Monday, September 15, 2008

Novel Destinations

by Cathy Pickens

Most readers cherish their favorite places to curl up with a good book, away from worries and interruptions, lost in a delightful place.
Photo: The House of Seven Gables

Two writers, though, have dreamed up something almost as good. A book of special places where the books we love were written or about which they were written!

In Novel Destinations: Literary Landmarks from Jane Austen's Bath to Ernest Hemingway's Key West (National Geographic: 2008), authors Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon have put together my favorite kind of travel book -- one that can serve as a planning guide for a trip as well as one that can take me places while I snuggle in my chair at home.

Of course, I've stumbled on a few literary landmarks as I've traveled. Within easy driving distance from my home, I can visit Carl Sandburg's Connemara Farm or Thomas Wolfe's (rebuilt) boarding house in Asheville. I've been to Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford, and I loved the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts. (Schmidt and Rendon warn to plan carefully if you want to visit Salem on Halloween -- that's an understatement.)

Photo: Jane Austen's Bath, England

But what about planning a whole trip around a favorite author? The book lists some of Charles Dickens' favorite restaurants. (I once lucked into the Ben Johnson seat in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, but didn't know to try to breath in some Charles Dickens aura at Rules in London.)

The first part of the book is organized around topics -- vampires or house museums or literary lodgings. The second part focuses on ten journeys or places made famous by writers: Harper Lee's Monroeville, Alabama or Victor Hugo's Paris or James Joyce's Dublin.

As I read about the places I've been fortunate enough to see, the authors' detail brought a smile of recognition. For the places I haven't yet visited, they had me making mental notes galore.
What a delightful idea for a book! What a delightful book! If you plan nothing more than an armchair journey, you'll feel well-traveled indeed.

While you're journeying in a literary vein, check out the DVD of the movie Miss Potter. The movie slipped quickly in and out of theaters, which is a shame. Rene Zellweger lets us visit the creative life of Beatrix Potter, of Peter Rabbit fame. The English Lake District scenery alone is worth the price of the rental.

I'm supposed to be working on several writing projects, but these travels provided such delightful escape. No matter what you're supposed to be doing, I recommend this escape route! Even if you can't leave home ...


Carol said...

We took our young daughters on a Laura Ingalls Wilder trip to Minnesota and South Dakota a couple of years ago. It was really delightful, and brought those stories to life in a new way for us southerners. We didn't bring the whole set of books, but took a couple of them with us to read aloud along the way. Made for some great family vacation memories that are still talked about.

MIndy said...

I LOVED Miss Potter, too.

Vicki Lane said...

I've been twice to Oxford, trying to imagine myself back in Dorothy L. Sayers' world . . .