My Ground, Myself

To a woman who has spent several decades of her life in New Orleans, a city that lies mostly below sea level, any trip out is a journey to higher ground.  And so Catharine Savage Brosman’s title works for a book of essays mostly about journeys away (though she includes a nice piece on New Orleans as well).  These are travel essays as such essays should be: travel as distilled through the mind and memory of the author, more autobiographical than anything else.  There is, in fact, relatively little here about the places she visits, and in any case, with a few exceptions such as Paris, these are places unlikely to be on any Condé Nast traveler’s destination wish list.  Yet the essays are evocative of the places they concern all the same, as Brosman digs to find meaning for herself in these several parts of the country she loves.

Brosman is a recently retired professor of French at Tulane University; her academic side and love of her second language are both evident in this book.  There is also humor here, as in her funny piece on the pretentiously antipretentious Sneaker Ball held in Aspen.  Her most consistent theme, however, is her longing for those she loved who are now deceased, and her more easily requited love for those parts of the country where she has spent her life—places such as southwestern Colorado and West Texas, places that might not appeal to everyone, but mean the...

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