Friday, January 8, 2010

Literature Map

Oooh. More fun ways to avoid work. This is a literature map from literature map: the tourist map of literature. [Click picture to embiggen.]
The map proposes to show other authors whom readers of Charlotte Bronte (the writer I searched) might possibly like. The closer the names, the higher the possibility. It's really fun to enter a name, watch the word cloud form, and then disagree with the results. (Like, what's that C. S. Lewis doing in there?!)

Speaking of work, I somehow stumbled on the literary-map site looking for info on the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom for the Netherlands book. I also came across an interview with him about his collection of essays about Spain and the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (which I've walked): Roads to Compostela: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain.

In it he addresses one of the questions I'm always asking--why do writers write?--when he says that he'd been to Santiago several times, but, "because I had not written about it, I still really hadn't been there."
I think this is a key: until I write about it, it hasn't really happened to me.


Margaret said...

Oh, that map is too cool.

I've been wondering about the same thing lately. It's such a strange thing to do when you think about it out of context. And it's remarkable that written work still holds its own in a century that revolves around virtual reality. I think part of the reason is to lend a certain artistic texture to experience. When I write about my day, it becomes something else, something artistically fashioned. Life would be lacking without this embellishment. George Orwell wrote an essay called "Why I Write" in which one of the reasons he gave for writing was "the perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed." I think the last sentence hits the nail on the head, (we keep talking about nails today). What I can't pinpoint is why stories or ideas in written form are an entirely different experience than say, a film.

ArtSparker said...

Interesting that Anne Bronte made the cut and not Emily. Wuthering Heights seems like a moral tale as much as Jane Eyre, a sort of mirror image about what comes from very consistently giving in to your impulses with no governor, the nightmare of romanticism.

bink said...

I can see why you'd argue with the literature map. I typed in Mark Twain and coming very close to him (because they both wrote books that involved journeys?) was Paulo Coelho. Now I know he didn't really write about running and waving a fish... but as I recall your translation actually improved his sloppy prose. Twain and Coelho? (Derisive laugh!) I think not!

Fresca said...

ARTS: Not only have I not read Ann, I've not read Emily! I tried "Wuthering Heights" in high school and gave up: I didn't get it. I bet I'd see it entirely differently now--must try it again.

BINK: I don't know how this mapping works, but I think Twain would eat Coelho like a sardine. : )

MARGARET: Oh! I just reread Orwell's "Why I Write" this past year.
Here's one of my favorite bits:

""All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle... One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

"And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless on constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good writing is like a window pane."

Orwell's unpleasant personality actually makes his words stronger here, for me--he's not trying to be pleasing, he's just laying out some hard truths. Or his truth anyway, but I relate to it, or anyway I relate to the paradox that good writing demands both a strong ego and the ability to drop that ego.

Good question about writing vs. film.
I'd say that written language is an entirely different language from spoken language, and it has even less in common with the visual language of film.

It's been interesting making videos this past year--it requires thinking in images, and I keep seeing that the art is to use the least words possible to tell the story.
Much to muse on...

Fresca said...

P.S. Re the map--but sometimes the map is uncannily right--I think Toni Morrison is a surprisingly good match with C Bronte.

momo said...

I wonder how one pronounces Cees Nooteboom correctly? It is a name I have always liked to pronounce, although I'm sure I'm doing it wrong!

Fresca said...

MOMO: I wondered too. I looked up the pronunciation

Cees Nooteboom: kase note-bom. Opinion differs, some say Cees is pronounced sace, others say case (to rhyme with face); those who say the latter say that Cees is the diminutive of Cornelius and thus the C is hard. The double o's in Nooteboom are pronounced as the Oh in 'Oh my gosh.'

So, "Case Notebome" I shall say, though I've never had a reason to say his name.
(I really liked his novel "The Following Story" but otherwise found him a bit... dry.)