Light, Secret Places And Books:
October 30, 2002 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Light, Secret Places And Books: Photographer Sean Kernan's startling and beautifully literary interpretation of Jorge Luís Borges is based on his The Secret Books album and was reviewed on The Garden of Forking Paths, that definitive, ever-fascinating Borges website. It's a small consolation for those, like me, who would have have liked to be in Barcelona today for the opening of the Cosmopolis exhibition, which celebrates the stormy, but enduring identification of Borges with Buenos Aires. The relationship between writers and places is always interesting whenever they grow into each other to the point of almost becoming each other. Joyce is Dublin; Kafka is Prague; Pessoa is Lisbon. What other, less obvious identifications are there? Is the relationship more like mutual cannibalism, mythical reinforcement, a touristy marketing scheme or the peaceful symbiosis it's generally made out to be?
posted by MiguelCardoso (40 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Farther back, perhaps, but who can hear "Proust" and not think "Paris"? As an idealistic undergraduate, I spent several days visiting the streets and parks both real and fictionalized that had graced the pages of In Search of Lost Time.
posted by JollyWanker at 6:04 PM on October 30, 2002

James Ellroy and L.A., for one. He's maybe not of quite as high a caliber as your examples, but that city is in him.
posted by trondant at 6:43 PM on October 30, 2002

J. G. Ballard and Shepperton. At least, some of his earlier novels and short stories, and the landscape of the west London outer suburbs. Maybe not an obvious choice but both had a big influence on me in my teens and early twenties.r
posted by carter at 7:11 PM on October 30, 2002

I wonder where that places Miguel de Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote" not to be confused with "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote", a far superior version of the same book.
posted by hama7 at 7:39 PM on October 30, 2002

Tolkien and Middle Earth? (On a more earthly plane, William Faulkner and Mississippi.)

Slightly off the subject, I always found interesting Pete Townshend's description of how, in the early days of The Who, they would be playing and see someone in the audience do an odd dance step. When the band would repeat it on stage, lots of people in the audience would see them and, thinking the musicians were inventing it, would immediately start doing it. Instant mythical reinforcement.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:50 PM on October 30, 2002

hama7, Cervantes belongs to Seville. Menard belongs to the Seville exhibit at Disney World, a much nicer and cleaner place to visit. ;)
posted by trondant at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2002

Jack London-- Alaska (I know, not a city, but what the hell)
Carl Hiiasen--Miami
Charles Dickens--London
Anne Rice--New Orleans
William Faulkner--Oxford, Mississippi

These are just a few of the associations I make off the top of my head.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:08 PM on October 30, 2002

william s. burroughs -- tangiers
armistead maupin -- san francisco
john mcphee -- the rocks under our feet (not a city, but certainly a place)
posted by dolface at 8:37 PM on October 30, 2002

Tom Robbins - West Point Sewage Treament Plant, Seattle, WA
posted by y2karl at 9:06 PM on October 30, 2002

You guys are being awfully mean with the links today...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:09 PM on October 30, 2002

Lovely links, Miguel.
posted by blissbat at 9:16 PM on October 30, 2002

sorry miguel, here's anoter attempt
william s. burroughs -- tangiers
armistead maupin -- san francisco
john mcphee -- the rocks under our feet (not a city, but certainly a place)
posted by dolface at 9:17 PM on October 30, 2002

Hey, thanks dolface! Here's an interesting mini-interview I found after reading carter's J.G.Ballard/Shepperton comment.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:29 PM on October 30, 2002

Raymond Chandler and LA,
Philip K. Dick and Berkeley,
Vonnegut and Indiana (I blame this solely on Timequake),
Robertson Davies and Toronto,
Harlan Ellison and America,
and lastly
Solzhenitsyn and the Kolyma Archipelago.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:04 PM on October 30, 2002

Robert Rankin -- Brentford.
posted by Bletch at 11:57 PM on October 30, 2002

Sinclair Lewis - Minnesota
posted by marsha56 at 12:33 AM on October 31, 2002

Great literature it may not be, but well-crafted detective novels rarely embody their locations as much as dear old DCI Morse did Oxford...

You were expecting that, weren't you, Miguel ...(",)
posted by dash_slot- at 1:01 AM on October 31, 2002

Anna Akhmatova - Tsarskoye Selo/St. Petersburg;
Primo Levi - Turin;
posted by misteraitch at 1:13 AM on October 31, 2002

Stephen King -- Maine.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:51 AM on October 31, 2002

Secret Life of Gravy: Can an Oaklander get some Jack London love, too? I know Alaska's got some dibs, but still ...

And I call Oakland on Gertrude Stein, while I'm at it. Unless Pittsburgh, Pa., wants to wrestle.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:56 AM on October 31, 2002

Wallace Stevens famously composed his poetry while he walked to his insurance job in Hartford, Conneticut. Oftentimes he would then dictate the poems for his secretary to transcribe(!). But it's also hard to think of Stevens without calling Florida to mind, which seemed to represent a vast psychic landscape for Stevens himself.

One last point about Stevens and place: he once wrote to a friend that "eating French cheese is the same as being in France" (nb: I'm probably misremembering the exact words here, but the sentiment is there).

And I personally can't read William Blake without thinking about how he taught his wife to read, and that the two of them would sit naked in their garden reading Milton to each other. (Disclaimer: I've heard this story on several occasions, but haven't made any effort to find out whether it's apocryphal or not.) It isn't so much a city of origin, although obviously the garden would have been located somewhere, but in my own mind, at least, it puts Blake into a landscape of sorts.
posted by whir at 5:30 AM on October 31, 2002

posted by Fabulon7 at 5:35 AM on October 31, 2002

Dorothy L. Sayers is Oxford for me. (quasi-self link, as I am a moderator for a large online community devoted to DLS and I maintain a webpage about Sayers, but not this particular one--mine is much prettier and doesn't have broken links all over the place)
William Butler Yeats = Ireland
Willa Cather = Nebraska (especially, to me, O Pioneers!)
posted by eilatan at 6:58 AM on October 31, 2002

You win, eilatan. How could I not have thought of Willa Cather (especially since this summer I wrote my second magazine article about her)? Nebraska now officially calls her part of the state Catherland.

She wrote that "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." They say, "The history of this land began in the heart of Willa Cather."
posted by LeLiLo at 7:58 AM on October 31, 2002

whir, Blake saw angels in Peckham Rye when he was a kid.
posted by blogenstock at 8:45 AM on October 31, 2002

Well, lelilo, I probably thought of Cather because, until recently, I lived in Nebraska. Cather is kind of hard to escape when you live there. UNL has dorms named after Cather and Mari Sandoz, which I think is amazingly cool. Also, a friend of mine wrote a fabulous short story called "Willa Cather's Orgasm", which was inspired by a job interview in which she was asked if she thought Willa Cather had ever had one.

I found that when I read O Pioneers! that it just sort of crystallized what Nebraska is for me. Settling Nebraska was hard.
posted by eilatan at 9:05 AM on October 31, 2002

Dostoyevsky - St Petersburg
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:12 AM on October 31, 2002

Great stuff, Miguel.
Kafka - Prague.
posted by plep at 9:15 AM on October 31, 2002

Oops, you said that ;).
Dante - Florence, then.
posted by plep at 9:17 AM on October 31, 2002

And Bukowski and Fanté for Los Angeles
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:26 AM on October 31, 2002

Some people I'm reading now:
Julian Barnes - a many-layered love affair with France
Sherwood Anderson - the self as small-town Ohio
J.M. Coetzee - an inward, eternal escape from South Africa
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:54 AM on October 31, 2002

I associate Florence equally with Dante and with E.M. Forster. It belongs more to Dante, though. I always have thought it was a tragedy that he's not buried in Florence, but in Ravenna instead.

Elmore Leonard - Metro Detroit
Olive Schreiner - South Africa
Vera Brittain - England during World War I
posted by eilatan at 10:35 AM on October 31, 2002

Fascinating how the succinct perfection of Borges spun such an elephantine labirinth of echoes from lesser souls.

posted by semmi at 11:03 AM on October 31, 2002

Ray Bradbury and (small towns in) Iowa.

I was in a production of The Martian Chronicles last year, and it was semi-scary coming home from rehearsals and getting mail from Grinell College in Grinell, Iowa. :)
posted by tragedy_and_comedy at 11:33 AM on October 31, 2002

Tolkien is associated with both Oxford and Birmingham.
posted by plep at 11:41 AM on October 31, 2002

George P Pelecanos: Washington.
Janet Evanovich: New Jersey.
James Lee Burke: Louisiana.
Michael Dibdin: Italy.
Lawrence Shames Florida.
posted by Fat Buddha at 1:12 PM on October 31, 2002

Oh, I see, we are doing whole states and countries!

Larry McMurtry: Texas
Rudyard Kipling: India
Tennessee Williams: The South
Garrison Keillor: Minnesota
James Herriot: The Yorkshire Dales
E. F. Benson: Rye ("Tilling")
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:14 PM on October 31, 2002

Oh, how I adore E. F. Benson's beautifully bitchy novels about the infinitely ambitious and resourceful social climber, Lucia. And what a pleasure to see that someone else does, too.

Thank you, Secret Life of Gravy.
posted by Bletch at 5:08 PM on October 31, 2002

not fiction but in terms of theory on literature...
walter benjamin -- paris? berlin? both?
posted by ifjuly at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2002

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