02 February 2011

Literary Blog Hop: Where would you rather be right now?

Literary Blog Hop

I'm very pleased that my friend Robyn's question was this week's jumping-off point for book discussion.  Sponsored by The Blue Bookcase each week, today's topic is:
What setting (time or place) from a book or story would you most like to visit? Eudora Welty said that, "Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it...," so in what location would you most like to hang out?  
Since Welty is a favorite writer of mine and from my adoptive state of Mississippi, I thought this would be easy to answer, but I'm afraid it's not.  As a person with white skin, I could drop into many places and times and still have a relatively privileged experience--less so than a white man, certainly, but still.  Lots of people romanticize various periods of the past, but I'm not sure I'd want to visit any time period (at least not for very long) where I was still thought of as another person's chattel (or where anybody could be considered someone else's chattel, for that matter).  I'd love to visit Pasternak's Russia, Wharton's Italy, Welty's Mississippi, Tolkien's Middle Earth, Montgomery's Prince Edward Island, Austen's English countryside, Rowling's Hogwarts, Elizabeth Peters's Egypt, Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana, Bill Bryson's Australia, and so many more places.

But tonight, in the midst of a nasty snowstorm, I'm going to cut through all of the socio-economic and political ramifications of place and say that where I'd most like to be right now is on a sailboat with Ann Vanderhoof and her husband as they meander through the Caribbean.  They're a couple from Toronto who traded in their fast-paced lives to sail from Canada down to Trinidad and back.  Twice.  Their two memoirs/cookbooks track their experience and I heartily recommend them to anybody who wants to feel the warm tradewinds on her face and scent the jasmine and nutmeg on the evening air.  They're exactly where I'd like to be right now!!!  What's more, unlike most travel writers who just stick to the glossy brochure version of these mostly third-world islands, they get off the beaten path, beyond the tourist hotels and the Photoshopped beaches, to see how the other half lives.  They make friends with the locals, learning their food and their recipes and the culture.  They get down & dirty cleaning conch shells with Grenadian fishermen; they clamber over hill and dale in the Dominican Republic to catch goats (who graze on rosemary and are thus more delicious than goats who live in town) to put into a stew; they "shuffle and whine" at a Trinidadian Carnival, getting drenched in beer and sweat and possibly other bodily fluids.  If you are an armchair traveler and want to experience the Caribbean, you couldn't do better than to pick up one of these books!


  1. I'd just like to be sitting on that beach on the cover for a few hours!
    Good luck with all the snow. I hope it doesn't turn out as bad as all the predictions.

  2. Oooh, I'm feeling warming just reading about these books, Emily. I thought you would appreciate the Welty quote. Jeff (my husband) and I just had a long debate about "regional" fiction. Don't you feel like that's always used in a kind of perjorative sense? As if to say if you're a regional writer you're not universal? I like stories that are not ashamed to be good and rooted in a place.

  3. Thanks, Susan. And I hope that winter isn't raging too much where you are, either.

    Robyn, I can never come down on just one side of the regional literature argument. Sometimes it bothers me in the same way that the term "women's fiction" does--nothing like marginalizing a body of work to reduce its meaning, right? On the other hand, I think of other aspects of culture where regionalism is still generally considered a good thing, like food or music, where it indicates authenticity and tradition, and I think that the term "regional fiction" is A-Okay.

  4. I just read last month my first Welty short story-"Why I live at the P O"-I loved it-by coincidence I am reading now a biography of Elizabeth Bowen and their is a great section where we learn that Welty visited Bowen at her Irish country home and wrote a short story there-I would have loved to had tea with them or at least listened in!

  5. Oh, those beaches sound wonderful right about now!

  6. Ooo, Montgomery's Prince Edward Island, I forgot about that one. I have The Spice Necklace and haven't read it. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Nothing like the present times for me! And would love to visit each and every part of the world..

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Setting (time or place) post!

  8. Like yourself I after consideration, reduced it down to the Individual & a specific journey/ies. Also agree with the Status, gender comment.

  9. I love books that transport you to warmer places with the power of description. The Spice Necklace looks wonderful.

  10. The Caribbean makes a great change from the snow. Any change of a spare berth?

    Actually, I opted for someplace a little cooler: http://leeswammes.wordpress.com

  11. The title THE SPICE NECKLACE sounds great....will need to check it out.

    Great choices....stopping by ALL the blogs to read all these great answers.

    Stop by my blog to see my answer.



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