Just spotted this article: Jo March Was Born Here, all about literary historic sites. It also includes a slide show (though I was unable to read the complete captions-not sure if that was the website or my computer). Some favorites of kidlit history are mentioned: Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Anne Shirley (though not in the slide show), Betsy-Tacy and Ramona Quimby (who I need to revisit).
However, I do have to respectfully disagree with the following statement: Do we know Anne Shirley better if we see her Green Gables with our own eyes? Does the building that occupies 221B Baker St. today say anything about the character of Sherlock Holmes? The easy answer: Of course not! If fiction is about imagination, these places are at their most authentic first in the minds of the writers who elevated them and then of readers who keep them alive. The pedestrian gables and attics and apartments themselves—in Prince Edward Island and London, respectively—are just a shell. To think they have any greater meaning is tragically middlebrow. She later goes on to mention that she took a trip that included visits to several sites related to her childhood reading, concluding: The experience was alternatively transportive and underwhelming.
I’ll never forget the chill than ran up my spine when my friend Amber and I first glimpsed Prince Edward Island. I’ll never forget gazing in amazement at the tiny desk Alcott used to write Little Women. And I’ll never forget the day I dipped my toes in both Murmuring Lake and Plum Creek.
Could I have continued to love these books without visiting these key places? Absolutely! Does the “real” thing not always match up with what’s in my own imagination? Sure. Have I ever been disappointed in any of these pilgrimages? Absolutely not. Does something in the book change after the visit? Yes, but in a very good way. I know these characters and their creators better after walking the land and halls that they walked. It’s too bad the author of this slide show doesn’t feel the same way.
Are you a fan of literary pilgrimages? Or would you rather stick to the book world?