Friday, September 03, 2010

Location, location, location

by Rachel

One of the things I loved about living in San Francisco was its close proximity to Steinbeck country. No more than two hours south of the city lies Monterey, where Steinbeck set the scene for his novels Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden—the list goes on. Walking along Cannery Row while smelling the ocean and hearing the gulls, or driving half an hour inland to Salinas (where the National Steinbeck Center is located) was an exciting pilgrimage for me, because, if I haven’t mentioned it before, John Steinbeck is my number one literary hero.

So, I found it fascinating to read Alison Flood’s article from the Guardian, on literary book tours. What a thrill it is to visit locations mentioned in your favorite novels! I have a few favorite New York literary hotspots I like to visit on occasion: The carousel in Central Park (J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye); Macy’s Santaland (David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice); Pete’s Tavern (O. Henry’s Gift of The Magi), and Chinatown, Tiffany & Co., and The New York Public Library (Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s).

What are some memorable locations from your favorite books you’d love to visit?


  1. Woodstock, NY after reading Paula Danzigger's THE DIVORCE EXPRESS and IT'S AN AARDVARK EAT TURTLE WORLD.

  2. Most recently, the valley in the Alps that was the model of Rivendell for J.R.R. Tolkien!

  3. I've heard the House on the Rock has received a lot of tourism since Neil Gaiman used it in AMERICAN GODS. I'd be interested in seeing that.

    Not a location from a book, but driving past Kurt Vonnegut's high school in Indianapolis was really exciting for me.

  4. Literary book tours! Great idea. I still remember East of Eden and I read it decades ago!

  5. For a short time, I lived just opposite Robert Louis Stevenson's old flat on Bush Street, a few blocks from Chinatown, in San Francisco. That was pretty thrilling.

    I always feel a little sad when a place that has become well known through literature suddenly becomes famous -- as though it's lost some of its magic and charm as soon as the crowds start milling. Selfishly, I want the place to remain pristine and undisturbed. When Cannery Row was gentrified and they started selling aromatherapy oils and trendy tee shirts with Steinback quotations, my heart broke a little. No more grit, no more sleeze, no more fishy smells, just boutique fodder, gourmet chocolates and collectibles.