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Visiting places from your literary bag

Updated on August 4, 2017

Culture travel in novels

Have you ever thought of traveling to destinations around the world

just because of a book you’ve read or a treatise you followed through?

Although the relation may not be clear cut, the messages are surely subliminal.

Modern fiction can be very persuasive in creating senses of loyalty

among readers; allegiances and identification for the place, culture,

and the destination. These books are not travelogues per se but they

are mostly dramas, or story-telling, built around different places in

the world. You’ve heard of a place, but when you see it in printed

form it becomes indelibly set on your mind.

One of the most impressionable books that I read recently was the Girl

Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King about a little girl who gets lost

in the woods and forests of the state of Maine in America, getting

deeper and deeper in the woodlands until she is accidentally rescued

in Canada.

It’s a fascinating book that has suspense and drama but it’s also

about the lusciousness of nature. Through the eyes of the little

girl, King succeeds in hammering out an environmental message for

people to go out and enjoy the splendid environment provided by Mother


Because of his popularity as a fiction writer King is likely to serve

as a good carrier for environmental and nature protection simply

because of the rich descriptions of the forests, woods, trees, and

lakes he provides in detailed riveting accounts of the mysteries of

wild as the girl extrapolates herself in a never-ending streams of

thick foliage.

John Grisham is another mass-producing popular fiction writer who

writes about Mississippi in the United States. His book the Last Juror

is not the latest but for me, a most interesting read because of the

journalistic theme it has of a local weekly newspaper owner who goes

around covering events built around community news and criminal acts.

Grisham is a master storey-teller who forces the reader to keep

turning the pages. Mississippi is his concentration and because his

novels that come up on a yearly basis, he has inadvertently built up

an identification with the state of Mississippi and all the towns and

rural areas it has.

In time, these places become destinations, places that many would want

to visit, an identification that increases among his readers on the

national American level as well as with his readers in say the United

Kingdom, or even France and Germany where many of these books are

translated and read, and in a significant way become a part of the

culture spread across the world.

Dr Death by Jonathan Kellerman was another enjoyable story. Its

importance, again like the rest of the fiction coming out, is not in

the criminal acts it narrates but in the settings and places that

concentrated around San Francisco which enforced a set of stereotypes

about the city that were not necessarily negative but subliminal to

keep it in people’s minds.

The power of modern fiction lies in allowing the reader to conjure up.

While the writer concentrates on moving the story along, there is a

sense of powerful imagery related to names, places, and whereabouts of

different areas which become embedded in his mind.

Similarly, a light-hearted story I was determined to finish after

closing the 100ths page was Carry Me Down by M.J. Hayland about a

little boy who thinks he is a lie detector. The book is set in

southern Ireland in between Gorey, a small village and Dublin.

While JM Coetzee says of the book it is ‘writing of the highest

order’, the fiction has not worked for me as it did with the other

books, but one can clearly see the setting and the place were very

important as well as the sense of mundane normality of every day life

is described throughout the pages. These serve as identification

points for the reader, and destination allurements and possible places

to get to and visit. Although Dublin is a well-known city, especially

in the Anglo-Saxon world, to have authors write about it, indeed like

other world cities, gives it a sense of mysticism with voices being

heard like “oh I want to visit the place".

And it is the case with other places as literature and fictions give

them special importance and stature. A Shilling for Candles by

Josephine Key is a detective story about a murder that starts from one

place in south-East England, London, and even Hollywood. Unfortunately

I did not complete because of the style of writing that lacked the

provocation to allow the reader to go forward with enthusiasm but this

is not to say others have not enjoyed.

The book was originally written in 1959 but republished several times

and although it had all the elements of the story-telling techniques,

it somehow lacked the cutting edge thread that is found in many of the

fictions of the late 20th century and today.

However it is unfair to suggest that the power of story-telling and

writing belong to the present generation who rely on the computer, the

Internet and satellite television. One of the reputed great books I

managed to read finally was the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Different things stand about this book. Critics say it is the first 20th

century novel, the fact that its author, originally Polish had to

learn English from scratch and its set deep in the Congo on a


While the book may examine the European colonial developments in that

part of Africa, the book contains rich descriptions of that area

related to society and existence foremost of the indigenous


These are just some of the books I read. They show the significance of old and modern fiction in creating special importance for these places, and in the

global culture spread they imply.

Some of the western authors sell millions of copies that mean millions

of readers and of followers who at least begin to identify with some

of these places which in the short, medium and long run become very

real destinations for people to visit.


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    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 4 years ago from California

      I think that the best writers are well traveled. Robert Ludlum said that he has never written about a place he hasn't been, which is amazing because he puts dozens, if not hundreds of different locales into each of his books.

      I had the opportunity to study Irish literature at Dublin College, with a focus on the book Ulysses by James Joyce. Joyce said that his intent was, that if Dublin was leveled to the ground, that it could be rebuild by the details in his book. It was so thrilling to read Ulysses in the morning and then experience the places in the book in the afternoon.

      I guess I should get busy reading so I can pick my next vacation spot.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago

      For an armchair traveler like me, books are my window to unseen worlds!

    • marwan asmar profile image

      Marwan Asmar 6 years ago from Amman, Jordan

      Cheers! You might like to see "My Reading Wife" article on more authors..................

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 6 years ago from California

      Yes, books are a wonderful thing to beyond. I've also read lots of material by Stephen King and John Grisham - two of the best contemporary novelists. I've also read the "Heart of Darkness," upon which "Apocalyse Now" is based. You might want to check out my hub about crime novelist Michael Connelly. Later!