Angela Kubinec, Easy Street Mag (excerpt)
[This is the] problem with most travel stories. The reader really needs to be there… It takes talent to put a reader in a place they’ve never been, and to avoid the age old excuse for a bad story: “You had to be there.”
Roz Morris has the story part of travel figured out. Calling her new book Not Quite Lost: Travels Without a Sense of Direction “a diary,” Morris shares tales of the many ways we travel, in our minds and with our bodies. The stories are full of interior and exterior travel within the everyday and the special, within the static and moving landscape. And moving has more than one meaning.
The book opens with the story “Eve of Destruction: a Childhood Home.” I was driven to begin writing this review immediately after reading, because I did not want to lose any memory of the experience. “Eve” is full of wanting to move in the right direction while feeling a little lost (as the title suggest), and opens with the frightening mishap of a huge and heavy stone sphere being knocked off a gatepost. It rolls and rolls, ever gaining momentum and danger. The tale is crammed with unwanted journeys, wishes to emotionally move on, failing to move when moving is the only sensible option, unromantic moving, tracking, abandoning, inward paths, travel by Google, surviving but not moving, and carrying on. All in a remarkable nineteen pages about a woman who refuses to leave London and face her childhood memories. And a stone ball that is upset and uncontrollable, leaving someone to chase it. Much like life.
The collection is bookended by “Heyday,” and I went straight to it after reading “Eve of Destruction” to see if Morris could carry the quality of the collection to the end. It focuses on misdirection, the challenge of redirection, being unable to progress, finding oneself in harm’s way and the peculiar outcomes of destinations. There are nightmares and boundaries, suspicion and ignorance, and anonymous locations that wish to remain discreet. Morris reveals that laying claim to one’s distant mental artifacts through someone else is an uncertain use of effort. Though it did not have as striking of a universal nature of the first, the story was similarly excellent.
The title story has wide and deep themes that run along similar lines to “Eve of Destruction.” There are “snakes and ladders” of progress for us: the often unreliable can become reliable, and there is misery in watching others progress as we sit still. At times, we can pursue any route we please, surprising ourselves and delighting others (or not). We discover things that are, and are not, what they seem to be, and even charm can become annoying. Granting ourselves permission to look around is essential. We can alternate means of gaining our goals. Being stranded is just another perspective, and all things will eventually come to a natural end.
The book has 15 other stories, primarily set in Britain, where Morris has spent most of her life. Contrary to so much modern travel literature there is much life close to home, though the author does venture to locales like Paris, Mexico City and Italy in the collection. All the stories can be read for pure pleasure, but important themes are evident if the reader considers life to be a journey where we are all not quite lost, but often lose our sense of direction.