I like to say that books are thought-capsules that can travel through time and space-- e.g., here I am rereading Cabeza de Vaca's 16th century Naúfragos, his memoir of (who'd a thunkit?) far West Texas, and other yonder beyonds. But the fact is, thanks to our books, we writers often make friendships in the here and now. Bruce Berger is one such. He's the author of Almost an Island, one of my very favorite travel memoirs, as well as a passel of other works about Baja California and the deserts of the southwest United States. When my book about Baja California, Miraculous Air, came out in 2002 and apropos of that he-- out of the blue-- sent me an autographed copy of his latest, Sierra, Sea and Desert: El Vizcaíno, well, though we hadn't yet met in person, we were good friends.
So what shows up in my mailbox this Christmas but his autographed latest, The End of the Sherry-- and just as with Almost an Island, as I read, I am not only in awe of his poetic prose, but laughing out loud at one thing or another on almost every page.
The End of the Sherry is his coming of age as an artist story-- set all the way back in the 1960s, when he played piano in Spain for three years. With his love for music, enthusiasm for travel, his poetry, appreciation for beauty, for the quirks and peculiarities of all kinds of people, and always served up with that scrumptiously puckish sense of humor... reading Berger is the best way to start out the new year.