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Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Sense of the World

Posted on Thu, Jun 22, 2006 at 4:00 AM

A Sense of the World
Publishing House: HaperCollins
WorkNameSort: Sense of the World, A
The story of a man who lost his sight from an illness gotten shipboard as a British naval officer in the Napoleonic Wars who then went on to travel ' alone, with no language skills other than English and often with very little money ' throughout the far reaches of the world â?¦ well, it seems like the kind of hyperliterate piss-take you'd read in McSweeney's. However, the story that Jason Roberts (who, not surprisingly, is a contributor to McSweeney's) tells is apparently a true one; James Holman made his blind way around most of the planet, logging nearly 250,000 miles by the time he stopped traveling in late 1846. Though the travels Holman undertook were fascinating unto themselves, it's curious that his name doesn't come up when discussing the great Victorian-era travel writers, much less that his writings are all but lost to time. (Was he just a novelty? Was he just a bad writer?) That weird injustice is pervasive in A Sense of the World. Roberts is clearly fascinated by Holman, and though he allows far too much first-person accounting of his research, his enthusiasm for piecing together the life of an unusual and largely forgotten figure is contagious.


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