Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Literary Map of NYC 

Since the Internet allows us to see into the future, I've come across this interesting proposal from the May 1, 2005 edition of the New York Times:
I [Randy Cohen] propose to create, with the help of the Book Review's readers, a literary map of Manhattan -- not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters, a map of the literary stars' homes...

I began thinking about this map years ago while reading Don DeLillo's ''Great Jones Street.'' Bucky Wunderlick gazes out the window of his ''small crowded room'' at the firehouse across the street. I realized: there's only one firehouse on that street and few buildings that contain tiny apartments rather than commercial lofts. I know where Bucky Wunderlick lives. Or would live if he existed. He's got to be at No. 35. Knowing this made walking around the neighborhood like walking through the novel. But I walked without a map. Shouldn't there be a map of imaginary New Yorkers?

This first map will display fiction set in Manhattan (in the future, I can imagine maps of Brooklyn, Chicago, London and more). It could include novels, poems and stories from all eras (from Hart Crane to James Baldwin to Michael Chabon to William Gibson) and all genres -- literary fiction (Truman Capote, the Roths, Henry and Philip), pop fiction (Bertice Berry and Sophie Kinsella), Ed McBain mysteries, Ira Levin thrillers, children's books (Faith Ringgold's ''Tar Beach,'' E. B. White's ''Stuart Little''). It will be a kind of Global Positioning System for the characters of Dawn Powell, Han Ong, Meg Wolitzer, Mario Puzo, Colson Whitehead, Tom Wolfe and Thomas Pynchon (from ''V.'' -- ''This alligator was pinto: pale white, seaweed black.'' Where is that alligator? Where is the sewer where Benny Profane hunted it down?)

Since nobody is widely enough read -- I'm not widely enough read -- to know the haunts and houses, the offices and bars and subway stops of so diverse a population, I appeal to Book Review readers to send in their favorites. The graphic artist Nigel Holmes and I will put them on the map and credit the first person to submit a site we use.
Sounds like a really interesting project. I encourage Bonassus readers to participate by sending suggestions to bookmap@nytimes.com

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