Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Traveling light with Jack Reacher

Everywhere in the last few days, newspaper travel writers have bemoaned American Airlines' draconian new $15 charge for the first checked bag, a move most other airlines are likely to adopt. Cram everything into a carry-on, they say. Plan your wardrobe carefully. At your destination wash your skivvies and hang them from the shower curtain rod.

To which I might add: If you're disabled in any way, pipe up so you can board early and score scarce overhead bin space before the mad scrum. And so on.

Or emulate Jack Reacher, that footloose traveler and knight-errant tough guy.

Reacher is, of course, a figment of the imagination of Lee Child, the best-selling whodunit author. Reacher travels the world with only four things in his possession: 1. A passport. 2. An ATM card. 3. A folding toothbrush. 4. The clothes on his back.

He wears those clothes for perhaps three days, then, just before they start to smell, visits a cheap clothing store, perhaps a St. Vincent's resale emporium, perhaps a janitor's uniform store, and buys everything new -- shirt, slacks, socks, underwear. Then he ditches his old ensemble in the nearest wastebasket.

Of course he is hardly a fashion plate, but you can't have everything, and, besides, traveling really, really, really light is the fastest way to get at the bad guys.

I'm not kidding about the disability angle. Long ago I learned to point to my ear and say, "I'm deaf," and board with the mommies and babies and first-class passengers. There are few advantages to hearing impairment, but early boarding is one of them.

By the way, in Child's newest novel, Nothing to Lose, Reacher carries a two-piece collapsible toothbrush, not a folding one. Don't ask me why.


  1. Did you read the new Lee Child novel? What did you think of it?

  2. Truth to tell, I was disappointed.

    Child always skirts the very edge of preposterousness, both in his plots and the character of Jack Reacher. Up to now he has been so very skilled at enticing us to suspend our disbelief, but this time he loses control of his material toward the end of the novel.

    Also, he gives Reacher some strong negative views toward the war in Iraq, the Pentagon's shabby treatment of wounded veterans, and the administration's saber-rattling toward Iran. Nothing wrong with these notions -- I share them -- but the reader is always conscious that these are the author's views rather than those of his hero, who up to now has been largely apolitical.

    There are, however, some great two-fisted Reacher moments, such as a barroom brawl against huge odds.

    It's not a bad novel at all. But Child has been so much better in the past.

  3. Very well put, Henry. I liked Nothing to Lose a little more than you did, but I think your points are right on.

    On the subject of traveling...The only part of flying with a toddler that is nice is the early boarding.