Monday, January 4, 2016

New Book Promotes Literary Tourism

Literary tourism appears to be growing, especially when you consider the recent publishing of Writing America: Literary Landmarks From Walden Pond to Wounded Knee by Shelly Fisher Fishkin (Rutgers University press).  The book came out as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act.

Nearly all of the 150 historic sites featured in the book are officially designated National Historic Landmarks, National Historic Sites, National Historic Monuments, National Historic Districts, National Historic Battlefields, National Historic Trails, or National Parks.  Each of these places connect to our culture’s literary history, such as Mark Twain’s CT home, Walt Whitman’s Huntington Station, NY, birthplace, and Sinclair Lewis’ boyhood home. The literary landscape covered by the book includes places connected to John Updike, Philip Roth, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, Kate Chopin, and Robert Frost.

The author is an English professor and director of American Studies at Stanford University.  She’s an award-winning author, editor, or co-editor of over 40 books, and 100 articles, essays, columns, and reviews.  She hold a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and is a former president of the American Studies Association.

When we read books and find ourselves drawn to specific titles and authors, we may feel that we want more. Our first wish is to read more books written by that author.  Then it’s to read about him or her. Then it escalates. We want to touch and see a piece of the world that they lived in.  Show us their old home or notes or a beat-up typewriter.  Give us something that attaches us to their lives.

This is why we have museums.  This is why we watch movies and documentaries.  This is why we search archived materials or take courses at a college.  We thirst for knowledge and to feel connected to the stimulating writers and forces that abound.

The notion of literary tourism is an interesting one to explore, especially in the digital era when one can see the world from their smartphone.  We want to get physically closer to the writers that shape our thoughts, feelings, and actions.  It’s not enough for us to just read a book and enjoy it.  We need to track down all that we can see and touch about the writer.

Maybe its best we know less about writers’ lives because often the information discovered is not flattering.  I want to just enjoy a book on its own merits.  But for those who want to see more, start by reading Writing America.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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