Archive for the ‘literary’ tag
One of the many famous books that has been written in New York is Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Since I always associate the author with France (he was born there in 1900 and became a pioneer of French aviation), I never realized that he actually wrote this classic book while living in exile during World War II.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry lived in New York from 1941 to 1943. He stayed in an apartment on the 23rd floor of 240 Central Park South. His apartment in this posh neighbourhood overlooked Central Park and is where he did most of the writing and illustrations for what would become his most famous book. (He and his wife rented a home in Asharoken where he also wrote part of the book.)
Writer Stacy Schiff wrote an incredible piece for the New York Times about Saint-Exupéry’s time in New York that you can read here.
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”
Eloise’s New York
The Fitzgeralds tie the knot
Charles Dickens stayed at the Omni Parker House Hotel during his 1867-68 American lecture tour. While his adoring fans tried to sneak past the security outside his hotel room (yes, even writers get groupies sometimes), Dickens would rehearse for his public readings in front of a large mirror. That mirror is now in the mezzanine level hall by the Press Room, and the marble fireplace from his room is now in the Dickens Room, which is used for meetings and dining.
And that fireplace is the only Dickensian thing about the Dickens room.
The room is a little depressing at first glance. Between the ugly carpeting, the sad bowls of mints on the conference table and the employee slowly folding linens, I wasn’t sure I was even in the right place. The only way I knew I was in fact in the Dickens Room (aside from the plaque outside) was the huge portrait of Dickens on the wall and the bust of him on the fireplace.
Dickens was part of the Saturday Club, a small group of friends who got together on the last Saturday of every month. Other members included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. They would get together to read, critique, and discuss. And it was there that Dickens gave the first public reading of A Christmas Carol in 1867.
If you decide to snoop around the historic Omni Parker House Hotel like I did, take a peak inside the restaurant because it has a pretty impressive history: Malcolm X was once a busboy, JFK proposed to Jackie at one of the tables, and it’s where the Boston Cream Pie was invented. Even though the piece of pie I ordered was a little overpriced, it was still worth it.
I came across the website BiblioTravel while researching a previous post, and since I found it extremely useful and the internet is all about sharing useful information (in addition to the cat videos), I thought I’d share it with you here.
BiblioTravel is a free online resource for identifying books set in distinct locales. Perfect for those of us who like to learn more about a place we’ve been or are planning to go to by reading about it in a book.
The website has 3834 books and 1847 locales, with New York City at the top of the list of most books per locale. You can search by place or by book to find what you’re looking for. And if it doesn’t already exist on the site you can add it (here are the guidelines).
As an example, if you’re looking for a Young Adult book set in Venice, you’ll be pointed in the direction of For the Love of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli. Or how about a Children’s book set in South America. A Bicycle for Rosaura by Daniel Barbot is set in a small town in Venezuela.
I looked up Toronto and was amazed to discover over a hundred books set in my hometown. Sometimes it can be just as nice to read books set in your own backyard as it is to read books set in far off destinations.
The King Edward Hotel was Toronto’s first luxury hotel. It was built “to meet the demand in the rising metropolis for a grand hotel,” according to the plaque outside. The King Edward, or King Eddy if you prefer, opened in 1903 as an eight-storey building. In 1920, an 18-storey tower was added, complete with Crystal Ballroom on the top floor, which went on to host many literary events.
With all the authors that visited Toronto back in the day, it’s not surprising that the King Edward has such a rich literary history. It was, after all, THE place to stay while in the city.
Charles Dickens visited America and Canada in 1842. His itinerary is one that I would gladly follow even today:
Boston → New England → New York → Philadelphia → Washington → Richmond → Pittsburgh →
Cincinnati → Louisville → Midwest & St. Louis → Niagara → Toronto → Montreal → New York
You can read what he thought about each place in his book, American Notes.
I confess that I haven’t read it but that I’m currently searching for a really nice edition of this travelogue to add to my Dickens collection.
When I heard about the DVD series Dickens in America hosted by British actress Miriam Margolyes (I know she seems like a random choice, but she’s a huge Dickens fan), I decided to commit five hours of my life to watching all 10 episodes.
This should be obvious, but I think the only people who would like this series would be really, really big fans of Charles Dickens. But that being said, while I was a fan going in, I’m definitely an even bigger fan now and am more interested in reading everything he’s ever written.
Here are some of the highlights of the Dickens in America series:
- Watching the stops at the Omni Parker House in Boston, the Berg collection at the NYPL, and Niagara Falls. I’ll be doing a separate post on Dickens’ time in Canada, it’s just that good.
And now for the, um, lowlights:
I’m curious to hear what others think of this series. There are only two reviews on Amazon (one five star, the other only one star). If you’ve seen it, let me know your thoughts by posting a comment!
The last time I wrote about my growing literary travel library I mentioned that I was still searching for a good book about the literary side of Paris. Literary Paris: A Guide by Jessica Powell is exactly what I was looking for.
While I would prefer it in paperback, Literary Paris is a hardcover book with just the right amount of information on 30 writers who have spent time in Paris. Each profile tells you a little bit about the writer and how Paris played an integral part in his or her life. It’s illustrated with photos and paintings and all the sites mentioned include address and visitor information (including Metro stops), but I’d probably double check all that info since the book is now over five years old.
With Literary Paris you can visit the library where Proust worked as an honourary assistant, the home where Mark Twain lived and hosted dinner parties, and the restaurant where Balzac loved to eat.
This book will definitely be coming with me on my next trip to Paris.
“Libraries are the memory of humankind, irreplaceable repositories of documents of human thought and action.”
- New York Public Library
Every time I visit New York I always make a stop at the main branch of the New York Public Library at Fifth & 42nd, otherwise known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman building.
This particular branch is more than just the place that Carrie got stood up by Big in the Sex and the City movie. It’s also considered to be the finest example of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States (here’s a great self-guided tour of the building). Here are some other interesting NYPL facts:
Best Excuse to Visit:
Ottawa International Writers Festival
Various locations during the spring & fall (check the website for event details)
Since the festival started in 1997 it has seen about an 800% growth in its audience. According to their website, the goal of the Ottawa International Writers Festival is “to create an environment that activates creativity and encourages the love of reading, learning and self-expression.”
Best Literary Event:
Tree Reading Series
2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month at Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave
The Tree Reading Series has been a part of Ottawa’s literary community for over 20 years. Tree offers free poetry workshops and readings by writers from across Canada and is definitely a big part of the literary community in Ottawa.
419 Sussex Drive
It’s quiet, there are places to sit, and the books are merchandised so well that you can spend hours just browsing through all the titles. It is impossible for me to walk out of there without a book or a list of books that I need to buy.
For a list of books set in Ottawa, including Best Laid Plans and Garbo Laughs, visit BiblioTravel: Ottawa.
There were many things I was excited to see when I went to Boston, and a visit to the Old Corner Bookstore was pretty high on my list. But when I finally arrived and stood on the corner of School and Washington, I was let down by what I saw.
To understand my disappointment, it helps if you know a little bit about the Old Corner Bookstore.
The building became a bookstore in 1828, and from about 1833 to 1864 it was occupied by Ticknor and Fields, a leading publisher at the time. Authors such as Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne all made their way through the doors of the Old Corner Bookstore. Famous books such as The Scarlett Letter and Walden were even published inside. Not only is it one of Boston’s oldest surviving structures, but it is also an incredibly important building in America’s literary history.
So, back to my disappointment.
While a lot of my travel research is done online, I’ve found that books are still an amazing and important resource.
Here are the books about literary travel that I’ve found the most useful (so far). Keep in mind that my collection is growing and I would love to hear some of your suggestions of any titles that I may have missed:
Toronto: A Literary Guide by Greg Gatenby
After checking this one out from my local library, I realized that it had so much information on writers, both famous and obscure, who have lived in or visited Toronto that I just had to buy it. And since Toronto is where I call home, it’s easy for me to go exploring any of the neighbourhood walks that Gatenby details in the book. I’ll definitely be sharing some of the gems from this book here on Tour the Page.
Literary Landmarks of New York by Bill Morgan
This one was a bit harder to find, but I eventually bought a second hand copy, which is now an important part of my collection.
New York is one of my favourite cities in the world (check out my New York reading list and my favourite New York City souvenirs), and you can be sure that Literary Landmarks of New York will now join me on all my future trips there. From the San Remo to Truman Capote’s last home, this book has an incredible amount of information packed into a light, travel-friendly format.
Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon
A definite must-have when it comes to books on literary travel. Novel Destinations has everything you need for planning your trip to author houses and museums, literary festivals and tours, and literary places to drink, eat, and sleep. I will never run out of trip ideas thanks to this book.
A Literary Paris by Jamie Cox Robertson
Paris is full of literary landmarks, and while this book will get you familiar with some of them, I have a feeling that there is another book out there that I still haven’t found that would do a better job at taking me through all the literary sites in Paris. As I said, my book collection is still growing. If you know of a better book about literary travel in Paris, please let me know.
Storybook Travels by Colleen Dunn Bates & Susan La Tempa
While this book may be targeted to parents of young children, I found most of the trips outlined by the authors to be totally suitable for grown ups. I’ve had my own Eloise at The Plaza experience, and I am still kicking myself for having missed out on the Pinocchio Park in Tuscany. Storybook Travels definitely inspires some literary wanderlust, whether you have kids or not.
So, what did I miss?