Ontario authors play literary tourist

Literary Tourists are a hard breed to define. Some like to visit places that appear in novels, others to walk along the footpaths that inspired great poems. Some go on pilgrimages to honour their favourite authors. Others seek out the book itself. They go to rare book libraries and antiquarian bookstores, thrilling to the touch of leather bindings, the feel of letterpress-printed paper, the beauty of woodcut illustrations. Still others love good theatre; they search out live stage performances; many like to hunt down famous living authors, listen to them read, and get books signed.

While there are lots of ways to be a literary tourist, all have one thing in common, and that’s alchemy. Each knows how to mix together just the right combination of literature and geography to come up with the perfect travel experience.

I recently asked writers from across the province of Ontario to help me work a little magic. Here’s what happened: Continue reading “Ontario authors play literary tourist”

Audio: David Theis on his book Literary Houston

While there is no ‘great Houston Novel,’ a lot of good stories have come out of the city, many of which are told in David Theis’s Literary Houston, an anthology of writing on and about ‘the Bayou city’. Stories, because Houston is a place where people come to DO things, ‘To fly to the moon, create empires, build fortresses against cancer, and temples to surrealism’ as Theis puts it.

I met him at a cafe just off Houston’s busy Westheimer street. Seems like everywhere we moved something or someone very noisy decided to followed us. Still, we had an interesting conversation. Hope you enjoy it.

Literary Ischia

I am presently moved
by sundrenched Parthenopea,
my thanks are for you, Ischia,
to whom a fair wind has brought me
rejoicing with dear friends
from soiled productive cities.

How well you correct our injured eyes,
how gently you train us to see things
and men in perspective
underneath your uniform light

From ‘Ischia’ by W. H. Auden, June 1948

While

in Washington last month at BookExpo America doing what I love best – interviewing smart book people for my podcast – I received an email from a friend who lives in Ischia, Italy, inviting me there to report on Pesce azzuro & Baccal, a first annual tourist festival celebrating the island’s ancient food and fishing tradition. I tell him that books are my singular obsession these days, and that they, if anything, will be the subject of whatever writing may come from my visit. He approves, and so I’m here, swept over by fair winds, living the maxim that ‘like attracts like’; experiencing gusts of bibliophilic synchronicity as never before.

W.H. Auden, a revered poet whose work I just happen to collect, summered here from 1948 to 1957 and wrote a poem called ‘Ischia’. Some of the finest examples of early Greek alphabetic writing, scratched and painted on broken pottery, have been found off the island’s coast. Nestor’s Cup is on displays at the local Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae. On it is inscribed a three-line epigram alluding to The Iliad. The inscription, in Euboian letters, is the only extant example of a piece of poetry dating from the same time that this epic masterpiece was first spoken.

Continue reading “Literary Ischia”