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

Archive for the 'CITIES' Category

July 13th, 2014 • Posted in Bath

Bath, the Pulteney Bridge, Jane Austen and Victor Hugo


By Angela Youngman

On a recent visit to Bath, I was strolling along the river towards Pulteney Bridge when something jogged my memory. It looked very familiar and yet different at the same time. Naturally curious, I did some research and found that this spot has some intriguing literary connections. Built in 1770, the bridge is unusual. Designed by Robert Adam during the town’s period of Georgian splendour, the bridge was designed to link the old town with the new suburb of Bathgate. Unlike most bridges – once on it you cannot see the river! It was deliberately designed to resemble the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and has shops across the full span on both sides. Only by going behind the bridge or looking at from the river can you appreciate the architecture.

Walking along the little alley leading up to the supermarket, you get a good view of the back of the bridge and see the shops hanging out over the river flowing sedately below. It was this scene, which was recreated by writer and illustrator James Gurnley for his Dinotopia series. Jane Austen lived near here for several months when the family rented a house at No 4 Sydney Place. She had to cross the bridge each day on her way to the shops in Milsom street, or when visiting the Abbey, Pump Room and Assembly Rooms. The former Sydney Hotel located near the bridge was the site of numerous public breakfasts and dances that Jane attended regularly. Her life on this side of the river was her favourite time in Bath, as it gave her access to the open spaces that she loved so much.

Jane would instantly recognise the scene as you cross the bridge. It has not changed much since her day. The shops quickly give way to elegant residential, Georgian buildings leading down to the Holburne Museum and the Sydney Gardens. In a letter to Cassandra, Jane wrote ‘it would be very pleasant to be near Sydney Gardens – we might go into the Labyrinth every day’. Opened to the public in May 1795, the gardens were the place to walk and be seen. The building (now known as the Holburne Museum) had a long room suitable for country dancing and where visitors could stroll in bad weather. Firework displays were a speciality. In 1799, Jane wrote to Cassendra “we did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were really beautiful and surpassing my expectations – the illuminations too were very pretty’.

The weir just below the river has a very striking design. Rebuilt in the 1970’s, it has a three tier, stepped crescent design,  which creates the appearance of a continuous series of waterfalls along the entire span of the weir. It is this scene which has become familiar to film goers worldwide – yet many will not immediately recognise it.

At the end of the film Les Miserables, Javert is shown perched on a parapet desperately trying to come to terms with conflicting images of justice. He eventually commits suicide by jumping into the River Seine. When the film was shot, the spectacular weir at Pulteney Bridge was used for the scene. Cinematic techniques were used to superimpose the skyline of nineteenth century Paris behind the bridge parapet. The actual filming shot was taken from the wall on the Abbey side of the river where there is a flat, broad parapet overlooking the weir.

Angela Youngman is a writer and journalist with numerous books linking travel and literary/film sites. She is the author of Discovering Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Jane Austen: The Writer, the Story, and Places to go


July 9th, 2014 • Posted in Pittsburgh

Literary Tourist’s Top Nine Literary Things to do in Pittsburgh

View all attractions, events and activities in Pittsburgh on Literary Tourist’s city listings map here

View of downtown Pittsburgh from Sheraton Hotel.   1). To start the day off – Sunday in this case – visit the Harris Grill for a delicious $15 brunch – on the patio, or at the bar - your choice (included: a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or fresh squeezed OJ). 2). Make your way over to Oakland and the Caliban Book Shop. Really impressive wide selection of good, interesting books here (picked up a 1st edition of Grove Press’s All that Fall by Samuel Beckett with cover design by Roy Kuhlman  [new collecting interest]) at good interesting prices. Pop into the Korean restaurant two doors down for a delicious mango bubble tea. 3). Hike around the corner, via the Carnegie Museum of Art’s striking sculpture garden, to the Carnegie Library and the William R. Oliver special collections room on the third floor…but wait. It’s closed on Sundays… but don’t despair, all you need do is call ahead for an appointment during any weekday. 4). On your way out, say hello to Shakespeare. 5). If you have time, follow writer Michael Dittman’s advice, and head to the nearby Bloomfield neighborhood and The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore & Café, “Your friendly neighborhood radical bookstore” (it hosts readings, events, fair trade food and drinks and free wi-fi). Great place to have a read. Given the enormous impact he had on the city, might we suggest David Nasaw’s excellent biography Andrew Carnegie. 6). If crime is more your thing, go to Oakmont just a short drive from downtown and the Mystery Lovers Bookstore, official bookseller to… (7). The Pittsburgh Art & Lecture series and “a destination even for non-whodunit fans, with weekly readings), 8.) a huge annual Festival of Mystery that brings genre writers from around the country, and the store’s restroom, painted to look like a prison cell and graffiti’d by visiting writers.” Go for supper somewhere nearby and then check out what 9). The Quantum Theatre has on offer. We took in a very intense, engaging performance of Jon Fosse’s Dream of Autumn. Listen here to the Literary Tourist interview with Karla Boos, founder of the company and one of the lead actors in this production. Chase the play with a single malt scotch and call it a night.
July 9th, 2014 • Posted in Barcelona

Audio: Matthew Tree on the Best Literary Things to do in Barcelona

Matthew Tree (born December 30, 1958) is a writer in English and Catalan. He has lived in Barcelona since 1984. Apart from publishing both fiction and non-fiction, he is a contributor to various newspapers and magazines such as Catalonia Today,The Times Literary Supplement, Barcelona INK, Altaïr, El Punt Avui and L’Esguard. He has also appeared on various Catalan language radio and TV stations and is current a monthly guest on Catalunya Ràdio’s chat show L’Oracle. In 2005 and 2006 he scripted and presented two series of the infotainment programme Passatgers for TV3 (Catalan Public Television).

His most recent book, a novel in English, is entitled Snug. It’s about a small village in the Isle of Wight which finds itself under siege by Africans who have gone there for that very purpose.

I caught up with Matthew recently, on a blustery afternoon, to talk about cool literary things to do while in Barcelona. Please listen here: 

Books mentioned include: 

George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia

John Langdon Davis’s Behind the Spanish Barricades

Merce Rodoreda’s In Diamond Square 

July 2nd, 2014 • Posted in London, England

Five Things Sherlock Holmes Lovers can do in London

By Angela Youngman

Fancy walking in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes? Here are five London locations where you can do this! Go for a drink in the Sherlock Holmes pub or at the Criterion Bar; roam along Baker Street, The Strand or take a boat ride along the Thames.

Baker Street 

Sherlock Holmes dominates this street. Leaving the tube station, a bronze statue can be immediately seen. Further down the street is the most iconic location of all – 221B Baker Street. For years the Abbey National Building

Society existed at no 221B and a secretary was employed to answer fan letters. When the Abbey National moved its headquarters in 1990, the local authority allowed the number to be given to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which is situated between 237 & 241 Baker Street. Inside, the first floor study carefully recreates Holmes study as well as lots of items linked to Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly, this building did not actually exist when Conan Doyle wrote the books – street numbers only went up to 100!

River Thames

The banks and wharves of the River Thames are used in countless Sherlock Holmes stories. In The Sign of Four there is a dramatic chase along the river. Although the buildings have now been modernized, the river is still as dominant as it was in Victorian times. Tower Bridge (in its half built state) even featured in Robert Downey Jr’s film version of Sherlock.

The Strand, London

Apart from Baker Street, this is the street that is most associated with Sherlock Holmes. It is mentioned in 8 of the 60 stories written by Conan Doyle. Watson lived for a while in a hotel in the Strand, while Baskerville purchased new boots at a bootmakers. In Resident Patient, Holmes and Watson stroll along the Strand and Simpsons was Sherlock’s favourite restaurant. All the stories were published in The Strand magazine, and the illustration on the front of the magazine showed St Mary Le Strand Church in the distance. Just round the corner from the Strand in Wellington Street, is the Lyceum Theatre where Miss Morston, Holmes and Watson met Thaddeous Sholto in the Sign of Four. It is also where the first notable Sherlock Holmes actor – American William Gillette – played Sherlock Holmes in front of an audience which included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Criterion Bar

Writing in a Study in Scarlet, Watson recounts “I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when someone tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round I recognised young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s’. During the subsequent conversation, Watson hears that a man named Sherlock Holmes is looking for someone with whom to share a flat. History is made!

Sherlock Holmes Pub, Northumberland Street, London

Originally this pub was a hotel known as the Northumberland Arms. Sir Henry Baskerville stayed here when visiting London to meet Sherlock Holmes. It is also where Holmes identified a mysterious stranger in The Noble Bachelors. The name change came in 1957 following the Festival of Britain. There had been a major display of Sherlock Holmes items in the Festival, and when it ended, they were moved to the Northumberland Arms.

Angela Youngman is a writer and journalist with numerous books linking travel and literary/film sites. She is the author of In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes.

Help us to help you…order  one of Angela’s books here.


June 24th, 2014 • Posted in Detroit

City of Detroit now has a literary tour of its Own


By Rachel M. Anderson, Contributing Writer

(Detroit) – Looking to go on a trip that will affect you in some profound way this summer? Then you may want to give literary tourism a try. This is a type of cultural tourism that deals with places and events from fictional texts, as well as the life and times of the book’s author.

For years tourists have been flocking to places like the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West and Mark Twain’s childhood home along the Mississippi. Literary tourists also like to visit Henry David Thoreau’s cabin and the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden in Massachusetts. And now thanks to a partnership between indie publisher Ten 21 Press and indie bookstore and American Booksellers Association (ABA) member Source Booksellers on Cass Avenue, the city of Detroit has a new literary tour of its own.

“Book Marked on Cass Avenue: Talk + Walk,” first held in May 2014, is a tribute to Charles Novacek, author of the award-winning book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance (Ten 21 Press, Oct. 2012, $18). Novacek, who died in 2007, made his home along Cass Avenue.

The inaugural tour was held as part of Lit in the Mitt Month, a celebration of the literary arts in Detroit. Charles’ widow, Sandra, first talked about her husband’s life, read an excerpt from the book, then led attendees on a walk down historic Cass Avenue. She and the tour guide who accompanied her talked about the history of the street and its many landmarks, including Novacek’s home, the historic Venn Manor, where between the years 2000 and 2007 he wrote his book. The tour also stopped at Old Main, the Wayne State University building where the Czechoslovakian immigrant learned to speak English.

“Independent publishers and independent bookstore are both looking for ways to market to their local audiences. This is one way to reach out and provide them with an opportunity to learn more about their store and books. It was fun and it really did work out,” said Sandra Novacek.

Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance is Charles Novacek’s first person story of survival amid the Nazi and Communist occupations of his Czechoslovakian homeland during World War II and the Cold War. Since the book’s release in 2012, it has been a winner or finalist in 14 national and international book awards. The book won a gold medal in the memoir/autobiography category of the Midwest Book Awards and a bronze medal in the world history category of the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards.

In addition to being well liked by readers, the book has also served as a good example of a lot of the things authors and small publishers can do to promote their books. 

Getting the Word Out

With so many titles on bookstore shelves and available online, the only way to move books is for authors and publishers to inform their target audience(s) of their availability. In addition to participating in Lit in the Mitt Month, Novacek has also hired a publicist who has secured numerous stories in the news media. She has reached out to Czech and Slovak organizations, and she has used her connections with public libraries to arrange illustrated talks on the book and public exhibits of her husband’s artwork.

This summer, Novacek will be an exhibitor at the Ann Arbor Book Festival and Detroit Eastern Market’s new Sunday Street Market. Another Cass Avenue tour is set for July 24, the city of Detroit’s birthday.

Novacek has also partnered with her local bookstore, Source Booksellers on Cass Avenue, in multiple ways. In addition to putting together the literary walking tour, she has also worked with storeowner Janet Webster Jones to develop panel discussions for university students and the general public. Last year Novacek and Jones collaborated to create the bookstore’s first “Local Author Round About,” a special event held on Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving,.

“The event’s purpose was to encourage members of the community to come in and support local authors by mingling and talking about their books. It was a really big event. We had nonstop traffic through the store the entire day,” said Novacek.

Over the years Source Booksellers has earned a reputation in the community for regularly participating in events like “Book Marked on Cass Avenue.” Owner Janet Webster Jones says it’s extremely important for the literary arts to support the community. “We also sponsor an annual poetry workshop, we invite students at the local college to use the store for programs and we also partner regularly with the group, Literary Detroit,” she said.

Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance has been endorsed by Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, who calls the book, “the well-told and dramatic story of a young man whose comfortable life is abruptly transformed by the savagery of World War II.”

For more information about the book, visit

June 21st, 2014 • Posted in Ottawa, ON

See the original Hippogriff

Most people, especially younger ones, know of the hippogriff thanks to Harry Potter, but as Wikipedia tells us, “the hippogriff is a legendary creature which resembles a winged horse with the head and upper body of an eagle.

The first recorded mention of the hippogriff was made by the Latin poet Virgil in his Eclogues. Though sometimes depicted during the Classical Era and during the rule of the Merovingians, it was first named and defined by Ludovico Ariosto in his Orlando Furioso, at the beginning of the 16th century. Within the poem, the hippogriff is a steed born of a mare and a griffin - it is extremely fast and is presented as being able to fly around the world and to the moon. It is ridden by magicians and the wandering knight Roger, who, from the creature’s back, frees the beautiful Angelica.

Sometimes depicted on heraldic coats of arms, the Hippogriff became a subject of visual art in the 19th Century, when it was often drawn by Gustave Doré.”

 Hippogriff, illustration by Gustave Doré for Orlando furioso.

Ludovico Ariosto‘s poem, Orlando furioso (1516) contains an early description (canto IV):

no fiction wrought magic lore,
But natural was the steed the wizard pressed;
For him a filly to griffin bore;
Hight hippogryph. In wings and beak and crest,
Formed like his sire, as in the feet before;
But like the mare, his dam, in all the rest.
Such on Riphaean hills, though rarely found,
Are bred, beyond the frozen ocean’s bound.
Drawn by enchantment from his distant lair,
The wizard thought but how to tame the foal;
And, in a month, instructed him to bear
Saddle and bit, and gallop to the goal;
And execute on earth or in mid air,
All shifts of manege, course and caracole;
He with such labour wrought. This only real,
Where all the rest was hollow and ideal.

According to Thomas Bulfinch‘s Legends of Charlemagne:

Like a griffin, it has the head of an eagle, claws armed with talons, and wings covered with feathers, the rest of its body being that of a horse. This strange animal is called a Hippogriff. The hippogriff is said to be an evil spirit resting and possessing its soul in that of a horse and griffon

Dore sculpture of Hippogriff at National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Gustave Dore has to be one of the most well read artists in history. He had a grand scheme to illustrate all the great works of literature. Famous for his interpretations of Dante, Cervantes and Rabelais, Dore, tragically died, at age 51, just as he was starting on the plays of Shakespeare, so all we have are some sketches for The Tempest and MacBeth, both of which you can see in a terrific exhibition now on at the National Gallery of Canada. It runs throughout the summer, and Ottawa is the only  North American stop, so come on up here, and bring the whole family. Stay tuned for more. 



June 19th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books, Vienna

Feud wins Vienna Photo Book Award for 2014

FEUD by Olga Matveeva

The book will be available September 2014 and can be pre-ordered for 33 Euro (instead of 39 after July 31, 2014) here

Feud is about fraternal wars in which opposite parties can’t explain root or prime causes, where old sacral actions reproduce themselves; where it’s difficult to be stand outside of the situation, difficult not to react to provocations,  news items; Lenin’s monument falling down for example; where strategic lies generate aggression, and inevitable involvement.
where the dissonance between common sense and reality is beyond comprehension.

Feud provides intimate space, in which bedmates  who share a common past, suddenly become real enemies. Who started this provocation and what is the source of its nature? You become dependent on it, like some kind of a drug. You feel yourself as an animal in a cage, and you can’t get out. War and hate here looks like passion, where you define yourself in terms of your counterparts. 

For more information on Feud, the Vienna Photo Book Review and the Vienna Photo Book Award visit this website
June 19th, 2014 • Posted in Montreal

Montreal French Bookstores, and the bane of economists

Browsing through some French language

used bookstores

in Montreal

last weekend, it quickly became evident that politics, at least for these booksellers, trumps the profit motive. None of them had more than a few scanty shelves worth of English language books. Given the percentage of English language speakers in the city, it hardly makes sense. But then again, when does politics ever make sense…no wonder it’s the bane of economists’ existence: the variable that makes logical predictions impossible. 

June 17th, 2014 • Posted in Boston

Lovin’ this shiny great big grasshopper

Credit: Caroline Liguori

Look what I found sitting atop Faneuil Hall near the waterfront in downtown Boston. The hall has, according to Wikipedia, been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742. Furthermore “It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain. Now it is part of Boston National Historical Park and a well-known stop on the Freedom Trail. It is sometimes referred to as “the Cradle of Liberty”"

“The gilded grasshopper weather vane on top of the building was, Wiki continues,  created by Deacon Shem Drowne in 1742. Gilded with a gold leaf, the copper weather vane weighs eighty pounds and is four feet long. The weather vane is believed to be modeled after the grasshopper weather vane on the London Royal Exchange, based upon the family crest of Thomas Gresham

June 17th, 2014 • Posted in Dublin

Leopold Bloom helps scholar understand relationship with his father

Over at Classical Pursuits, we learn that

“…June 16 was Bloomsday, which celebrates Thursday 16 June 1904 as that day is depicted in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the novel’s central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional – from 8 a.m. on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning:

 “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”

 When we first meet Leopold Bloom, we find a man of tremendous and unabashed appetites. It has been said that readers know more about Leopold Bloom than any other character in the history of literature. For Michael Groden, a recently retired Joyce scholar, reading Ulysses as an undergraduate caused him to change his professional pursuit from mathematics to Joyce. At his retirement party, he spoke in a deeply personal way about how getting to know and care about the character of Leopold Bloom has been central in his life in gaining a better understanding of his complicated relationship with his own father. A lifetime of bibliotherapy.”