Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for April, 2012

April 30th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

10 Cities that star as Characters in Novels

Novels in which cities are the main characters:

  • Peter Ackroyd: The House of Doctor Dee.   London
  • Arturo Azuela:  Shadows of Silence. Mexico City.
  • Andrei Bely: Peterburg (Petersburg). St. Petersburg
  • Camilo José Cela: The Hive. 1940s Madrid
  • Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent.   London
  • Alfred Döblin: Berlin Alexanderplatz. Berlin
  • John Dos Passos: Manhattan Transfer. New York in the 1920s
  • George Friel: Glasgow Trilogy.  Glasgow
  • Naguib Mahfouz: Cairo Trilogy.  Cairo
  • Robert Musil: The Man Without Qualities . Vienna
April 30th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Literary Paris: Novels set in Paris

Here’s a far from complete list of novels set in Paris:

  • Stephen Clarke: A Year in the Merde
  • Catherine Clément: Voyage de Théo (Theo’s Odyssey)
  • Jean Cocteau: Grand écart (The Miscreant)
  • Paulo Coelho: O Zahir (The Zahir)
  • Colette: Claudine à Paris (Claudine in Paris)
  • Colette: Chéri (Chéri)
  • Abha Dawesar: That Summer in Paris
  • Honoré de Balzac: Pick a title
  • Simone de Beauvoir: Les Mandarins (The Mandarins)
  • Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
  • George Du Maurier: Trilby
  • Marguerite Duras: Pluie d’été (Summer Rain)
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Love in the Days of Rage
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Beautiful and the Damned
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night
  • Mary Flanagan: Adèle
  • Gustave Flaubert: L’Education sentimentale (Sentimental Education)
  • Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal
  • Peter Gadol: Light at Dusk
  • Mary Gaitskill: Veronica
  • André Gide: Les faux-monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters)
  • Peter Handke: Die Stunde der wahren Empfindung (A Moment of True Feeling)
  • Anne Hébert: Héloïse (Héloïse)
  • Ernest Hemingway: A Moveable Feast
  • Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • G. A. Henty: A Girl of the Commune
  • Georgette Heyer: These Old Shades
  • Patricia Highsmith: Ripley Under Ground
  • Oscar Hijuelos: A Simple Habana Melody
  • Kate Horsley: Black Elk In Paris
  • Victor Hugo: Les Misérables
  • Victor Hugo: Notre Dame de Paris
  • Nancy Huston: Empreinte de l’ange (The Mark of the Angel)
  • J. K Huysmans: A vau-l’eau (Downstream; With the Flow)
  • Michael Ignatieff: Asya
  • Henry James: The Ambassadors
  • Ernst Jünger: Eine gefährliche Begegnung [A Dangerous Encounter]
  • John Lanchester: Debt to Pleasure
  • Wyndham Lewis: Tarr
  • Robet Ludlum: The Bourne Identity
  • W. Somerset Maugham: The Razor’s Edge
  • Guy de Maupassant: Bel-Ami
  • Mary McCarthy: Birds of America
  • Andrew Miller: Oxygen
  • Henry Miller: Tropic of Cancer
  • Nancy Mitford: Don’t Tell Alfred
  • Irène Némirovsky: Chiens et les loups (The Dogs And The Wolves)
  • Baroness Orczy: Scarlet Pimpernel novels
  • Cynthia Ozick: Foreign Bodies
  • Georges Perec: La vie : Mode d’emploi (Life: A User’s Manual)
  • Georges Perec: La disparition (A Void)
  • Erich Maria Remarque: Arc de triomphe (Arch of Triumph)
  • Jean Rhys: Quartet
  • Jean Rhys: Good Morning, Midnight
  • Anne Rice: The Vampire Armand
  • Mordecai Richler: Barney’s Version
  • Joseph Roth: Beichte eines Mörders (Confession of a Murderer)
  • Gilles Rozier: Un amour sans résistance (Love without Resistance)
  • Josh Russell: Yellow Jack
  • Juan José Saer: Pesquisa (The Investigation)
  • Françoise Sagan: Chagrin de passage (A Fleeting Sorrow)George Sand: Horace (Horace)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre: L’Age de raison (The Age of Reason)
  • Georges Simenon: The Maigret Novels
  • Susan Sontag: The Benefactor
  • Rose Tremain: The Way I Found Her
  • Margaret Vandenburg: An American in Paris
  • Paul West: Rat Man of Paris
  • Edith Wharton: A Son at the Front
  • William Wharton: Last Lovers
  • Emile Zola: L’Assommoir (The Drinking Den)
  • Emile Zola: Paris (Paris)

And if we must: Dan Brown: The Da Vinci Code. For even more, click here.

April 30th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Four Reasons why People Visit Literary Places

Top Withens, the ruin on the moors near Haworth that inspired Wuthering Heights

This from David Herbert’s paperLITERARY PLACES, TOURISM AND THE HERITAGE EXPERIENCE, published in the Annals of Tourism Research, 2001. Herbert is Emeritus Professor of Geography at University of Wales Swansea

People visit literary places for a variety of reasons. First, they are drawn to places that have connections with the lives of writers. Former homes, in which a writer lived and worked, may create a sense of nostalgia and inspire awe or reverence:

In these places, a visitor can still walk out of a house and into landscapes which have barely changed since the writer drew breath from them and breathed literature into them… We walk in our writers’ footsteps and see through their eyes when we enter these spaces (Marsh 1993:xi, xv).

Second, tourists may be drawn to literary places that form the settings for novels. Fiction may be set in locations that writers knew and there is a merging of the real and the imagined that gives such places a special meaning. Fictional characters and events often generate the strongest imagery. Pocock showed that tourists to Haworth sought out the moors but emotions in crossing them were suffused “less with the excitement of treading in the Brontes’ footsteps, than with the thought that Heathcliff might appear” (1987:138). Third, tourists may be drawn to literary places for some broader and deeper emotion than the specific writer or the story. Squire (1993, 1994) exemplified this with her research into Hill Top Farm, a former home of Beatrix Potter, in Cumbria.

Many tourists were evoking memories and emotions from their childhood: their recall was of the telling of the stories and their bonds with home and family. In a similar way, G. Davies (1995) recorded the significance of the story Evangeline to the Acadian people of eastern Canada. For them, she argued, the story, as depicted in Longfellow’s poem, evoked memories of suffering and the loss of a home territory.

The fourth reason may be less concerned with the literature than with some dramatic event in the writer’s life. Van Gogh was an artist rather than a writer but Millon (Office de Tourisme, Auvers-sur-Oise, personnal communication in 1993) commented that many people visited Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris because of its association with the manner of the artist’s death rather than with his art.

April 30th, 2012 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Hollywood book collectors

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Johnny Depp collects first-editions of works by Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allan Poe. Producer Kathleen Kennedy has a prize collection of books on exploration and director Tony Bill has one on aviation. Business manager Bill Tanner goes for  novelizations of silent-era films and screenwriter Jeffrey Fiskin collects the poetry of William Butler Yeats. Other Hollywood bibliophiles including Brad Pitt, Steve Martin,  Whoopi Goldberg, Kelsey Grammer, Sony chief Howard Stringer, director Charles Shyer and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

April 30th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Istanbul s Museum of Innocence: Novel and Museum combined

The Museum of Innocence is both a novel by Orhan Pamuk and a museum he has just set up. From the beginning Pamuk conceived of novel and museum together. The novel, which is about love, takes place between 1974 and the early ’00s and describes life in Istanbul during the latter part of the 20th century through memories and flashbacks featuring two families – one wealthy, one poor. The museum presents what the novel’s characters ‘used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of’ in a selection of boxes and display cabinets. The novel was published in 2008, the museum opens this week.

April 29th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio: Interview with Richard Stursberg on his book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC.

Jacket design by Jessica Sullivan 

Unlike Britain, which opted to invest in public non-commercial broadcasting in the early ’60s, Canada chose a hybrid model that freed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to augment its Parliamentary appropriation with advertising revenues.

Canada’s 1968 Broadcast Act prescribed a broadcasting system controlled by Canadians that ‘safeguards and strengthens our cultural, political, social and economic fabric, promotes unity and national identity, and provides challenging, entertaining, informative programming that caters to a wide range of audiences.’

This conflicted mandate parked the CBC at a particularly congested intersection, one that today invites more collisions than ever before, what with the significant funding cuts just announced and profits from the Hockey Night in Canada franchise in jeopardy.

In addition to the impossible task of simultaneously promoting a single, nebulous national identity and culture, and providing programming for a wide variety of tastes and audiences, the CBC is also under pressure to produce “popular” shows that Canadians will watch and advertisers will support.

One solution is to abandon the old commercial hybrid model and fund the CBC not through Parliament, but directly from licence fees  levied on consumers. This way the CBC could, similar to TVOntario, carve out a more distinctive, unique role for itself by eliminating advertising  (and much of the glib, manipulative, audience-spinning crap one finds on commercial television)  from most of its schedule, and delivering ‘high’ quality Canadian alternative programming without regard for ‘lowest-common-denominator’ audience share. Replacing a chubby old confused mongrel, with a lean, alert purebred puppy dog.

Good idea. Perhaps that’s why it stands little chance of seeing daylight. Anything that resembles a new tax, or loosens the leash that government holds on public broacasting is unlikely to fly in Harperland, or for that matter in any other party-that’s-in-power land.

The alternative, one which Peter Stursberg championed as Vice President of English language programming at the CBC (2004-2010), is to focus on audience. ‘ What use are ‘good’ television shows if nobody watches them?  Stursberg  asks in his recent book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC which documents his tenure with the public broadcaster.

While ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ is no ‘Mad Men’, it is watched by lots of Canadians. And this is more than can be said of much CBC programming prior to Stursberg’s arrival.  By pushing one component of a decidedly messed-up mandate he created much controversy during his time at the CBC, and, eventually, got himself fired. One hopes that his book, and his bold efforts will, if nothing else, encourage debate, and ultimately produce from government a clearer mandate for this important, troubled institution.

I met with Richard (not Peter) Stursberg recently in Ottawa to talk about his new book. Please listen to our conversation here:

April 28th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Jon Hamm, Mad Men, Esquire Magazine and Disappointment

Mad Men is one of the most engaging television series I’ve ever watched.

It’s complex. Works on many levels, brilliantly conveys the cultural milieu of the 1960s, and highlights with jolting detail the differences which exist between this time and that. The show depicts domestic and business life in mid-century Madison Avenue America with impeccable musical and visual style, replicating in unerring detail the vibe, vibrancy and tumult of the times.  When you’re not dazzled by the furniture design and clothing fashion, you’re kept rapt following clever dialogue coming out of an intense suite of  complicated, unfolding, intertwined life stories, relationships, and career paths. On top of this there’s the ongoing history of the period.  Massive societal and behavioral shifts affecting attitudes toward virtually everything: sex, marriage, family, feminism, business ethics, morality, lifestyle, health, the environment…all of which force both reflection upon today’s world, and the ways in which things have changed for better and worse,  and renewed awareness of the challenges that must have faced our parents and grandparents.

Lots of rich material to process.

So it was with interest that I picked up the March 2012 issue of Esquire magazine.  Jon Hamm’s Don Draper is such an intelligent, fluid, sophisticated, pleasingly-flawed and intriguing lead character that I welcomed the opportunity to read something of what the actor thought about all of the above.

The magazine’s profile unfortunately, provided nothing. Nothing statements about golf and the St. Louis Cardinals. Mundane quotes about tap water and dusty rockabilly music, some silly conceit about eagles, and an incomprehensible on-going gag featuring false facts about the actor. Perhaps Hamm is the problem. Perhaps he’s just dumb. Maybe this is all the reporter had to work with.

Either way it was a boring, useless article; stimulating nothing but irritation, and faint disappointment at the gap between imagination and reality;  it’s wise, I suppose, to focus on the art, not the artist. The acting not the actor.

I expected more from Esquire (hadn’t Mordecai Richler written for it?) and/or Hamm. No wonder magazines and their kin are in trouble these days. Oh, for the 60s again.

April 27th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Criticism

Why expose yourself to the arts and literature?

Martin Esslin tells us why in his essay ‘A Search for Subjective Truth’ found in What is Criticism? Ed. Paul Hernadi (Indiana, 1981):

“If the arts in general, and literature in particular, are concerned with communicating the intellectual and emotional experience of outstanidng individuals, and doing so with the maximum degree of skill, the maximum degree of (subjective) truth, clearly an exposure to the arts and to literature will contribute to enlarging the capacity, on the part of the individual exposed to the artifacts in question, to experience life, to profit from the experience of other individuals before him. It is through discourse about these artifacts, through exchanging opinions about them, having them discussed, analyzed, and explained that each individual can train and develop his own sensibilities, increase his discernment in perceiving the finer points of skill involved in their creation and school his capacity for emotional experience through empathy and imaginative involvement, and enlarge the scope of his intellectual capacity through the insights to be derived from the more complex and subtle forms of human communication.

Criticism provides the techniques for such discourse and the multiplicity of views and viewpoints that constitute that discourse itself. Moreover it helps, through such discourse, to school, guide, and stimulate the creative individuals who are destined to contribute further artifacts to form the basis of further continuing discourse.”

April 26th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Literary Tourist in New York

Stayed on Statten Island, as much for the ferry

ride and the view it offers of Manhattan

as anything else. Took the

subway up to the Armory Building where the

New York Antiquarian Book Fair was taking place (annually every April). Book Fairs, especially those organized by ILAB and its various international affiliates, are great for a number of reasons: lots of opportunity to handle and acquire rarely seen books; a place where faces

Ian Kahn

can be put to on-line

Lorne Bair

names; and plenty of time to hob-knob with industry leaders and experts. For example, within the first half hour on site I bumped into the ABAA‘s Susan Benne;  ILAB Vice-President and Modern First Edition expert Tom Congalton whose Between the Covers bookstore has one of the largest used and rare book inventories in the world with over 230,000 titles; Fran Durako owner of Kelmscott Book Shop in Baltimore, antiquarian cookbook connoisseur Don Lindgren and Eric Waschke, past president of ABAC,who pledged to help Literary Tourist pitch it’s Literary Tourist Destination Marketing Program to the city of Vancouver. Not bad for short stroll among the shelves.

April 26th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

13 Authors born in New York City

  • Alex Haley
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Edith Wharton
  • Eugene O’Neill
  • Henry James
  • Henry Miller
  • Herman Melville
  • J.D. Salinger
  • James Baldwin
  • Joseph Heller
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Walt Whitman
  • Washington Irving