Audio: Literary Tourist meets Terry Fallis on Parliament Hill



Terry Fallis
would often sit and write speeches in the Library of Parliament for the member of Parliament he worked for during the 1980s. He held the place in reverence, and believes that all Canadians, at one time or another, should visit the place.

We got together outside the Library one sunny summer afternoon to discuss his award-winning political satire The Best Laid Plans, along with his thoughts on democracy. Among other things we touch on the beauty of the Library building itself, how inspiring a visit to The Hill can be, Canada’s current ‘apathy of affluence’ and the fact that while 85% of the populace used to vote in the 60s, that number is now less than 60%. We also talk about the pressing need for Canadians be better informed and to get engaged in their politics, the overly partisan nature of today’s political debate and the laudable goals of avoiding negative portrayals of opponents, working co-operatively on legislation and of focusing on positive visions and programs that put the ‘national’ interest first.

For information on tours of Parliament Hill, click here.

How to be a literary tourist in San Diego


Rae Armantrout is an American poet generally associated with Language poetry. Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California but grew up in San Diego. She was the 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry for her collection Versed, a Guggenheim Fellow and the Recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award. Armantrout teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics.

We met to discuss her poetry, William Carlos Williams, place, and how to be a literary tourist in San Diego. Please listen here:

For visitor information on San Diego, click here.

What they don’t tell you about Victor Hugo’s home in Paris

Marble bust of Victor Hugo by David d’Angers

Victor Hugo lived on the second floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée in Paris from 1832 to 1848. He wrote some of his major works here, including a large part of Les Misérables…and received, among many friends, Lamartine, Vigny, Dumas, and Gautier, along with other noted writers and artists. But he didn’t just dine with them. Apparently he had peepholes installed into guest bedrooms so he could watch their amorous activities. Hugo in fact did more than watch. His mistress Juliet estimated that in one two year period he had sex with more than 200 different women.

The 5/6 room apartment at Place des Vosges presents three separate periods in Hugo’s life: before, during and after exile in Guernsey. You’ll find displays of the gothic furniture he designed, family portraits, memorabilia and some astonishing interior decoration he designed during his exile. There are temporary exhibitions of his photographs and drawings, and first editions of various famous books he wrote. A library is open to the public by appointment. The museum organizes talks in the apartment, and provides guided tours. Plus, entry is free. A visit here gives you a sense of what a multi-talented colossus the man was!

For more information, click here.

Audio: The Literary Tourist and the Flaneur


I interviewed Lauren Elkin about her new book Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London at her apartment in the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris. It was an interesting conversation. The more I think about it, the more the Flaneur/Flaneuse and the Literary Tourist seem alike, particularly when it comes to use of the imagination.

Four Reasons why People Visit Literary Places

Top Withens, the ruin on the moors near Haworth that inspired Wuthering Heights

This from David Herbert’s paper LITERARY PLACES, TOURISM AND THE HERITAGE EXPERIENCE, published in the Annals of Tourism Research, 2001. Herbert is Emeritus Professor of Geography at University of Wales Swansea:

“In these places, a visitor can still walk out of a house and into landscapes which have barely changed since the writer drew breath from them and breathed literature into them… We walk in our writers’ footsteps and see through their eyes when we enter these spaces (Marsh 1993:xi, xv).

Second, tourists may be drawn to literary places that form the settings for novels. Fiction may be set in locations that writers knew and there is a merging of the real and the imagined that gives such places a special meaning. Fictional characters and events often generate the strongest imagery. Pocock showed that tourists to Haworth sought out the moors but emotions in crossing them were suffused “less with the excitement of treading in the Brontes’ footsteps, than with the thought that Heathcliff might appear” (1987:138).

Third, tourists may be drawn to literary places for some broader and deeper emotion than the specific writer or the story. Squire (1993, 1994) exemplified this with her research into Hill Top Farm, a former home of Beatrix Potter, in Cumbria. Many tourists were evoking memories and emotions from their childhood: their recall was of the telling of the stories and their bonds with home and family. In a similar way, G. Davies (1995) recorded the significance of the story Evangeline to the Acadian people of eastern Canada. For them, she argued, the story, as depicted in Longfellow’s poem, evoked memories of suffering and the loss of a home territory.

The fourth reason may be less concerned with the literature than with some dramatic event in the writer’s life. Van Gogh was an artist rather than a writer but Millon (Office de Tourisme, Auvers-sur-Oise, personnal communication in 1993) commented that many people visited Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris because of its association with the manner of the artist’s death rather than with his art.”

For more information on Haworth and Bronte country, click here.

The Pink Lady Victorian Mansion a Treasure Hunter’s Paradise

Icame across this marvellously quirky mansion on a trip down to the States once. In case you’re feelin’ adventurous, here’s what Margo’s website has to say:

“The Pink Lady Victorian Mansion, circa 1875, is a beautiful building located in Richford, Vermont. There are 21 rooms, which include 6 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, and an adjoined apartment with separate entrance. Situated only a few miles from the Canadian border, this lovely 3-story, 7,158 SqFt building is currently run as a charming antique shop and the office of Sherwood Real Estate.

The current owner, Margo Sherwood, has been collecting precious jewelry and unique artwork for 50+ years, from all around the world. Every room of this historic building is filled to the brink with her collection of vintage paintings, lavish clothing, china and ceramic dishes, books, lamps, salt & pepper shakers, vinyl records, clothing, art glass, old newspapers and magazines, and an abundance of valuable artifacts. This structure is a treasure hunter’s paradise, and the owner is parting with the building and everything in it for such a low price, you’d think you struck gold!

[Although ‘books’ is a fair ways down the list, there are a ton of them]

The building emptied is being sold for $269,900. However, if you’re an adventure seeker or antique dealer, you might consider investing in this beauty with all it’s contents for $499,000.

This property is real estate broker owned, by Margo Sherwood of Sherwood Real Estate”

So, what do you think?

I would never have understood Symonds’s description if I hadn’t travelled to Venice

This from Lucinda Matthews-Jones on John Addington Symonds, Venice and literary tourism:

“In the weeks leading up to the recent NAVSA/BAVS/AVSA conference, hosted by Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, I read the following passage from John Addington Symonds’s The Fine Arts, the third volume in his Renaissance in Italy series:

Venice, with her pavement of liquid chrysoprase, with her palaces of porphyry and marble, her frescoed facades, her quays and squares aglow with the costumes of the Levant, her lagoons afloat with the galleys of all nations, her churches floored with mosaics, her silvery domes and ceilings glittering with sculpture bathed in molten gold.

I included this passage in my conference paper as an example of Symonds’s ‘Venice register’—typical of his diction and figurative language when describing Italy’s “sea city”. On my first reading I hit the seventh word and paused. Chrysoprase. What was that? A Google search revealed it was a semi-precious stone, and a Google Image search revealed it was green in colour, somewhere between jade and aqua-marine, veined through with lines of a darker shade. After this moment’s distraction on the Internet, I thought little more of Symonds’s use of this stone in his writing.

A few weeks later I found myself on a plane landing at Marco Polo Airport, Venice. A short bus ride later I was at the Piazzale Roma catching a vaporetti on my way to San Marco. It was then I noticed the water—its colour, its movement and its differing shades. A striking phrase resurfaced in my mind: “Venice, with her pavement of liquid chrysoprase”. What I had assumed to be Symonds’s purple prose, yet another example of his hyperbolic tendencies, proved to be a rather exact description. The canals were indeed a striking shade of blue-green, and everywhere I looked, the luminous brine was interspersed with dark fronds of seaweed.

This moment was revelatory. I would never have understood Symonds’s description if I hadn’t travelled to Venice. I would never have sympathised with nor understood his paradoxically literal use [of] metaphor. I would never have fully shared his affective response to Venice’s dilapidated beauty and rich colour palette. My understanding of the way Symonds envisioned the city had changed. Was this unquantifiable? Certainly. Was it sentimental? Perhaps. But there had been an undeniable shift.”

If you want to understand Symonds’s description for yourself, here’s information on visiting Venice.