Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Literary Trips

Considering that literature and travel are two of my favorite things in all the world, it might come as no surprise that I love visiting places or witnessing sights mentioned in novels. For instance, every time I spy a Lucky Dog vendor in the French Quarter, I can’t help but think fondly of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), a posthumously published Pulitzer-prize winner (say that five times fast!) that features the inimitable Ignatius J. Reilly, who, during the course of the novel, briefly sells these ubiquitous hot dogs in downtown New Orleans.

Of course, the Big Easy and its environs frequently appear in popular literature, from classic plays like Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) to horror novels like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976). More than an atmospheric backdrop, New Orleans and the rest of southern Louisiana often become characters of sorts. How could they not – with such rich scenery, history, and personality? And I must admit that I do adore spying some of my favorite haunts within the pages of my favorite books. Cafe Du Monde, for instance – which I mentioned last Monday – shows up in many a James Lee Burke novel, from Burning Angel (1995) to The Tin Roof Blowdown (2007).

Now don’t get me wrong – New Orleans isn’t the only literary locale that gives me a teeny thrill when I spot it in a novel. I remember feeling pretty tickled by the appearance of Chicago’s Field Museum – one of my all-time favorite museums – in Audrey Niffenegger’s debut The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003). And the same thing happened every time I encountered a familiar Roman sight in Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons (2000).

So, when one of my colleagues at Avalon Travel asked me to feature a Washington, D.C., itinerary based on Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, on my American Nomad blog, I was more than willing. Admittedly, she made the suggestion over a month ago, when the novel was first released. But, since I don’t feel comfortable featuring books, movies, restaurants, and so forth that I’ve never experienced myself, I naturally had to read the book first. Well, I finally finished it yesterday – which means I was finally able to post a Langdon-tailored D.C. itinerary. Check it out if you have a chance!

In the meantime, I’m eager to know if you’ve ever felt a little thrill upon recognizing a locale in a novel. Or, better yet, have you ever planned a whole trip around your favorite book or series – as some die-hard Harry Potter fans have done in merry ol’ England?

19 comments:

Natalie said...

I love going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art because it was the setting for THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASEL E. FRANKWEILER. I also loved seeing the painting (I think in the Uffizi) that Mark Helprin writes about in SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR.

Steph Damore said...

Okay, okay, okay... I have a confession. I have been to Forks, Washington - the lovely home of TWILIGHT. My sis and I were in Seattle and couldn't resist being in such close proximately to the homes of Edward and Bella. It was lots of fun in a screaming-high-school-girl kinda way :)

But my original favorite literary/book locale is Savannah, Georgia. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL - is just one book that's been set in this historic Southern town. I've heard Savannah is a lot like New Orleans, but I've never been to N.O. so I don't know... Laura, have you been to Savannah?

Steph Damore said...

Oh, and when I say close proximity, I mean a 14-hour road trip...

Angie Ledbetter said...

Would love to make more literary vacations! I recognized the Lucky Dog cart immediately, and ACoD is still one of my favs. My first stop would be Monroeville, AL to the home/locale of Harper Nelle Lee so I could soak in the sensory details of the birthplace of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Two great posts Laura :) I haven't thought about this before, I enjoy your virtual tours though! There's something over at my blog for you..

Laura Martone said...

Natalie - Ooh, that's a great one! Boy, museums really do make terrific settings for novels.

Steph - That's hilarious! A 14-hour "side" trip to see Meyer's inspiration. Bet you and the sis had an awesome time, but watch out! Bane'll probably have something to say about that... As for MIDNIGHT, OMG, I love that book (and the movie)! I've also heard that Savannah and New Orleans are very similar, but I'm sorry to say I've never been to Savannah, although it's on my list.

Laura Martone said...

Angie - So would I! Glad you recognized the Lucky Dog cart from ACoD - makes me laugh every time I see one rolling down the street. And, yes, Harper Lee's home would be inspiring indeed. I have to say seeing Hemingway's study in the Keys was a heart-stopper, too.

Deb - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the virtual tours. I'll go check out your blog right now!

Bane of Anubis said...

Yeah, I leave in the vicinity (within a few hours) and there was some idiot who got stuck on one of the cliff-diving cliffs and had to get rescued by the Coast Guard... definition of a Twi-tard right there ;)...

Coolest place I saw was natural sights from LOTR when I was in New Zealand. Was actually up on one of the snowy mountains doing some hiking too... very, very cool.

Bane of Anubis said...

Ummm... that was live... though, Freudian thought, I guess since I'll be leaving soon ;)

Laura Martone said...

Teehee, Bane. You one snarky dude. I, too, heard about the cliff-diving idiot. Reminds me of the rumor that two kids died trying to emulate the lying-down-in-the-road scene in THE PROGRAM.

Oh, I'm so jealous of your New Zealand trip - I'd love to do an LOTR-themed journey! (Even if the actual books take place in a fictional place - wink.)

P.S. So, is it definite? Are you leaving for Texas next year?

Steph Damore said...

New Zealand would definitely be cool - although I haven't read the LOTR... no hate mail please.

Laura Martone said...

It would be cool indeed, Steph. We should plan a trip!

P.S. I'll refrain from commenting on your LOTR deficiency. (But I'll be grumbling inside.)

Bane of Anubis said...

Not definite to Texas, but most likely out of P-town... and, this is probably sacrilege, but I think you can get away w/ just watching the movies, Steph :)

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Bane. I like to keep tabs on the whereabouts of my online buddies. (Kidding, of course.)

As for LOTR, there's no "probably" about it. Reading Tolkien's books and seeing Jackson's movies are two entirely different experiences. So, it's indeed sacrilege to suggest otherwise. Poop on you. ;-)

Steph Damore said...

I dunno guys, I never got into the whole LOTR thing. Yeah, I said it. But, then again, I've never really tried to either. So don't count me out yet. Maybe after this whole NaNo thing I'll give the books a chance.

Laura, a trip to New Zealand? I'm down. Maybe we could wait until I'm published though and have some extra dough? As for Savannah, I'm heading down in January. How 'bout I'll take lots of pictures and we can compare notes :-)

Dawn Simon said...

After reading Michener's HAWAII,I ran around Lahaina, Maui with my kids, identifying historical spots from his novel. I haven't done the Forks TWILIGHT tour up here in Washington, but there was a silly video about it last week in the Seattle Times (I get it on-line and it was attached to the article). I'd love to do the Harry Potter tour!

Fun post--I like your blog. :)

Stephanie L. McGee said...

I bought a book once mostly because it was set in London. I did a study abroad there and fell in love. (The premise of the book was absolutely intriguing and I wished I'd thought of it first.) As I read it and the characters are passing all these places that I visited it was really cool because I could picture the locales so vividly.

Enjoying the blog!

Laura Martone said...

Steph D. - Never got into the whole LOTR thing?! I... I... I don't know what to say. ;-) Well, I guess it's true that no book is right for everyone. Bane and I aren't big TWILIGHT fans, after all.

Wow! So you're going to do NaNoWriMo? I so want to - but I just don't have the time. Boo-hiss. :-(

But, yes, I am totally up for a trip to New Zealand - and, yes, I can wait until we have a little more moo-lah.

Ooh, I'm so jealous about your trip to Savannah. If all goes well with my book proposal, I'll be in the Keys by then. But, yes, do take lots of photos. I mean, lots!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Dawn! Welcome to my blog - thanks for stopping by. :-) I've never read HAWAII, but you've got me curious now. And while I can hold off on the TWILIGHT tour, I would love to do a HARRY POTTER one.

Hi, Steph! Welcome to you, too. Ah, London - how I love thee - I wanted to do a study abroad there, but I did two writing programs instead. :-( But I know what you mean - it's wonderful reading a book set in a place that you've lived - and liked. Just makes the reading experience that much more special.