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Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Discussion: Literary Road Trips

This weekend, over on the Book Page blog, The Book Case, I saw this post about someone's literary road trip to Oxford, MS.  It brought back great memories from when my husband and I did this same exact trip.

It got me thinking about other literary tourism I have done.  Once I started making the list, I was shocked at how long it was.  Here are just a few example.  I have been to Mother Goose's Grave in Boston multiple times, Walden Woods outside of Boston, and pretty much every literary related place in Boston.

I oohed and ahhed over Nathaniel Hawthorne's dorm room at Bowdoin College; in fact, seeing the room moved the college up very high on my interest list while I was doing the college tour in high school.

I have been to the Library of Congress at least twice and the main branch of the NYPL a few times.  I have visited many sites related to Ben Franklin, his writing, and the first library he set up in Philly, more times than I can count. I make my family go into every public library, in every little town we ever visit too.  Even in the Caribbean!  Basically, every where I go, if there is a literary related site, I hit it.

Then I started thinking about literary place I want to go.  Most of these are overseas.  For example, I would love to do some kind of Shakespeare tour in England, and I have heard that the James Joyce Walking Tours are fabulous.  And of course, I would love to see the resurrected great library of Alexandria Egypt, but I think that trip will have to wait awhile.

In terms of arm chair literary travel, years ago I watched Michael Palin's  Hemingway Adventure, and loved every minute of it.

I know I cannot be alone in the library and reader world.  So for today's Monday Discussion, share with me your favorite literary trips or ones you are dying to go on.

Click here to access the Monday Discussion archive.


Kimberly said...

If one were to use Google to look up the phrase "literary museums in the United States" you'd find a listing of 111 related museums on the museum register or 78 entries on Wikipedia, and as librarians, do some more credible double checking because Wikipedia doesn't mention the John Steinbeck Museum and the museum register has it located in Pacific Grove, CA instead of Salinas. Still, both sites give a great shopping list for the interested.

My personal favorite is the John Steinbeck museum because it includes life-sized dioramas of scenes from his books. (Although Steinbeck will never be my favorite author, the museum is terrific!)

Becky performs RA at the Berwyn Public Library and teaches at Dominican University, so I hope she's taken the time to go to a neighboring town and see the Hemingway museum. Wait until you see how many Hemingway books were made into movies! In 2009 Dominican formalized a partnership with the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park to restore the Hemingway home.

Additionally, though, I encourage the visits to the Presidential libraries, many of which contain museum exhibits as well. For those of us in Illinois, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield is a wonderful and well presented institution, but fueling my addiction to this kind of visit was my trip to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa. I had forgotten how influential Lou Henry Hoover was, especially in helping found the US Girl Scouts. I surely wouldn't consider this "literary," but the manuscripts of other eras surely support the need for libraries as we understand our own histories.

As some of the smaller literary museums or related sites have recently lost funding, it's so important for us to visit and demonstrate the interest in these places. For example, the Carl Sandburg Historic Site in Galesburg, IL was temporarily shutdown in 2009, but the merger of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Illinois Department of Natural Resources has permitted it to re-open. I'm thrilled to see mention of this type of educational/leisure activity presented here.

Bobbie Nye said...

You hit the nail on the head with this one, Becky! Concord, Massachusetts is my all-time favorite vacation spot for literary travel. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Lathrop, and Louisa May Alcott all lived and worked there, and remain "neighbors" in Authors' Row at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Tours are offered at all of their homes, but my all-time favorite is the Alcotts' Orchard House, where I feel like I'm walking through the pages of Little Women every time I'm there (kudos to Jan Turnquist and her remarkable staff and volunteers). And, if you tire of the literary scene (like there's a chance of that!) you're right in the midst of Minuteman National Park, where the American Revolution began, and some mighty beautiful New England scenery as well (fall foliage is highly recommended).

John BPL RA said...

I was in Paris on the winding steel stairway in the Eiffel Tower that nobody ever uses. It was storming rain and I had just witnessed Paris from the top in a nasty electrical storm. I was wearing my leather trenchcoat and boots which were soaked all the way through and despite being drenched and freezing I suddenly got the crazy notion that I should visit the grave of Oscar Wilde. When I got to the bottom I climbed into a Taxi and told the driver in french to go to Pere Lachaise which is the cemetery where Wilde is buried. I could tell that he was annoyed at having a drenched man in his cab so I flung a 20 Euro note at him which bounced off his head. This made me laugh like crazy! I thought he would throw me out but instead he started laughing too and just kept driving. When I arrived at the cemetery it was, of course, closed since this was the middle of the night and when the cab drove away and there were no cars around I began to scale the huge cement wall that ran around the whole graveyard. It had busted cracks that I could get my boots into but was still dangerous. It was 15 feet high! When I got to the top I dropped down into the creepiest cemetery I have ever seen. The graves were so dense I couldn't walk. There was no light at all. Not even security lights. Exhausted, I just collapsed and fell asleep right there. The sun didn't even wake me up I was so tired. A clanking sound in the distance made me come to and I realized someone was unlocking the gates which were these massive iron things capped with spikes. I stood up. About thirty yards away I saw a large tombstone that had a life-size but stylized angel on the top of it. Still a bit dazed, I swaggered over to where it stood. The wings were outstretched as if it were about to take flight and I was captivated by the artistry of the almost mask-like face. Almost by accident, my eye caught the name on the front of the pedestal. It was the grave of Oscar Wilde.