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Forum Book Club - 2.2: Northbound (Paul McGranaghan)

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
"Better late than never," they say. It's easy to lose track of time and date while on Camino. Apparently, even a virtual one.

But here it is, a thread to discuss Northbound: 30 days on the Camino Portugues (and onwards to Finisterre) by Paul McGranaghan. The book is available as an e-book (I have the Kindle version) and as a print book (ISBN 978-1973201182). In keeping with the theme of this set, it is a memoir of a Camino other than the Camino Frances, For those who wish to check out the author's prior experience on the more popular route, there is his first book, Ego Trip: 40 days and 40 nights on the Camino de Santiago.

I still haven't finished this one. What are your impressions or opinions of it?
 
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gns

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
I finished this last week after struggling to get to the end asking myself why I am I reading this?

First of all the good. It is generally well written and from Porto he provides a perfectly acceptable Camino narrative but with some caveats (see below).

Secondly the bad. He desperately seems to wants to be WB Yeats or Brendan Behan and he isn't. Early on there is an embarrassingly mediocre diversion into sub-Hemingway cliche regurgitation about Southern Spain and its culture, down to the mandatory foreigner at the bullfight section. In hindsight this suggested that he struggled to get a full book out of the CP. There is a bizarrely Chauncey Gardeneresque attempt to portray events in the story of Santiago as being literal (Memo to the author. Whatever language the apostles spoke it wasn't bl**dy Latin). He clearly fought some demons on the CF but the problem is that he expects us to know what these were. He now seems to be engaged on a frantic search for lost faith in the symbolism of grass roots catholicism. He laments his exclusion from community whilst appearing to despise both modernity and tradition in equal measure. The book's conclusion wants to offer some sense of closure but I wasn't convinced.

Lastly the ugly. As far as Porto the book is an endless series of miseries from his feet, the way and the Portugal he passes through. There is nothing memorable and given the choice I would have plumped even for the egregious Piper for a companion. Cities like Coimbra and Tomar are brushed aside as the author looks for the negative in every situation.

Anyway enough. Sister Rupp climbs to the relative safety of mid-table amongst Camino memoirs, whilst Mr McGranaghan fights it out for the wooden spoon with the Antipodean luvvie.

If you see graffiti on the way that says "Please promise you're not writing a book". That will be me.
 
Last edited:

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
I finished this last week after struggling to get to the end asking myself why I am I reading this?
For the Forum Book Club Team, of course. I have had to remind myself of this mission, as I struggle through Northbound.
As far as Porto the book is an endless series of miseries
I have just reached Porto with this unhappy pilgrim, and that is only 51% of the Kindle version. I will try to continue to the end.

At first I thought some of the descriptions were good - he is a good wordsmith, but the stream of strong and clever words is incessant and not in a good way!
 

TrvlDad1

Covidyard Bob
Past OR future Camino
2017 Frances from Saria
2018 Finnisterre & Ingles
2019 Portuguese from Valenca
2020 Assisi(cancel.)
I actually enjoyed this book once I got into and plowed through it. But his opening section "Creation" was bizarre and not really connected to the theme, I thought. Also, it's a self-published book which always seems to mean unpolished, un-proofed and poorly organized. But his writing was creative with interesting similes and abundant metaphors that put his thoughts in perspective for me. I also very much liked the Thomas Merton quotes he inserted in several places. I thought his concluding section about his actual Camino, through Day Thirty and the first part of "The Way of The Moon," brought it together meaningfully. Then he went off again on what I thought were irrelevant tangents in the section "A Way of My Own." I'm glad I read it.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
"Better late than never," they say.
Exactly. I finished reading Northbound a week or two ago. The part after Porto was marginally more cheerful than the earlier half, but I still didn't find the book to be inspiring. It was well-written and the author has skill with words and quirky observations, but the story he was trying to tell of his own thoughts simply did not resonate with me. However, no regrets in reading it!
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A few times
If you see graffiti on the way that says "Please promise you're not writing a book". That will be me.
Whilst as a whole I am disgusted by graffiti anywhere, especially on the Camino done by walkers, I will give a acceptance pass to that one lol.
 

Paul McG

Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2016)
Camino Portugués (2017)
Camino San Salvador (2019)
I finished this last week after struggling to get to the end asking myself why I am I reading this?

First of all the good. It is generally well written and from Porto he provides a perfectly acceptable Camino narrative but with some caveats (see below).

Secondly the bad. He desperately seems to wants to be WB Yeats or Brendan Behan and he isn't. Early on there is an embarrassingly mediocre diversion into sub-Hemingway cliche regurgitation about Southern Spain and its culture, down to the mandatory foreigner at the bullfight section. In hindsight this suggested that he struggled to get a full book out of the CP. There is a bizarrely Chauncey Gardeneresque attempt to portray events in the story of Santiago as being literal (Memo to the author. Whatever language the apostles spoke it wasn't bl**dy Latin). He clearly fought some demons on the CF but the problem is that he expects us to know what these were. He now seems to be engaged on a frantic search for lost faith in the symbolism of grass roots catholicism. He laments his exclusion from community whilst appearing to despise both modernity and tradition in equal measure. The book's conclusion wants to offer some sense of closure but I wasn't convinced.

Lastly the ugly. As far as Porto the book is an endless series of miseries from his feet, the way and the Portugal he passes through. There is nothing memorable and given the choice I would have plumped even for the egregious Piper for a companion. Cities like Coimbra and Tomar are brushed aside as the author looks for the negative in every situation.

Anyway enough. Sister Rupp climbs to the relative safety of mid-table amongst Camino memoirs, whilst Mr McGranaghan fights it out for the wooden spoon with the Antipodean luvvie.

If you see graffiti on the way that says "Please promise you're not writing a book". That will be me.
Hello,
I was the author of this travel memoir.

Now, let me make it clear: You are indeed free to dislike whatever you like. I’ve zero problem if you did not like the book.

It’s worth pointing out that I didn’t write this memoir with anyone in mind, but as a challenge to myself to get it on paper before I forgot all about it. It was fun to put together a book for sale, and that’s that.

(Try it yourself, if you have the stamina and confidence. You you’ll enjoy it.)

However, there is a teachable moment here that would be of benefit to those of us who have written ‘Camino Memoirs’, and those who read them: The suggestion that someone walk the Camino writing ‘no more books’ is pathetic. Nobody has put a gun to your head and forced you to read any Camino memoir – mine or that of anyone else. If you dislike such reflections, don’t read them. It’s as simple as that.

If you read them and dislike them, fine. We have all bought and read books we did not enjoy. It’s all part of growing up. But this is not Twitter, so Ipse Venena Bibas.

As a last word on this, I feel that the attitude displayed on this thread reinforces my original take on the Camino experience as an ‘Ego Trip’. The worst hikers, indeed some of the worst people, I have ever met have been on the Camino [myself included]. Perhaps those of you who consider the Camino to be your personal property ought to let it go. No offence intended, but you are doing yourselves a disservice by turning a hiking holiday into a golden calf.

So, that was the attention you ordered, now Buen Camino and get a life.
 

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