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Archive for October, 2012

October 31st, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Jimmy Stewart, Norwich, and its ties to North America

As you may know, Norwich is the first English city to be awarded the UNESCO City of Literature and one of only six cities in the world with the permanent accolade. The award was given in recognition of Norwich’s sensational literary past, from the first battlefield dispatch (1075) to the first woman published in English (Julian of Norwich – C15th). The city is also home to the largest concentration of published dissenters, revolutionaries and social reformers (C18th /19th ) including Tom Paine and the 30 million bestseller, Anna Sewell, the UK’s first City of Refuge (2006) for persecuted writers and to cap it all, the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, which opens its door to by far the largest number of visitors and users in the UK.

Norfolk has some interesting ties to North America that were highlighted in a recent exhibition at The Archive Centre in Norwich , which ran until just last month. From now until US Thanksgiving weekend in November, festivals, family and children’s events, talks, films and musical performances will mark the historical ties between Norfolk and America.

  • Key Connections include:
  • Some of America’s first settlers in the 17th century came from Norfolk, including the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower
  • John Rolfe from Heacham in King’s Lynn married Pocahontas, who visited England with him in 1616.
  • Thomas Paine, who was born and raised in Thetford, went on to become an influential pro-independence writer and revolutionary in America.
  • The Friendly Invasion, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, saw around 50,000 United States 8th Army Air Force personnel stationed in the county at any one time during World War Two. Film actor Jimmy Stewart had a distinguished record with the USAAF at Buckenham and Tibenham, flying numerous missions deep into occupied Europe.

For more  click here.

October 27th, 2012 • Posted in CITIES, Literary Destinations, Valencia, Spain

Literary Tourist Audio: Crime Novelist Jason Webster on Valencia and Chief Inspector Max Camara

Jason Webster is an Anglo-American crime novelist, travel writer and critic. Born in California he now lives in Valencia, Spain. Webster was educated in England, Egypt and Italy. In 1993 he graduated from Oxford University (St John’s College) with a degree in Arabic and Islamic History. His books all involve Spain, and include Duende: A journey in search of Flamenco (2003), which recounts his move here, and his quest to learn flamenco guitar, (itwas long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award); Andalus: Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain (2004)  and Sacred Sierra: A year on a Spanish mountain (2009) which describes a year that Webster and his Spanish wife spent living on their mountain farm in eastern Spain working on the land and planting trees with the help of a 12th century Moorish gardening manual.

Or the Bull Kills You (2011) is a crime novel set in Valencia, and the world of bullfighting. It is the first in a  series of detective stories featuring Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police. It was long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.  Death in Valencia (2012), is the second book in the series.

I caught up with Jason recently in Valencia. We met at a sidewalk cafe in the Cabanyal -

a real neighbourhood in which his fictional action takes place -  to talk about how those who read and love his novels can get more out of them by visiting this great, colourful Spanish city.

October 26th, 2012 • Posted in Chicago, Illinois, CITIES, Literary Destinations

Arriving at Paradise – the Poetry Foundation in Chicago

On Wednesday last I went to see Stephanie Hlywak, media director at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago (stay tuned for the interview).

I got out of the cab, spotted the words ‘poetry foundation’ on a shallow step in front of me,

and cleverly deduced that I was at the right place. But where was the entrance? How was I to get in? No door. No directions. Just a slim little path running along side the building, to my right,

a few trees, a short step up, and, straight ahead, an inscription on the wall  honouring Ruth Lilly.

What the hell. I’ll follow the passage way. Into an enclosed courtyard it led me. Across it, via a diagonal opening between trees – at a slant if you will – lay the door. Perhaps an employee entrance I thought. Nothing on it. Locked. Was I in the right place? Maybe the main entrance was on the other side of the building? So I banged, tentatively, and waved at a woman who sat behind a desk in what appeared to be a library of sorts. I could see her because the space, the building, the walls, are not opaque. They’re made out of glass.

I got in – and soon announced the purpose of my presence.

Stephanie subsequently explained that my experience of the previous five minutes was just what the building’s architect John Ronan had hoped for when he designed the place: a duplication of how one feels when approaching and entering a poem.

It put me in mind of this by Emily Dickinson:

I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors-

Of Chambers as the Cedars–
Impregnable of Eye–
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky–

Of Visitors–the fairest–
For Occupation–This–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise–

October 26th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Germany a real fairytale destination in 2013

I blew into Chicago this week to attend something called VEMEX in hopes of learning about upcoming events in Europe that might be of interest to the Literary Tourist.  What I found was a fairy tale. Turns out that next year marks the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm’s first published work.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in an 1843 drawing by their younger brother Ludwig Emil Grimm

The fairytales and folklore of Jacob and Wilhelm are among the best-known in German and indeed world literature. December 20, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the first edition of these popular stories. The  brothers together collected a total of more than two hundred texts working in and around Kassel, drawing mostly from local traditional oral and written sources. The brothers are associated primarily with the Hessen region of Germany which is home to their birthplace in Hanau, their childhood home in Steinau, Marburg, where they studied, and Kassel, where they served at the court of the Elector.

A major exhibition  running from April 27 to September 8 2013 heads up a range of celebrations that will take place throughout Hessen during the year, a listing of which can be found here. The German Fairytale Route is one of the oldest and best known of the almost 200 scenic routes in Germany. It runs for 600 kilometres linking important places in the lives and work of the famous brothers  between Hanau and Bremen. Along it you can find places associated with stories such as the ‘Bremen Town Musicians’ and ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. In Hanau, where Jacob and Wilhelm were born, fans can visit the Brothers Grimm Fairytale Festival from 1 May to 1 July 2013; in Steinau, where they spent their childhood, there’s a fun puppet festival.

The manuscripts of the famous fairytales, listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, are on display as part of a permanent exhibition at the Brothers Grimm Museum in the Palais Bellevue. En route to Kassel the trail leads through a series of lovingly restored medieval towns. The fairytales come alive for visitors here, at the Snow White village of Bad Wildungen-Bergfreiheit for instance; in the Little Red Riding Hood region between Alsfeld and Fritzlar, and at Mother Hulda’s lake in the hills of the Hoher Meissner. While Jacob and Wilhelm collected fairytales, taught as professors and compiled dictionaries, their brother Ludwig Emil Grimm, a painter, helped establish Europe’s first artists’ colony in Willingshausen. (He also tried his hand at politics as a member of the first German national assembly in Frankfurt).

Visiting Germany in 2013 promises to be fun, as they say, for the entire Literary Tourist family!

October 26th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

New Life for Al Purdy A-frame

Image from Abe

AMELIASBURGH, Ont. – The A-frame home built here in 1957 by the late Al Purdy, one of Canada’s greatest poets, and his wife, Eurithe, has been assured of preservation and a continued vocation as a place for writers to gather and work.

Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy, who dramatically reduced the asking price for the property, and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired on October 9 by the Al Purdy A-frame Association, a newly incorporated national non-profit organization with a mandate to promote Canadian literature and Canadian writers. A major benefit is planned for Koerner Hall in Toronto on February 6th to continue the restoration of the A-frame.

“Now we can turn our attention to the next phase of this effort,” said Jean Baird, president of the association. “It’s not only a celebration of Al Purdy’s legacy, but a mission to educate today’s students on the value and worth of Canadian literature, and to preserve the Purdy home as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.”

The A-frame, a lakeside cottage in Prince Edward County, Ontario, was the centre of Purdy’s writing universe and one of the most important crossroads on Canada’s literary map. In their 43 years residing there, the Purdys hosted a who’s who of Canadian authors: Margaret Laurence, Milton Acorn, H.R. Percy, Michael Ondaatje and hundreds of others.

The association plans to begin work on upgrading the property immediately, and hopes to have its first writer-in-residence installed next summer and working in local schools by fall 2013.

Donors acknowledged

The association gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all donors to the project to date, including writers, poets, publishers, academics, students, booksellers, librarians, lovers of literature and, especially, Eurithe Purdy, who was crucial to the success of this effort.

Special thanks are extended to major donors ($5,000 to $40,000): The Good Foundation, Avie Bennett, George Galt, The Chawkers Foundation, The Glasswaters Foundation, The Metcalf Foundation, Michael Audain, Jeff Mooney and Suzanne Bolton, Leonard Cohen, Rosemary Tannock, Tom and Helen Galt, and Josef Wosk.

For a full list of donors, go to

Fundraising efforts continue and are critical to the next stage of this project—upgrades on the property are required and the association will be building an endowment. Online donations are being accepted through PayPal at, or cheques may be sent to: The Al Purdy A-frame Association, 4403 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6R 2M2.

For more information contact Jean Baird  at  or 604-224-4898

October 24th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

The Donna Leon tour of Venice


Hob-knobbing about my favourite topic with Bill Swan, President of the Kingston Accommodation Partners last night in London, Ontario at the 2012 Ontario Tourism Summit, and didn’t Bill tell me all about this great Donna Leon tour of Venice he’d taken recently.

Venice is the setting for all of Leon’s novels; it’s at least as much of a force in these taut mysteries as any human character, including the series’ star, Commissario Guido Brunetti. There’s  a map detailing some of the stops you might want to make whenever you’re in the ‘City of bridges’…(or water…or whatever nickname you’d care to lay on the place), here. Info on guided tours is offered here

October 21st, 2012 • Posted in Bookstores

A Book Shop in Stromboli, Italy

These photos of a little bookstore in Stromboli, Italy sent in by my good friend Gianni Montanaro, who lives in Ischia, Italy, where he owns and operates an advertising/web design agency, Orkestra:

October 21st, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Some day Montreal Should name a street for this poet…

Lionel Edel on Montreal and Canadian poet A.M. Klein:

“He used macronic coinages in the manner of James Joyce to sound the note of the city’s grandeur – sitting as it does on the shore of a mighty river – and its Catholic austerity:

Oh city metropole, isle riverain!
Your ancient pavages and sainted routs
Traverse my spirit’s conjured avenues!
Splendour erablic of your promenades
Foliates there, and there your maisonry
Of pendant balcon and escalier’d march,
Is vivid Normany!

Some day Montreal should name a street for this poet who managed to speak with both English and French voice in his well-wrought lines – the erable which patriotically evokes the Canadian national emblem, the maple leaf; the pun on masonry and species of houses in maisonry, followed by a description  of the most characteristic features of the east-end maisons – the houses with their external stairways; the “pendant balcon and escalier’d march” needs a further gloss for the pun within the pun, “march” being also marches – the steps of the winding stair. Most important of all, “vivid Normandy” – a recall of the root-region in France from which most of the Quebecois are descended. “

October 19th, 2012 • Posted in Madrid

Winged Creatures of Spain

October 16th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Six Famed Literary Themed Tours

Savannah tour themed on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Da Vinci Code  themed tour of Paris
In Search of King Arthur tour of Cornwall
Murder Walk in Dostoevsky’s neighborhood of Saint Petersburg
Tour of Moscow themed on Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series tour of Stockholm