Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts
May 28th, 2015 • Posted in Literary Tourism

How to attract Literary Tourists, by Nigel Beale

Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, Pittsfield, MA

A version of this article was first published at

I know there is a strong desire in many travelers to enrich themselves intellectually and emotionally.  

I’m a literary tourist.  For much of the past decade I’ve had the good fortune of traveling around the world seeking out and finding enriching cultural experiences. As a result of wanting to share these experiences with other book-loving travelers – to make it easier for them to enjoy the same – and to encourage cities to investigate, nurture and celebrate their literary heritage, I launched a website in 2010 at

Here then, from the perspective of a passionate, peripatetic bibliophile – and more recently a literary tourism booster -  are observations on three important travel marketing topics.

1. “Focus on the Customer”  

Paul Nursey formerly of the Canadian Tourism Commission, now with Tourism Victoria, has suggested that strategic themes focusing on  “supply side verticals” – such as Cultural Tourists – have lost prevalence over the past decade, with tourism marketers now focusing much more intently on the customer  ( a strategy which, incidentally, has been employed par excellence by a company that could, perhaps more than any other, be blamed for eroding the unique character of communities across North America).  Amazon, and its CEO Jeff Bezos, has produced impressive results for shareholders during the past decade. Ironically, their success explains in part why so many locally owned brick and mortar bookshops have been closing their doors.

Tired of serving as show rooms for visitors who turn around and buy for less on-line, booksellers have, in number, been packing up their paperbacks and hard covers, escaping hefty rents, moving out of downtown, and setting up as Internet-only dealers. While it does little good to complain about Amazon’s successful new business model, it is worth taking a page from their book, and focusing, as Paul says, on the customer.

So, what does the the cultural/literary tourist want? Here’s what:

  • To browse well-stocked atmospheric used/antiquarian bookshops, and interact with knowledgeable owners and staff
  • To relax at independent ‘destination’ type new bookstores. To enjoy a book and a coffee
  • To attend stimulating author reading events; lectures, panel talks; writers and film festivals
  • To go to professional theatre productions
  • To visit authentic literary locales/library exhibitions/museums/spaces/landmarks. To learn from the experts, and from smart, enthusiastic, well-versed tour guides and docents.
  • To participate in writing or book arts workshops
  • To get out on literary walking tours 

…all this and more, over and above the need for good food, quiet hotel rooms, comfy beds and peaceful places in which to read, contemplate and cogitate.

By fostering, funding and encouraging these kind of experiences – and supporting local literary calendars and cultural magazines – cities will not only attract cultural/literary tourists, they’ll also make themselves more interesting to their own inhabitants.


Businesses should be concerned about ROI. Cities should be too, but their ultimate objective isn’t profit, it’s improvements to the quality of life of its citizens. What are cities here for? Ultimately, to help people lead happier more fulfilling lives, for, after the roads have been cleaned, the sewers inspected, the police and firemen equipped, isn’t it about enjoying yourself?

If this is the case, then shouldn’t it be about preserving that which has value – buildings, landmarks, neighbourhoods, evidence of accomplishments – and stimulating creative output and exchange in the present,  both for the enjoyment of tourists, and for the lasting benefit of our residents?

By incorporating, stimulating and celebrating ‘the imagination,’ cities, as they develop, will not only attract more visitors, they’ll also bring in creative, imaginative people who want to get involved in urban life – exactly the kind of people that Christopher Forbes, Vice Chairman of Forbes, Inc. is after:

“The success of my family’s business” says Forbes, “ depends on finding and cultivating a creative and innovative workforce. I have witnessed firsthand the power of the arts in building these business skills. When we participate personally in the arts, we strengthen our ‘creativity muscles,’ which makes us not just a better ceramicist or chorus member, but a more creative worker—better able to identify challenges and innovative business solutions. This is one reason why the arts remain an important part of my personal and corporate philanthropy.”

Local culture is not just about ROI, or attracting tourists or making money.  It’s about making places more interesting –  preserving and celebrating what has true value. The return is a richer more livable city.  While delivering exactly the kind of intellectual and emotional experiences that research identifies as being important to so many of us, exploring and sharing local culture helps us (at the fear of sounding a tad precious here) to discover who we are.

3 Authenticity

In all the articles on tourism marketing that I’ve read recently, ‘authentic’ is  the word that has appeared most often. There’s a reason for this. People – unless they’re going to Disney – don’t want fake, they want real. The real thing. The first edition, the original manuscript, the actual desk, the feather pen. Without these important source materials, we end up “bastardizing and imposing culture that grates rather than soothes, debases rather than lifts us out of the mire of our daily lives.”

Getting to ‘authentic’ requires serious study of the past, intelligent acquisition and sympathetic  presentation.  Lawrence Lande, one of Canada’s all-time great book collectors,  in his Adventures in Collecting (a beautiful book designed by Robert R. Reid in 1975) writes about how important source materials are to the process of learning about and understanding Canadian history. Addressing a room full of McGill University professors, he said:

“ … I would try to harness as much of the source material that I could lay my hands on which McGill possesses in her libraries and museums. For example, I would attempt to set up a room with furnishings from the time of Confederation in Canada, including the pictures on the walls and the journals of the day on the table. I would involve my students with the poetry and the literature that was read at the time and the popular music of the day; the clothing that was worn; the medical and social practices and the problems of the day, including alcoholism; and even the methods of transportation and so on ….”

By stimulating creative output,  developing venues, and encouraging the collecting, curating and presenting of source documents, cities will not only evolve into better places, they’ll  ‘authentically’ transform the lives of those who visit and live in them.

May 27th, 2015 • Posted in New York

NY Art Book Fair, September 18 to 20, 2105


This looks like it will be amazing.

May 27th, 2015 • Posted in Bookstores, chilliwack

From The Bookman in Chilliwack, B.C. All about them Books

May 26th, 2015 • Posted in Franschhoek, South Africa

I don’t think black people are angry enough at Nelson Mandela

If what novelists and poets say, think and write about, often foretells the future, then South Africa looks to be headed for trouble. Here from Books Live, are some remarks made by writer Thando Mgqolozana at the recent Franschhoek Literary Festival

“I’m part of a group of writers that started Read SA with Ben Williams, Zukiswa [Wanner] and others, which was because we want to encourage South Africans, especially black South Africans, to read, and particularly to read South African literature.

We come from a history where black writers were banned and the stories that would most resonate with a black audience were suppressed. There have never been as many black writers as we have now, there has never been as much diversity in terms of voices and stories.

“But that campaign fell off because the literary infrastructure at the moment is in the cities, in white set-ups, like here, for example. It systematically excludes black people. So what is needed is the establishment of that infrastructure. That’s what we need. Not just campaigns. We need to get libraries in the black communities. There are some now, built by the democratic government, but they are fake libraries. The ones that are functioning there are functioning because they are sponsored by Canadians and Australians, and they bring books from there. For example, I went to Harare Library in Khayelitsha [for a conversation with Cyril Ramaphosa about a national book club - ed.] and it’s sponsored by Carnegie. We need libraries and bookstores with relevant, affordable books in the black community.

“I don’t think private individuals can fund the kind of infrastructure that’s needed. We need the government to step up. Between festivals we need other literary activities, book launches and all the kind of things we have here. And that is a massive project, but I would rather be focusing on that than come here and say the kinds of things that I’m saying, ‘please change, please change’. I don’t think it’s going to work. We’ve tried to do it. My greatest focus is going to be writing, and I’m going to try to make this kind of change through my writing.”

But I don’t want this literary festival to change any more. I feel that it was wrong for me to ask of it to change in the first place.

“It’s the same argument as the Rhodes Must Fall kids are making at UCT. They are not asking the university to change, because that would mean tweaking a few things and it remains the same, fundamentally. So now they are talking about the complete decolonisation, and that means a demolishing of the entire system, which would provide us with an opportunity to imagine something new, something different. For me, that’s what I wish and hope will happen to this system. Changing this and that would still not be comfortable for any black writer, I think.

That’s like asking to be integrated into a fire.

“What I’m talking about is not just literary festivals. It’s not just literature. I’m talking about this society, the way it is. But in order to do that I focused on this small point of literary festivals, in order to be able to say: what this society needs is a complete decolonisation…”

I don’t think black people are angry enough at Nelson Mandela.

I think in this country there is a moment that we missed; we should have unleashed our anger, which had been accumulating for centuries, and we didn’t.

“There were many things that we could have done but we chose to go through a Truth and Reconciliation process that didn’t work, which basically postponed the anger that people had and now they are starting to unleash. What black people are missing is that moment of victory. We didn’t have it. The elections in 1994 were not that.”

Several years ago I interviewed Jenny Hobbs, one of the founders of the Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF). We talk a bit about the lack of black audience members (there doesn’t seem to be a lack of participating black authors), and efforts being made to change things.

As mentioned off the top, the anger coming out of this year’s Festival gives reason for concern. It also tells me that the FLF is doing what a writer’s festival should do, airing serious issues in a non violent environment. I only hope that leaders in the country are listening, and are able to take measures to diffuse this anger. Without some action taken to lessen racial tensions, increased violence will in all likelihood be the inevitable result, which will be a tragedy not only for South Africa, but for the world, for the world needs more than just one Canada. It needs more places in which differences are accommodated, exploited and celebrated.

May 25th, 2015 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Writer houses promise to tell us something about the writers who lived in them, but it is mostly an illusion

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord, MA

I like what Chris Routledge has to say here

“Writers’ houses are big business now of course. The Beatrix Potter industry, centred on her farmhouse, Hill Top, brings thousands of tourists to the Lake District. Visitors swarm over the houses of Dickens and Wordsworth, Ruskin, James and Woolf, to name only a few. In an age when most people can read and write perhaps they want to know what it is that makes this writer’s work so special, or that writer’s work so celebrated. Maybe the answer is among the bri-a-brac and the antique furniture, if only you look hard enough. Except it isn’t. Writers’ houses promise to tell us something about the writers who lived in them, but it is mostly an illusion. In any case by the time the curators and the tourists get there the writer is long gone.

The connection with Orwell is partly what drew us to Barnhill, but what we took away was not much to do with him. A week at Barnhill is not like a week in the wilderness—far from it—but it is enough for nature to let you to know where you stand in the order of things. It is long enough to fall into a rhythm of light and dark, of what needs to be done not because of the time, but because it needs to be done. Maybe that’s why it appealed so much to a four year-old; that and the claw-foot bath. Barnhill is a very special place and part of its specialness comes from that connection with Orwell and his extraordinary book. But mostly Barnhill is special because of where it is—the sea, the rocks, the deer on the ridge, the seals in the bay—and because of what it lets you see and keep to yourself.”

I would however add that the motivation to travel in order to connect with a favourite writer is not an illusion. It’s real. And the resulting experience, imaginative or otherwise, writer related or not, can be very powerful and satisfying.

May 25th, 2015 • Posted in Amsterdam

Literary Tourism, a cheap appropriation and amateurish displacement of the text?

Quoting Randy Malamud’s article on literary tourism in The Chronicle of Higher Learning, professor and 10 day student trip abroad specialist Jennifer Eisenlau tells us “many academics might find distasteful “literary tourism [because it] involves a cheap appropriation, am amateurish displacement of the text’s aesthetic sanctity….” While I, too, dislike the idea of Shakespeare’s birthplace as just another stop on the itinerary, I believe there is great value in literary tourism. To stand in Bath, England, the reader physically enters the world of Jane Austen. Nothing can match the sheer force of reading Wuthering Heights and then walking the moors above the Brönte parsonage.”

She goes on…

If I travel abroad to do research—with a capital “R”—then my travel is valid because it is academic in its purpose. For example, I have used my own credentials and the college’s letterhead stationery to gain direct access to Hawthorne’s letters, Yeats’ towerand the Titanic’s artifacts hauled up from the very bottom of the sea. And yet, these moments of examination cannot hold a candle to my casual travels, when I was a mere literary tourist. It was when I was just traveling for myself that I learned the most. This all seems elitist to me: people with serious work to do have every right to the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace, but everyone else is a tourist, with all the negative connotations that word still often evokes…

To be in the Frank’s annex gave me a glimpse into an existence I would dread to experience myself. Fresh air was just outside, but it was totally unavailable to anyone locked behind the windows. The rooms were dim, and yet bright sunshine glinted off the canals below. Summer must have been difficult for the eight people waiting in the hot upstairs rooms. I wanted to leave. The rooms were so crowded, but I could not move without bumping into someone…

Perhaps the close conditions, the humidity, the cramped quarters, and the whiff of body odor are an integral part of the Anne Frank experience. My husband argued that it was a natural matter of course—crowding happens when thousands of people wish to move through a small space. However, I think that while his argument is true, I think visitor discomfort is intentional. A million visitors quietly move through the Frank’s hidden apartment each year. Anne Frank was just one girl out of a million and a half murdered children. What does being part of a million feel like? What was it like to hide for two years in an airless apartment with too many people? I thought I could imagine Anne Frank’s life; but until I climbed the stairs behind the bookcase, I never fully knew.

and, she concludes

Today is August 4th. On this day in 1944, according to the Boulder Daily CameraAnne Frank, 15, was arrested along with her sister, parents and four other people by German security after they had spent two years hiding from the Nazis in a building in Amsterdam. I closed the newspaper and wept. Had I never been to the Franks’ Secret Annex, I would have read this bit of the newspaper and paused for a moment before moving on to “Dear Abby.” But now, after climbing the very steps where Anne Frank wrote, hoped, and lived, the facts of her arrest profoundly affect me. Anne Frank changed from historical figure into one person who pasted pictures of movie stars on her walls, and had to wait until six o’clock each evening before using the toilet, and planned to see Paris. Anne has become a human being to me. It is that simple.

May 22nd, 2015 • Posted in Copenhagen

Help save a volunteer run Copenhagen Bookshop

This from Maya Zachariassen of ark books & ark editions>

First Ark Edition, [is] a beautiful, collaborative, advanced book object, containing previously unpublished texts by Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt – only six handmade copies have been made. The first one is currently being auctioned off with Scandinavian auction house Lauritz here, and is likely to be the only copy sold in this manner. The auction will end at 3pm today, EST. The texts were given to us in order to raise funds necessary to keep our volunteer-run bookshop in Copenhagen alive.

Auster’s ALONE from 1969 shows significant scholarly value by introducing the earliest known form of Quinn of City of Glass, and Hustvedt’s Becoming the Other in Translation from 2014 reveals formative works and aesthetics for her later artistic work. 

May 21st, 2015 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Writing Places project engages public with literary history

Max Gate. Image from Wiki.

This in from Literature Works


Literature Works has entered into an exciting new partnership with The National Trust to create a fantastic new literary venture called ‘Writing Places’ which also sees The Poetry Archive collecting and archiving poetry recordings. Writing Places is a pilot project funded by the Arts Council and designed to celebrate literature and its place in our history by placing Writers-In-Residence at four National Trust properties in the South West, celebrating the rich literary heritage of the South West.

The literary and heritage project aims to broaden audiences for literature events and to encourage public engagement with creative reading and writing as well as bringing these inspirational National Trust places to a wider audience.

Initially focusing on four former writers homes cared for by the National Trust in the South West: Max Gate, Coleridge Cottage, Greenway and A la Ronde, homes of Thomas Hardy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Agatha Christie and journal writers and cousins, Jane & Mary Parminter, respectively, ‘Writing Places’ hopes to help audiences engage with the places where some of the greatest writers of our literary canon became inspired to imagine and write the works that have become their legacy.

See more here.

May 20th, 2015 • Posted in Amherst

Exploring Emily Dickinson as writer, gardener and cook: An interactive weekend in Amherst, MA, in July

This in from Janis Gray

Amherst, MA – Devotees of Emily Dickinson are invited to explore the poet’s passions as writer, gardener, and cook July 17-19, 2015, in a new program titled,“Would You Like Summer? Taste of Ours —”.

Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, the sensory experience will feature scholars Marta McDowell, Aífe Murray and Jane Wald, and hands-activities to help attendees delve more deeply into Dickinson’s love of poetry, botany and baking.

The weekend also includes private tours of The Dickinson Homestead and The Evergreens (home of brother Dickinson and his wife Susan); visits to the poet’s gardens and grave; a trolley tour of Dickinson landmarks; Dickinson poetry set to music, performed by James Mead, Anita Cooper, Willis Bridegam and friends; poetry discussions and readings; and visits to the Dickinson collections at Amherst College, The Jones Library and The Amherst History Museum.

McDowell, landscape historian and author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens, will discuss the fruits and vegetables that graced the poet’s garden and table. Attendees will learn which heirloom produce they can grow today. She will also lead a “make-and-take” activity inspired by Dickinson’s herbarium, an extensive album of pressed flowers. Participants will learn the basic techniques for mounting specimens and creating flower-decorated cards.

Murray is the author of Maid as Muse: how servants changed Emily Dickinson’s life and language. She will lead participants in making Dickinson family recipes while she describes some of the baking challenges of the poet’s 19th century kitchen; the role played by household chores in Dickinson’s literary process; and how baking served as literary inspiration. The bakers will taste their results that afternoon at a Victorian tea and discussion of Dickinson’s poetry.

Wald is Executive Director of The Emily Dickinson Museum. She will present “I am glad there are Books. They are better than Heaven:” What did the Dickinsons Really Read? Dickinson refused to become a full member of her family’s church and called herself a “pagan,” but she knew the Bible backwards and forwards and often spoke of faith in her poetry. Her poems and letters chronicle a lifelong struggle with issues of faith and doubt, suffering and salvation, nature and deity, mortality and the eternal. Wald’s examination of her family’s libraries can cast more light on Dickinson’s personal theological explorations in the context of 19th century religious movements. Were they better, to her, than Heaven?

The program fee of $400 per person includes all admissions, tours and activities, refreshments and four meals. It does not include transportation to Amherst or lodgings. Optional lodging is available on a limited basis for $75 per person per night in the homes of members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst.

For more information, visit, email, phone 413-253-2848 or write to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, P.O. Box 502, Amherst MA 01004-0502.

This event is a fundraiser for the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst. Program subject to change.

May 19th, 2015 • Posted in Used Book Sales

Used Book Sale Chelsea Quebec, June 7,8, 2015

Chelsea Community Tailgate Sale and used books sale, Saturday, June 6, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church, 537 Route 105, Chelsea, Quebec (across from Freshmart). Wheelchair-accessible venue. Contact Mary at smmusedbooks@gmail.comBook Café 
Used books sale and café, Sunday, June 7, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.