Quill & Quire
Calgary journalist and linguist Glenn Dixon is in love not only with languages but with travel, too. Pilgrim in the Palace of Words pays homage to both. Dixon employs a chatty, informal tone to recount his adventures around the world and comment on the cultural importance of language, especially as it affects different ways of thinking.
The book is composed of four parts, loosely corresponding to the four points of the compass: “At the Gates of the Western World” contains commentary on Jerusalem and Greece; “Into the East” has chapters on Turkey, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia; “Under the Southern Cross” travels to the South Pacific, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon Basin; and “To the North” includes material on the Maya, the Haida, and a few other North American peoples.
Dixon has much to offer, but his anecdotal approach and informal tone is off-putting at times. For instance, Dixon’s reference to Noam Chomsky as “good ol’ Chomsky” is simply silly. And his tendency toward sweeping statements is annoying. What can be gained by declaring that “Greeks and Turks hate each other passionately?” And what is one to make of Dixon’s comment that Turkey has a “surprising number” of pretty girls? Or that “Phnom Penh is a nasty, windblown hellhole?” Such remarks run counter to the author’s essential thoughtfulness regarding languages, cultures, and peoples. Another difficulty is that Dixon doesn’t make clear when he visited particular places. All we know about his visit to Phnom Penh, for example, is that it occurred sometime after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.
However, despite its flaws, Pilgrim in the Palace of Words is highly informative, making it a worthwhile addition to any logophile’s library.
"Pilgrim in the Palace of Words works as classic travel literature. As a bonus, it's also a fascinating take on how languages mould and inform societies."
(Winnipeg Free Press
"Pilgrim in the Palace of Words is immensely appealing to anyone with a yearning to travel, an interest in the worlds diverse cultures and a love of words. And there is enough adventure to satisfy even the most critical of armchair travelers."
"Pilgrim in the Palace of Words is a book that makes linguistics an enjoyable read by tying the authors own experiences together. From a nightmare at airport security to walking through ancient footsteps of civilizations long gone but not forgotten."
(GAP Adventure travel blog)
"Pilgrim in the Palace of Words is certainly defined more by Dixon's first-person experiences, chance encounters and dialogue with strangers than academic theories."
(Calgary Herald, The