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.

Four Reasons why you should 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.”

If you’d like information on Haworth and Bronte country, click here.

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.

Another stop on your literary tourist bucket list

If you listened to my Biblio File conversation with Jean Louis Maitre, you’ll know that Christophe Plantin was born near Tours, France and moved to Antwerp in the mid-1500s where he founded a printing company. After his death, it was taken over by his son-in-law Jan Moretus. The Plantin Moretus Printing company was sold to the city of Antwerp in 1876. Within a year the public was able to visit the living areas and the printing presses. In 2002 the Plantin-Moretus museum was nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2005 was inscribed onto the World Heritage list.

The Museum has an exceptional collection of typographical material, the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world, many sets of dies and matrices, and an extensive library. All sorts of typographic masterpieces originated here, including the Biblia Regia, the Bibla Polyglotta and Ortelius’s atlases.

By some miracle the museum, located only feet from the river, twice escaped destruction. First during the Spanish invasion of 1576, second in 1945 when V1 bomb exploded outside the building. It should be mentioned that during the autumn of 1914 the Brits dispatched troops to protect Antwerp, among them were volunteers including Rupert Brooke, Douglas Jerrold and Charles Morgan. Ford Modox Ford published a poem entitled Antwerp in 1915. You can read it here.

Visitor information on Antwerp can be found here.

Audio: Visit the Museum of Typography in Tours, France

Better known for its wines, the perfection of its local spoken French, its cathedral and chateau, the city of Tours France also has a surprisingly rich historical connection with printing and typography. I was in Tours recently and visited the Musee de la Typographie.

It may be small, but it’s full of all sorts of different kinds of old printing equipment and tools, typefaces, woodcuts and handmade paper. As one visitor put it:

“Muriel Méchin, the owner takes you on a personal discovery tour of his museum, including printing off some examples for you to take home on a press from the 1800s. I have been to many printing museums, but this is the first I have found that contains compositors tools such as the Moule à Arçon, a hand-held individual character casting device, that was the forerunner of the mechanical Monotype and Linotype machines hundreds of years later.You can actually handle many of the exhibits which most museums forbid.

Muriel has published a very informative book which we were able to purchase; it is chock full of historical information and illustrated with photos and drawings explaining the history of a most interesting industry that goes back many hundreds of years. The museum is free.”

Since Muriel doesn’t speak English, I sat down with his colleague Jean Louis Maitre to talk about the museum and the fascinating printing history of the region.

If you like English spoken with a thick French accent, you’ll love listening to Jean Louis.

For information on visiting Tour, click here.