To Run in Boston

Courtesy of flickr user shoe the Linux Librarian.

Courtesy of flickr user shoe the Linux Librarian.

A couple of years ago, I made an early summer pilgrimage up to Boston from New York to see the editor at Da Capo Press who’d acquired “The Turk Who Loved Apples.” It was a routine trip, really—I’ve gone to Boston about once a summer for the past five years, usually just a one-night stopover on the way to Cape Cod or Maine. And part of that routine—part of the point of the pilgrimage—has always been to run: To run in Boston means something. This city and its marathon are, to a large extent, why we run; they’re the source of Americans’ love of running.

On that trip in 2011, however, I made a special stop: Marathon Sports, the runners’ shop that sits right at the finish line. There I picked up some New Balance Minimus shoes (size 10), and the next morning I went for a run along the Charles River in the brilliant sunshine. There’s nothing like it: It’s not the most challenging run in the world—it’s pretty flat, honestly—but it’s Boston (okay, Cambridge, too). I ran thinking of all the other great runners who’d done this route, who might be doing it right now, a mile ahead of me and moving faster than I ever will. To run in Boston, in the marathon or just along the river, is to share in their glory, if just a little bit.

It’s not just Boston for me. I’ve done the same thing at the Nike HQ in Beaverton, Oregon, and in Iten, Kenya, for Afar magazine. Each time there’s the buoyant feeling of running in a place that’s about running; each step, each heartbeat had a new purpose.

It’s Kenya I’m thinking about today, alongside Boston. For Iten, too, had had its share of violence—after the 2007 presidential elections there, inter-tribal fights broke out, people died (including a runner in nearby Eldoret), and foreign runners had to be evacuated. When I visited, in 2011, fear persisted that it all might happen again during this year’s elections. Luckily, it did not. The deaths and violence were remembered by those who survived, and everyone ran on.

Which is what, I hope, will happen in Boston. For a while, everyone will stop and try to come to terms with yesterday. Marathon Sports, which was at the epicenter of the blasts, will reopen. And then, slowly, everyone will put their shoes back on and head out the door, into the same sunshine (and snowstorms) they’ve faced down for decades. Runners just can’t stop running for long.

And to run in Boston will mean more than it ever has before.

First Sighting of ‘The Turk’ in the Wild!

Sometime last night, I was checking my Twitter feed when I ran into this:

Pretty cool, right? Of all the people who preordered “The Turk Who Loved Apples,” my own little brother was the first to receive his copy. Awesome.

At the same time, I was a bit taken aback. Hadn’t Amazon been touting an April 23 shipping date for the past few months? Wasn’t the “official” publication date listed as May 1? What did it mean that the book was already flying out? Had Amazon screwed up? Were these early copies going to somehow screw up our whole carefully conceived publicity plan?

Not really! This is just how it goes in today’s modern publishing world. Amazon holds huge sway over how things work. If it decides the preorder shipping date is April 23, then it’s April 23—unless, of course, it gets the books in early and decides to just send them out, shipping date be damned. And this doesn’t really change how we go about promoting the book’s release, either. The interviews and articles and such are in the works or being set up, and so we all just pretend that May 1 is The Date, even if a handful (or more?) of people already have the book in hand.

And incidentally, those of you itching for the Kindle edition are just going to have to wait: It won’t be distributed till May 1 April 23. If you’re really eager, however, might I suggest buying the print edition as well?

“Meet the Woody Allen of travel writers.”

woodyallenNow, you’d think with a line like that the review of “The Turk Who Loved Apples” in The Jewish Herald-Voice (“Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast’s Jewish Community Newspaper Since 1908”) would be wholly positive, or at least would understand the comedic, dramatic, and therapeutic power of kvetching. Well, not exactly: For most of the review, the critic bounces between summarizing each chapter and quoting from the book, but when it comes to right down to it, this critic just doesn’t want to hear what I have to say:

If you pick up the book to read about how to travel cheaply, forget about it! Gross writes on how to confront, ethically and morally, the reality of third-world poverty. I confront that reality every day in my neighborhood. I don’t need “The Frugal Traveler’s” advice.

Are things really that bad in Houston and the Gulf Coast? Well, there’s also this, referring to both myself and James Lasdun:

Whine whine moan moan, goes another travel writer. Don’t envy us travel writers, because real travel (as opposed to tourism) is hard work.

This isn’t really that big of a deal. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for a review like this—one that sees my attempts to make sense of the complexities of travel, and travel writing, as the unnecessary complaints of a privileged brat. Which it is, of course! I’m very lucky to have been able to travel the world, and even to me it feels unseemly to “whine” about it.

But then why that Woody Allen comparison? Cuz that’s a great line, the kind I feel like I should include over on my What People Are Saying page, the kind that suggests the critic understands The Turk‘s seriocomic undertones. But I guess not.

In any case, I’ll leave you with a quote from the Woody Allen of Woody Allens, one that feels especially relevant to my book: “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.”

Six Weeks Till It Drops!

The Turk Who Loved Apples, By Matt Gross

“The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World,” by Matt Gross

It all seems very calm right now, but in a month and a half, this book—the product of 30 years of adventures, several years of conception, and a too-brief-to-admit-to production period—will finally come out. I’m clearly still in the middle of setting up the publicity mechanisms (this site, the Facebook page), but once that’s all done, I’m going to try, as my friend Tony Perrottet suggested, to actually enjoy this whole thing as it unspools. Wish me luck!