Contact! : A Book of Glimpses, Paperback
1.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In "Contact!", Jan turns her brilliantly observant eye to the human contacts she made, across the globe and though the decades.

As a series of vignettes, some only a few lines long, she records hundreds of brief glimpses and fleeting encounters, celebrating the people who helped spark her view of the world and mould her responses.

A vast range of human experience is here: most are anonymous, everyday encounters - children playing, a homeless man in Manhattan, a lascivious taxi-driver - but she also remembers celebrated figures, from Yves San Laurent to King Hussein of Jordan, President Truman to Peter OToole. "Contact!" is a must for any fans of Jan's writing. Her great sense of amusement, shrewd eye for detail and huge enthusiasm for her contacts makes these episodes incredibly enjoyable - and often profound.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780571250691



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Born in 1926, now aged 88, Jan Morris has witnessed many important events, known and seen many important people, and places. Trained as a historian, Morris achieved reknown as a travel writer, particularly describing places, most notably portraits of cities,such as Oxford, Venice, Sydney, Hong Kong and Manhattan. His focus has always been to describe places, writing "relatively little about people" (...) "Often I have given them only a few lines, or a paragraph" (p. 1), as the author writes in the introduction. One wonders what motivated Morris to change that in what might well be her last book.Supposedly, travel must become really hard to an aging author, let alone the work of writing. Thus, it seemed, Jan Morris chose to find her subjects closer to home, as she described her home itself in the short autobiographical and historical monograph or memoir A Writer's House in Wales (2002). In 2006, she returned to fiction, with the (social) science-fiction novel Hav, picking up on the same themes of Last Letters from Hav, which was written and short-listed for the Booker Prize more than 20 years earlier. It seemed Mrs Morris had retired, as no further books or essays appeared, until the publication of Contact! A book of glimpses, three years later.It is not clear where the material for this book comes from. They could be passages from notes or autographs, but it seems most are newly written passages, most very short, based on memories. They form a very eclectic collection of nostalgic ramblings. The style of writing is quaint and antiquarian. One almost hears the author's dentures rattling. In the introduction she writes that these vignettes are observations of "Rich and poor (...), young and old, grand and humble, primitive and exquisitely civilized, named and anonymous, in particular and in the general (...) seldom friends or even acquiantances, only contacts." (p.2) The latter seems an over-statement. As the title suggests, and the reading confirms, these contacts are merely glimpsed, they are no more than very superficial "eye contacts."Contact! A book of glimpses is a collection of very random reminiscences of all kinds of people Jan Morris encountered on her travels or during his or her life. They are people the way she remembered them, often endearingly enshrined in memory with a humourous little anecdote, a humour soft and mouldy with time.The book is a book of no effect at all, and very boring after a couple of pages. While these people may have left an impression on the author, the reader soon gets the feeling that the author must have pained her memory or imagination to scrape enough material together to fill the pages. Nice memories do not always come out nicely on paper.

Review by

ok but will never remember anything. episodes only a short paragraph.

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