You know what a vacation is (what we all want and need and what I will actually be able to partake in next month!), and you've heard of "stay"-cations. How about a "book"-cation? One of the reasons I love reading so much is being able to travel far and wide, back and forth in time and to places I have only dreamed of. Occasionally I will read a book set somewhere I have traveled to and then can feed my imagination yet have solid visuals to base the settings on, and some places I am reading about are places I hope to travel to someday.
You might not be surprised that one of the places (given the classes I have taken recently) I am very keen to travel to is Israel. To be honest I had never considered choosing that as a destination before I began reading Israeli literature. There are a number of places I want to see in Israel now, but at the top of my list is Jerusalem. Every May there is usually a tour offered (as long as that part of the world is reasonably calm) through the university where I work. If I planned and saved I might be able to actually afford it someday. Until then, there are always books.
So, how serendipitous that Jerusalem turned up in my reading yesterday. I knew Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes would eventually make their way to the city in Laurie King's O, Jerusalem, which I have been slowly reading. It happened to be the next book up in the series. Although Mary and Holmes are married (this is book #5) their adventures in Palestine actually took place several years earlier in 1918. I'll save talking about the mystery until I finish reading (which I hope will be soon as things are moving quite quickly now), but there is an excerpt that I knew would be perfect to share as a Tuesday teaser.
On arriving (on foot--and Mary is dressed as an Arab boy--needless to say Mary and Holmes have entered Palestine clandestinely and their reason for being in the Holy Land very hush hush) Mary is overwhelmed by the sight of the city of Jerusalem--a place she has dreamed of visiting. Mary is Jewish and a scholar of theology, so this is a moment of great significance for her. Her descriptions are wonderfully exotic and inviting:
"We threaded our way among a fleet of horse-drawn carriages for hire and entered Jerusalem in the footsteps--literally, as he had chosen to mark his pilgrim's entrance on foot--of the conqueror Allenby. To our right rose the Citadel, somewhere to our left lay the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before us sprawled the great labyrinth of the bazaar, and all around us swirled an informal market, a miscellany of goods and peoples. I saw none of these. I did not notice the picturesque Copts and Armenians, did not register the toasted-sesame smell of the round bread loaves that passed beneath our noses on the panniers of a donkey, did not even hear the strange, flat clang of bells or the 'bakshish' cries of the beggars or the polyglot of tongues. My whole being, my entire awareness, was taken up by a small, crudely lettered sign propped in the window of the Grand New Hotel: Baths."
Hah. I bet you weren't expecting that! I love Mary Russell. She is such a wonderful, and wryly witty character. That's what a week's travels, on foot, in the heat and dust, filthy and mud-caked will do to a person! Though, the smell of those bread loaves would likely have given me pause.
When I wrote about Amos Oz, I did say it was likely to inspire me on a new reading path, and this takes me along just a little bit further.