous purely through the telling.
?In Search of the Strange? is an encouraging, inspirational read. Le Roux achieves what she has set out to do: to inspire readers "to stare your fear down, to step out and seek new places. And then return home with humility".
Hopefully this is the beginning of something even bigger and better for local travel writing. Oh, and more women writers next time, please.
Title: In Search of the Strange and Other Tales of South Africans at Large
Edited by: Dominique le Roux
Published by: Struik Publishers