Literary Tourist City Guides

Photo Credit: Chris Wood           Wonder if this streetcar is named desire?

Some years ago Poets and Writers started running a great series of articles detailing literary life in cities throughout the United States. Specifically, “they asked  those in the literary community—authors, booksellers, publishers, editors, and the like—to take us on a tour of their city of residence: to the places they go to connect with writers of the past, to the bars and cafés where today’s authors give readings, and to those sites that are most inspiring for writing.”

This of course describes very well the plight of the literary tourist. Although some of the articles date back to 2011, and thus may be slightly out of date, for the most part these pieces serve as terrific literary ‘City Guides.’ The inside scoop from those in the know.

I plan to visit San Francisco soon and so am particularly interested in reading this. Here’s a link to the whole series. 

I’ve already lined up an interview with Andrew Hoyem, typographer, letterpress printer, publisher, poet, and founder of Arion Press, for my Biblio File podcast. Also plan to talk to someone at The Book Club of California, and am working on Dave Eggers, publisher at McSweeney’s.

Judging from their tourism webside alone, San Francisco is one happening town. Should be a blast!

Audio: Top 10 Literary things for you to do in Houston

Attention Literary Tourists! I met with Kristi Beer from Inprint Houston, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring readers and writers in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1983, Inprint fulfills its mission through the nationally renowned Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, the Cool Brains! Reading Series for Young People, and literary and educational activities in the community that demonstrate the value and impact of creative writing, and support of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. All of this constitutes an important contribution to Houston’s rich and diverse cultural life.

Who better then to question about how the Literary Tourist might best spend his or her time in Houston than someone at the center of this vibrant organization. Listen here to our conversation

Know Before You Go

Visit Houston has a great website filled with useful information about accommodation and cultural activities taking place in the city. You’ll also find special ticket rates and admission offers to Houston’s most sought after museums, theaters and art galleries.

[Please note that this interview was conducted several years ago, so check the Inprint website for information on current and upcoming events etc.]

You can visit Printing Museums around the World

Houston’s Museum of Printing History was founded in 1979 by Raoul Beasley, Vernon P. Hearn, Don Piercy, and J. V. Burnham, four printers with a passion for preserving their various printing-related collections and sharing them with the community. Chartered in 1981 the Museum had its official opening in 1982 with Dr. Hans Halaby, Director of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, cutting the ribbon. The mission of the Museum is to promote, preserve, and share the knowledge of printed communication and art as the greatest contributors to the development of the civilized world and the continuing advancement of freedom and literacy. It does this through an active, on-going exhibitions program, and a series of book arts workshops (The museum suffered a fire a year or two ago, but it appears that things are now back to normal).

I met with Museum Curator Amanda Stevenson to talk about the collection. During our conversation she delivers a very informative thumb-nail sketch of how relief and intaglio printing techniques work. Listen here

More recently I visited the tiny Musee de la Typographie in Tours, France. While it may be small, it’s full of all sorts of different kinds of old printing equipment and tools, typefaces, woodcuts and handmade paper. The owner/manager is incredibly enthusiastic about the enterprise. Muriel Méchin lovingly toured me through his museum, showing me, among other things, a compositor tool called a Moule à Arçon a hand-held individual character casting device that was a forerunner of the Monotype machine. He actually let me handle some of the exhibited items, something most museums forbid. Here’s my conversation with Jean Louis Maitre.

Printing museums, big and small, definitely rank high on many Literary Tourists’ ‘to do’ lists. Here’s a list of some you’ll find, mostly in Europe. And another that covers the rest of the world.

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.

Thinking you might like to check out the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa? For information on tours of Parliament Hill, click here.

Hay-on-Wye, where the Photographing is Easy

Over here in North America you can drive for days without seeing a bookstore, let alone mind-blowingly quaint ones, like these

Every time you turn a corner in Hay-on-Wye, the book-town on the Welsh/English border, another one pops

into sight.

Christ, even the ground here

is photogenic. And check out this green grocer:

If you fancy visiting Hay and attending the Festival here’s the tourism information you need.