Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines is a book that’s like many good trips: suddenly, you find yourself navigating an unfamiliar, confusing and even intimidating region, but by the end you realize you’ve had an irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For students of my COMM 373 Australia winterim course, a trip that begins with our departure from Chicago Dec. 27, this may be especially true. Chatwin’s work isn’t always easy to read. At times, it might seem to less patient readers that Chatwin’s writing is like the Australian outback.
Many would perceive the outback as vast, substantially flat, incomprehensible in its sameness, and tough to find one’s way through; a look in any direction might show more features that are hard to distinguish from the last set. One might not see the small details that differentiate one apparently barren spot from another. Even when discernible, these features might not promise anything substantially different in an interminable landscape beyond.