Ah, the wonderful redolent haze of a Tuesday evening, as I send the 12-going-on-32-yr-old Human Tape Recorder back to bed with a book from the 70s about the 40s, (Ilse Koehn’s Mischling, Second Degree), and I with a book from the 1890s about the 1880s (Rudyard Kipling’s From Sea to Sea). As I read more of the few books from Kipling that I haven’t read before, I find myself thinking the same thing again and again – why haven’t I read this before? Holy crap!
The man was a genius, one of few in our modern days, and in Sea to Sea we have what are essentially his travel notes. Here he sits down with, talks to, asks impertinent questions of, and fawns over Mark Twain – who puts up with him, and admits that he has actually heard of him. Here, on the other side of the world, he visits a Burmese town called Moulmein and sees a beautiful pagoda. I’m reading this and humming “Road to Mandalay” and realizing he hadn’t written it yet. The question I have, of course, is – did he know? As he penned his notes home to the journals for which he was writing, did this master of English poetry see then, in his notes, the shell of what would become one of the best loved poems of all time?
And seriously, why haven’t I read these before? I’ve read Bill Bryson and William Least Heat Moon – in this medium, both are Kipling’s grandsons by proxy. This is Kipling at his observant best, reporting from the road, a road-trip travelogue blog 110 years before its time. I feel as Keats must have, on first looking into Chapman’s Homer. D’oh!