Beyond understanding is appreciation, which occurs as we begin to see and feel ourselves as another person or people. Appreciation reaches out from the intellect to the emotions and is important to the development of a sense of empathy.
I have chosen the travel writer Ian Frazier as a personification of this virtue. The quality of appreciation shines through his writings, listed below.
- Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010).
- Ian Frazier, Great Plains (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989).
- Ian Frazier, Family (Picador, 2002).
- Ian Frazier, Gone to New York: Adventures in the City (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005).
- Ian Frazier, On the Rez (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002).
- Ian Frazier, Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (Picador, 2003).
Appreciation for a region and its people is the key to great travel writing.
- Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Gray Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (The Viking Press, 1942).
- Ilija Trojanow, Along the Ganges (Haus Publishers, Ltd., 2006).
- Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands (1959).
- V. S. Naipaul, An Area of Darkness (Picador, 1965).
- V. S. Naipaul, India: A Million Mutinies (Viking Adult, 1991).
- M.F.K. Fisher, As They Were (Knopf, 1982).
- M.F.K. Fisher, Two Towns in Provence (Fawcett, 1983).
- Captain John Smith, Writings with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America (Library of America, 2007).
- George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London (Houghton, Mifflin,1933).
- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (Houghton, Mifflin, 1952).
- Peter Hessler, River Town (Harper Collins, 2001).
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835).
- Ryszard Kapuściński, The Emperor (Vintage, 1978).
- Ryszard Kapuściński, The Soccer War (Knopf, 1991).
- Ryszard Kapuściński, Shah of Shahs (Harcourt, 1985).
- Alexander William Kinglake, Eothen (John Olivier, 1844).
- Sven Lindqvist, Exterminate All the Brutes (New Press, 1996).
- Gontran De Poncins, From a Chinese City (Trackless Sands, 1991).
- Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules (Random House, 1995).
- Paul Theroux, Riding the Red Rooster (Houghtonm Mifflin 1988).
- Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar (Houghton , Mifflin, 1975).
- J. R. Ackerley, Hindu Holiday (New York Review of Books, 1932).
- Herodotus, The Histories (circa 440 b.c.).
- Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (The American Publishing Company, 1869).
- Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883).
- Nicholas Dawidoff, In the Country of Country (Vintage, 1998).
- Mark Salzman, Iron & Silk (1986).
- José Saramago, Journey to Portugal (Harcourt Books, 1981).
- George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North America Indians Volume 1 (1841)
- George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians Volume 2 (1841)
- V. S. Pritchett, London Perceived (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1962).
- Suketu Mehta, Maximum City, Bombay Lost and Found (Vintage, 2004).
- Truman Capote, The Muses are Heard (lRandom House, 1956).
- Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt (Interlink Books, 2003)
- Jonathan Raban, Old Glory (Vintage, 1998).
- Jonathan Raban, Coasting The Harville Press, 1986).
- Rory Stewart, The Places in Between (Harcourt, 2006).
- Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana (Jonathan Cape, Ltd., 1937).
- Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872).
- Peter Theroux, Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia (W. W. Norton & Co., 1990).
- Norman Douglas, Siren Land (1911).
- Bruce Chatwin, The Song Lines (Viking, 1987).
- Sacheverell Sitwell, Southern Baroque Art: A Study of Painting Architecture And Music in Italy, (1923)
- Paul Bowles, Their Heads are Green and their Hands are Blue (Random House, 1963).
- James McConkey, To a Distant Land (Dutton, 1984).
- Charles M. Doughty, Travels in Arabia Deserta (Cambridge, 1888).
- R. L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cervantes (1879).
- Norman Lewis, A View of the World (Eland Publishing, 1986).
- Norman Lewis, Naples '44 (Carrol and Graff, 2005).
- Norman Lewis, Golden Earth: Travels in Burma (Charles Scribner, 1952).
- John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America (Penguin).
- Jan Morris, Venice (Faber and Faber, 1973).
- Jan Morris, Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (Da Capo Press, 2001).
- Colin Thubron, Among the Russians (William Heinemann, 1983).
- Colin Thubron, Behind the Wall (Atlantic Monthly, 1988).
- Pico Iyer, Video Night in Kathmandu (Bloomsbury, 2001).
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Europe, Europe (Pantheon, 1989).
- William Dalrymple, City of Djinns (Harper Collins, 1994).
- Tony Horwitz, Baghdad Without a Map (Dutton, 1991).
- Lisa Napoli, Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth (Crown, 2011): an “affectionate portrait of life in a slower-paced, high-altitude society”.
- Jamie James, Pagan Light: Dreams of Freedom and Beauty in Capri (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019): “If you read James’s book, you will know that you should do more than sail through the narrow entrance of the Blue Grotto: You must hunt down the former Villa Behring, near Capri’s main square, where Gorky and Lenin played chess, and seek out the homes of the lesser-known figures of Capri’s past, whose rich stories are the true focus of this marvel of nuanced, connected biography.”
- Paul Theroux, On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019): “In my time in Mexico I’d made many friends with Mexican writers, spoken at a number of literary and political events, and found a Mexican publisher. One of the greatest thrills in travel is to know the satisfaction of arrival, and to find oneself among friends.”
- Alexandra Fuller, ed., The Best American Travel Writing 2019 (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019): “ . . . the anthology is best when its contents expand to themes that are larger than a place on a map.”
- A New York Times list of 52 books, fiction and non-fiction, about places from around the world.
Not quite travel writing, here are books by people who adopted new places to live:
- Craig Taylor, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It (Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, 2012): “a rich and exuberant kaleidoscopic portrait of a great, messy, noise, daunting, inspiriting, maddening, enthralling, constantly shifting Rorshach.”
Other narratives on the theme of appreciation:
- Stacey O’Brien, Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl (Free Press, 2008).
- Daniel Mark Epstein, The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011): a “biography-cum-critical appreciation” about this legendary “shape-shifter swapping various personae down the years”.
- Gail Godwin, The Making of a Writer, Volume 2: Journals, 1963-1969 (Random House, 2011): “The second volume of Gail Godwin’s journals shows her turning life into fiction.”
- S.C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quannah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in America (Scribner, 2010): “ . . . thanks to Gwynne, the story of Quanah Parker may assume a more fittingly prominent role in the history of the American West. ‘Empire of the Summer Moon’ isn’t just a biography. It’s a forceful argument about the place of Native American tribes in geopolitical history.”
- Robert Ferguson, Scandinavians: In Search for the Soul of the North (Overlook Press, 2017): “ . . . an engaging, layered look into a culture complex enough both to produce stylish rain gear and to embrace the foul weather that necessitates it.”
- Mary Norris, Greek To Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019): “ . . . one of the most satisfying accounts of a great passion that I have ever read. It traces a decades-long obsession with Greece: its language (both modern and ancient), literature, mythologies, people, places, food and monuments — all with an absorption that never falters and never squanders the reader’s attention.”
- Joan Didion, The White Album: Essays by Joan Didion (Simon & Schuster, 1981): “Joan Didion's California is a place defined not so much by what her unwavering eye observes, but by what her memory cannot let go.”
- Ed Douglas, Himaaya: A Human History (Norton, 2021): “Climbing the Himalaya With Soldiers, Spies, Lamas and Mountaineers”.
- Michael Stevens and Annalyn Swan, Francis Bacon: Revelations (Knopf, 2021): “It’s Bacon’s kindness and decency the authors take pains to evoke — his beautiful manners, his generosity.”
- Fintan O’Toole, We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland (Liveright, 2022): “. . . it is not a memoir, nor is it an absolute history, nor is it entirely a personal reflection or a crepuscular credo. It is, in fact, all of these things helixed together: his life, his country, his thoughts, his misgivings, his anger, his pride, his doubt, all of them belonging, eventually, to us.”
Books illustrating appreciation of an individual:
- Blake Bailey, Philip Roth: The Biography (W.W. Norton & Company, 2021): “. . . a Life of the Literary Master as Aggrieved Playboy”.
- Robert Gottlieb, Garbo: Her Life, Her Fans (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021): Gottlieb “brings to his assessments a fan’s appreciation, a connoisseur’s acuity and an amused impatience with the aspects of them that are and always were ridiculous.”
- Brian Morton, Tasha: A Son’s Memoir (, 2022): “With humility and grace, he tells us that he has failed his mother by not seeing her as a full and complete person, one with great courage, complexity and strength.”
Documentary and Educational Films
- Tania Guerrera, Basquiat (2006)
- Sir Henry Raeburn, Young Girl Holding Flowers
- Alexander Deyneka, Portrait of an Old Man (1916)
- Rembrandt van Rijn, Bust of a Bearded Old Man
- Guido Reni, Portrait of Old Woman (1630)
- Peter Paul Rubens, Old Woman (1616-18)
. . . there certainly are few finer architectural pages than this façade, where, successively and at once, the three portals hollowed out in an arch; the broidered and dentated cordon of the eight and twenty royal niches; the immense central rose window, flanked by its two lateral windows, like a priest by his deacon and subdeacon; the frail and lofty gallery of trefoil arcades, which supports a heavy platform above its fine, slender columns; and lastly, the two black and massive towers with their slate penthouses, harmonious parts of a magnificent whole, superposed in five gigantic stories;—develop themselves before the eye, in a mass and without confusion, with their innumerable details of statuary, carving, and sculpture, joined powerfully to the tranquil grandeur of the whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch, where, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word, powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems to have stolen the double character,—variety, eternity. [Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, or, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Volume I, Book Third, Chapter I, “Notre-Dame”.]
Assuredly, this is an opera which it is worth the trouble of listening to. Ordinarily, the noise which escapes from Paris by day is the city speaking; by night, it is the city breathing; in this case, it is the city singing. Lend an ear, then, to this concert of bell towers; spread over all the murmur of half a million men, the eternal plaint of the river, the infinite breathings of the wind, the grave and distant quartette of the four forests arranged upon the hills, on the horizon, like immense stacks of organ pipes; extinguish, as in a half shade, all that is too hoarse and too shrill about the central chime, and say whether you know anything in the world more rich and joyful, more golden, more dazzling, than this tumult of bells and chimes;—than this furnace of music,—than these ten thousand brazen voices chanting simultaneously in the flutes of stone, three hundred feet high,—than this city which is no longer anything but an orchestra,—than this symphony which produces the noise of a tempest. [Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, or, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Volume I, Book Third, Chapter II, “A Bird’s-Eye View of Paris”.]
John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy is like a travelogue for the United States.
- John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel (1930).
- John Dos Passos, 1919 (1932).
- John Dos Passos, The Big Money (1936).
Other literary works illustrating the theme of appreciation:
- Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient: A Novel (Knopf , 1992).
- Francisco Goldman, Say Her Name: A Novel (Grove Press, 2011), a “beautifully written account of Goldman’s short marriage to Estrada, a fiction writer who died in a bodysurfing accident . . .”
- Giorgio Bassani, The Novel of Ferrara (W.W. Norton & Company , 2018): in these short stories and novellas, we “learn the cultural significance of attending the German synagogue (“so severe and contrasting in its almost Lutheran gathering of prosperous, burgherly Homburg hats”) versus the Italian synagogue (“more working-class and theatrical, almost Catholic”) or of vacationing at the bourgeois seaside resort of Riccione versus the more plebeian Gatteo.”
- María Gainza, Optic Nerve (Catapult, 2019): “María’s store of information about painters and their lives can make reading the book feel, delightfully, like auditing a course.”
- A New York Times list of 52 books, fiction and non-fiction, about places from around the world.
- Zoë Wicomb, Still Life: A Novel (New Press, 2020): “A stunningly original new novel exploring race, truth in authorship, and the legacy of past exploitation . . .”
- Jamie Figueroa, Mother, Sister, Brother, Explorer: A Novel (Catapult, 2021): “A Novelist Asks White Tourists to Picture the Black Lives They Overlook” - the theme is of people in other cultures, and how their to-our-eyes primitive lives are as complex as ours.
- Joshua Henkin, Morningside Heights: A Novel (Pantheon, 2021): this “story of a brilliant Shakespearean and his wife — once his student — radiates a tenderness for the city that we, his intended readers, can best appreciate — perhaps now most of all, as we ask our city to return to us.”
- Susan Straight, Mecca: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022), “is a love song for a place and its people.”
- Édouard Louis, A Woman’s Battles and Transformations: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022), “focuses on his mother’s life.”
Film and Stage
- The Shop Around the Corner: a man and a woman long for their pen pals, who are each other
- Chimes at Midnight(Campanadas a medianoche): Orson Welles’ tribute to Shakespeare’s Falstaff, looking past the superficial wit and debauchery to “the tragic character beneath” the veneer
- The English Patient, abouta nurse who helps a wounded man face his memories
- Never On Sunday: affection(for a culture) as an aspect of appreciation
- Sexy Beast: a violent episode by one character against several other “heightens your sense of their characters' vulnerable humanity”
- Starman, on learning to appreciate an alien
- Stevie, a “very big, beautiful film about a restlessly rambunctious soul”, poetess Stevie Smith
- The River, Renoir’scinematic ode to India.
- Green Book: a gay, black pianist and a Bronx-Italian tough guy learn to appreciate each other, in the early 1960s
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Folk music is the common music of a people; it celebrates people in their everyday lives. Great examples include:
- Steeleye Span, “Good Times of Old England: Steeleye Span, 1972-1983”
- Luke Kelly, “The Definitive Collection” (Ireland)
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, featuring Paco de Lucia, Vitoria Suite: this work draws on the orchestra’s experiences in Vitoria, Spain, and offers their musical impression of the people, their culture and their music, from an American jazz perspective. “Marsalis uses the impulse of the blues as a foundation to jointly explore the music of 2 worlds and 2 cultures: the jazz and blues of North America and the indigenous Basque music and flamenco of Spain.”
Puerto Rican composer Ernesto Cordero composed Caribbean Concertos, reflecting an appreciation for Caribbean culture:
- Concierto Festivo (2003) for guitar and string orchestra
- Ínsula: Suite Concertante (2009) for violin and string orchestra
- Concertino Tropical (1998) for violin and string orchestra
Yehezkel Braun and his daughter Rotem Luz have composed works for the unusual combination of flute/piccolo, bassoon and piano. Their music suggests an appreciation of each instrument for the others, and the composers’ appreciation of their Jewish heritage.
- Dvořák, String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, B179, "American" (1893): a visit to the United States inspired this work, which draws on Native American and African-American themes.
- Dvořák, Hussite Overture, Op. 67, B132 (1883)
- Richard Strauss, Aus Italien (From Italy), Op. 16 (1886): young Strauss’ impressions of Italy
- Fall, Der fidele Bauer: the son of an Austrian peasant disrespects his father after becoming a professor through the father’s hard work and sacrifice, but later learns to appreciate him.
- Alfred Hill, String Quartet No. 16 in B-flat Major, "Celtic" (1938): appreciation for a people and its music
- Coleridge-Taylor, Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha (1900)
- Holst, Egdon Heath (Homage to Hardy), Op. 47, H172 (1927): at the top of the score, Holst penned these words, from Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native: “A place perfectly accordant with man’s nature – neither ghastly, hateful nor ugly; neither commonplace, unmeaning nor tame; but like man, slighted and enduring; and withal singularly colossal and mysterious in its swarthy monotony.”
- Dean, Epitaphs for string quintet (2010): the composer describes these pieces as “as much a celebration of personal qualities, characteristics and achievements as it (is) also an expression of loss and contemplations of energetic lives fulfilled as well as of lives cut short.”
- Chanler, Eight Epitaphs (1937)
- Gould, Foster Gallery for Orchestra (1939)
- Torke, Miami Grands, for ten pianos
- Bloch, America: An Epic Rhapsody (1926)
- Willson, Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, “A Symphony of San Francisco”
- Hoover, String Quartet No. 1: the composer drew on Native American images, as she saw them.
- Foulds, Impressions of Time and Place, Op. 48: 1. April - England
- Falla, 7 canciones populares españolas (7 Spanish Folksongs) for voice and piano, dedicated to Madame Ida Godebska (1914)
- Arensky, Egyptian Nights, Op. 50a (1900)
- Wellesz, Symphony No. 2, Op. 65, “English” (1948): the composer had moved to England and was immersing himself in its literature and culture.
- Weinberg, Symphony No. 5 in F Minor, Op. 76 (1962)
- Hallgrímsson, Klee Sketches, Op. 32
- Marc Satterwhite, percussion works, as presented on the album “Nazca Lines: Journeys for Percussion”: the album presents works inspired by Peruvian, Japanese and Finnish cultures.
- David Stock, Concierto Cubano (2000)
- Goldstein, French Suite
- Jan Garbarek, Ragas and Sagas
- Art Ensemble of Chicago, “Urban Bushman” (1980)
- John Carter, “Castles of Ghana”
- Russ Lossing, “Metamorphism”: the players appreciating each other, and paying tribute to jazz greats Paul Motian and Andrew Hill.
- Russ Lossing, “Motian Music”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Canada Day”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Canada Day II”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Canada Day III”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Canada Day IV”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Golden State”
- Harris Eisenstadt, “Golden State II”
- Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy, “African Skies” (1993)
- William Goldstein, “Living Treasures of Japan” soundtrack for National Geographic
- Elena Casanova, “Ensueños De Cuba” (Daydreams of Cuba)
- Hartwin Dhoore Trio, “Valge Valgus”: in the liner notes, Dhoore writes that the album “is a musical reflection of all the beautiful landscapes and people I’m surrounded with. I hope the peace, love and joy I find here will reach you through this instrumental story.”
- Warsaw Village Band, “Sun Celebration” (Święto Słońca): “An inventive and often thrilling exercise in breaking down musical borders.”
- Miguel Zenón, “Música de las Américas” (2022): “. . . he broadens his vision to celebrate the history of the American continents, north and south, as well as the multiplicity of America's Atlantic Ocean islands, to delve into the history of this expanse of lands—before and after the European invasion—with his energetic Latin jazz sound.”
- Black Oak Ensemble, “Avant l'orage: French String Trios 1926-1939” (2022): the works are Henri Tomasi, Trio à cordes en forme de divertissement; Jean Cras, String Trio; Goué, String Trio; Jean Francaix, Trio; Robert Casadesus, String Trio; Henri Samazeuilh, Suite en trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello; and Gabriele Pierné, Trois Pièces en trio.
- Lincoln Trio has recorded two albums capturing Chicago’s busy energy: “Trios from Contemporary Chicago” (2022) (the works are Shawn Okpeholo, City Beautiful; Augusta Read Thomas, ... a circle around the sun …; Shulamit Ran, Soliloquy for Violin, Cello & Piano; Mischa Zupko, Fanfare 80; and Stacy Garrop, Sanctuary); and “Trios from the City of Big Shoulders” (2021) (the works are by Chicago-born composer Ernst Bacon: Piano Trio No. 2 and Piano Trio, H. 312).
- Craig Davis, “Tone Paintings: The Music of Dodo Marmarosa” (2022): “Michael 'Dodo' Marmarosa, bebop pianist, composer and arranger who retreated to his childhood home in Pittsburgh after years of touring with several major big bands . . . as well as leading his own bands in the 1940s due to mental health issues.” This album is a tribute to “an exceptionally talented pianist whose promising early career was cut short by the crushing weight of mental and emotional problems that proved too unbearable for him to overcome.”
- Martin van Hees, “Remgewogen” (2018) (52’), is an album inspired by the composers of the pieces. “Since (he was a Masters student, van Hees) showed a growing interest in these composers (represented on the disc). A desire to learn about their work, questioning how the composers imagined the playing style of their compositions. This important work paves the way for a unique and coherent sound throughout the album.” His quiet and sensitive guitar playing make it seem as though the artist had reached into their lives.
Music: songs and other short pieces
- John Lennon, "Woman"
- Shawn Phillips, "Woman"
- Theobald Böhm, Andante pastorale, from “Souvenir des Alpes”
- Paul Simon, “In the Garden of Edie”
- Don McLean, “Vincent”
- Yungchen Lhamo, “You Are Beautiful”
O to have been brought up on bays, lagoons, creeks, or along the coast,
To continue and be employ'd there all my life,
The briny and damp smell, the shore, the salt weeds exposed at low water,
The work of fishermen, the work of the eel-fisher and clam-fisher;
I come with my clam-rake and spade, I come with my eel-spear,
Is the tide out? I Join the group of clam-diggers on the flats,
I laugh and work with them, I joke at my work like a mettlesome young man;
In winter I take my eel-basket and eel-spear and travel out on foot on the ice—I have a small axe to cut holes in the ice,
Behold me well-clothed going gayly or returning in the afternoon, my brood of tough boys accompanying me,
My brood of grown and part-grown boys, who love to be with no one else so well as they love to be with me,
By day to work with me, and by night to sleep with me.
[Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1891-92), Book XI, “A Song of Joys”]
- William Wordsworth, “Glad Sight Wherever New With Old”
- John Keats, “Happy Is England”
Books of poems and about poets:
- Lucasta Miller, Keats: A Brief Life in Nine Poems and One Epitaph (Knopf 2022): “By structuring ‘Keats’ around nine specific poems (and an epitaph), and allowing herself a recurring, candid first person, Miller evokes the shifting, various genius of her subject without dumbing-down, while avoiding the conventions of academic biography. Keats, as she says, is never a fixed entity. He's always in motion.'”