10 Bookish Places I’d Like to Visit
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I’ve interpreted this a little bit freely. Most of the things that came to mind are the kind of places (like London) that have seemed attractive to a lot of people as the setting for novels. I really like a book with a good sense of place, so I tried to think of books that I’d read that evoke something special about the place in which they’re set. And I also love hobbits, but that’s another story.
1. Edinburgh: I’ve been there actually, but only briefly and it’s the setting for so many interesting books that I’d really like to go back. Fans of the Rebus detective novels by Ian Rankin will well remember the maze of streets and alleys, laden with some kind of obscure history. But Edinburgh has been the setting for so many great books, from Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian to Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and a lot in between. The weather there is generally pretty frightful, but I’m sure one could find something there to make a person forget about it.
2. What holds for Edinburgh holds for London in spades. The list of important literary figures that haunted its streets would make a pretty extensive list of its own. I’ve always loved books set there, especially the numerous Sherlock Holmes stories set in London (of course some take place elsewhere), and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere which takes a really different approach to the city (and which is one of my very favorite books).
3. I’ve never been to Barcelona, but after reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game, I really want to go there. From what I’ve heard, Barcelona retains a lot of its old world charm, having not been bombed during the Second World War, or otherwise damaged during the Franco era. Zafon’s novels have a tremendous sense of place, and Barcelona seems to have a lot less of the sort of modern reconfiguration of, for instance, Madrid. Anyway, I’d love to find out.
4. Is there anywhere interesting to go in Wyoming? If there is, I haven’t found it yet. I haven’t really spend a lot of time there, mostly just transiting through on cross country drives at various times. But having been a big fan of Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mysteries, set in the fictitious Absaroka County, hard by a Northern Cheyenne reservation. Both the books and television series (done first by AMC and then by Netflix) do a great job of conveying life in the wide open plains and the challenges (but also the enjoyments of that life).
5. Middle Earth, New Zealand. People who know me know that I am fascinated to the point of obsession with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The movies were, sad to say, a little disappointing. On the other hand, the decision to retain (or reconstruct since I think some of them were torn down) some of the sets, and particularly the village of Hobbiton is something that I completely support. I don’t really know how I’m gonna hack the 14 hour flight down to New Zealand, but somehow love will find a way.
6. Prince Edward Island: Is it weird that I like Anne of Green Gables? Well I do. My friend went on vacation up on PEI and said it was really nice. I’ve been to the west coast of Canada, but never the eastern maritime provinces. I looks like they’ve preserved a lot of the traditional flavor up there. Anne of Green Gables has a really pleasant hominess to its story, and it’s one of those things that I read in childhood and never quite got over.
7. Glamis Castle: It’s one of the key locations in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which isn’t really one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, but still retains some interest. Actually, I’m kind of curious to do the whole castles in Scotland thing, especially since another of my favorite books in childhood was Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, in which the hero sort of gets lost in a magical landscape of the lost Gaelic world of the Scottish highlands. Ok, Glamis is near Aberdeen, which is not the highlands, but you get my point.
8. Davos, Switzerland: Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, in which the main character goes to visit his cousin in a sanatorium there and ends up staying for seven years, is not everyone’s cup of tea. But I do like it in the sense that it’s about isolating yourself and taking the time to think through things (among a lot of other themes). I’ve always kind of thought that if I moved to some higher altitude I might get a better perspective on the world, and there are a lot worse places to spend your time than the Swiss alps.
9. North Africa: A few years ago a friend turned me on to Paul Bowles’s hypnotically beautiful novel, The Sheltering Sky. Bowles used the backdrop of North Africa to investigate the complicated relationship among his characters in a way that was rich with metaphor, but also had a richness and immediacy that was quite captivating. Sadly, a lot of North Africa has gotten kind of dangerous these days, give the current geopolitical circumstances, but I’d love the opportunity to wander as the characters in Bowles’s book did and soak up the local culture.
10. Dublin: There are a lot of reasons I want to visit Dublin, some literary, some not. I’m not one of these people who wants to go around to all the spots that they hit in Joyce’s Ulysses (although some people that I know have done it to good effect). But I am attracted by the way the city is portrayed in books like Roddy Doyle’s Star Called Henry or in the mystery novels of Tana French. There was a long time when Dublin was kind of dingy and down at the heels, but it’s much nicer and now and the kind of place where someone with a literary cast of mind can find a lot to entertain them