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Happy Thanksgiving! — Which Book are you most Thankful for?

November 28, 2013 in American Authors, American literature, Classic Writers, Holidays, Holidays Literary Traveler, Staff Post

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on all of the things we are grateful for.  Our families and friends certainly top the list, but if this were a game of Family Feud, a survey of the Literary Traveler staff would be sure to reveal books in the top five answers on the board. So, this Thanksgiving, we are giving thanks to the books we are most grateful to have read. This book may not necessarily be our “favorite” book, but one that has stuck with us, shaped us, changed our world view, incited our passions, or provided us comfort.

Join us as we give thanks, and be sure to share with us the book you are most thankful for in the comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Antoinette Weil — The Giver by Lois Lowry — Choosing a book that I’m most thankful for was a difficult task as there have been so many that have touched me in some way; captured my imagination, caused sleepless nights or distraction-induced sunburns at the beach, made me privy to different ways of life, brought me to tears or to laughter. In thinking about a book that was not just a favorite, but one that I consider a gift, I had to look back to my childhood. The Giver is one of the first books I remember reading. It certainly was not the first book I read, but it may be the first that stuck with me. I read this Newbury Award-winning piece of children’s fiction in the fourth grade, then again last year after seeing it on a family member’s bookshelf and being unable to resist. Unlike many children’s books, the plot didn’t seem dumbed down to me, nor was the simple language off-putting. I appreciate this book just as much now as I did when I was a child, if not more, because I can better grasp, as an adult, what drew me into the story of Jonah, the chosen receiver.

The Giver is a story of a seemingly perfect society, where all pain, grief, malice, and negativity are nonexistent. By creating a culture of uniformity, with assigned families, homes, jobs, even birthdays, they have eradicated poverty, disease, war. But along with it, as Jonah discovers, they have depleted civilization of many of the beauties and joys that arguably make life worth living. Color, the warmth of the sun, love, all of these treasures withheld from everybody except for Jonah, who is assigned to receive and hold these memories. I’m thankful for this book because it sparked my love for dystopian themes. But more so, I’m thankful to this story for demonstrating to me at a young age the dangers of conformity and for driving home the importance and great value of independent thinking. It showed me that well-established notions and popular practices aren’t always the right ones, and that even the most carefully crafted way of life is far from perfect. And, perhaps most importantly, The Giver portrays individualism as the difficult choice that it truly is.


Amanda Festa — “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman — While it is technically not a book, I would say that if I was to choose a piece of literature that I am most thankful for, it would be Gilman’s haunting short story, which impacted me as much in 6,000 words as any novel I have read since. I remember reading Gilman’s words as an undergraduate and being fascinated by how much is packed into such a short story, with so few characters and a narrator who is not even given a name. Because wasn’t that one of the points? This short story served two important purposes for me. First, it sparked an analytic fire inside of me, that unquenchable hunger to think critically about the choices writers make, the culture and time they were a part of, and how each element connects to make the words mean something bigger. Second, Gilman’s short story awakened (Chopin pun intended) my interest in feminist literature and prompted me to make it a part of my studies. Making the connection between feminism and literature was huge for me, because it in turn deepened my individual appreciation for both. I am fascinated by the image of women in art, whether it be literature, film, television, or pop culture. I think it’s really interesting to look at how one shapes the other, and how it has changed throughout the years. And, I owe it all to Gilman — and subsequently Chopin, Wharton, Woolf, Barnes, etc. etc. A brief tale of a nameless turn-of-the-century woman driven mad by the color of her wallpaper? Or so much more.


Matthew Nilsson — Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut — During a brief phase of my life as a child I enjoyed waking up early. As part of my morning ritual I would walk out to the porch and grab the newspaper. The first thing I did was find the Arts and Entertainment section and flip to the back where the comics were housed. As I chewed and slurped my cereal I would pour over my favorite strips and often do my best to find the humor in each as I knew I’d eventually go over the day’s jokes with my dad when he got home from work. My mother, on the other hand, could rarely be found with a newspaper in her hands. She opted instead for literature. A new stack of plastic-sheathed hardcovers would appear near the front door weekly. Unsurprising given my mom was on a first name basis with the staff at the town library and trips there were always looked at with elation.  And so, more often than not, I found that opening a book was the easiest way to escape the world I sometimes seldom wished to find myself in.

It took until I was in my early teens for these two lessons to fully merge into a single concept—that reading was both a way to be taught as well as entertained—but when it did I found myself closing the final pages of Kurt Vonnegut’s seminal Cat’s Cradle. The final images of Bokonon lying on his back thumbing his nose at “You Know Who,” left me confirming—or at least buttressing—my existential feelings that we might really be totally, unequivocally without guidance in this life. That experience has led me to further questions and answers which have shaped my philosophy and heavily contributed to me being the person I am today. For this I am grateful.


Wesley Sharer — Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui — This is a bit of an odd one for me since the majority of my reading is either Shakespeare, Austen, or Dickens (I’m basically a walking, talking English major stereotype), but the book I’m most thankful for is Yasutaka Tsutsui’s Paprika. Three summers ago, I quit smoking cold turkey and spent my first three days of withdrawal in another world where the borderline between dreams and reality become unclear. I joined Dr. Atsuko Chiba as she tried to cure Tatsuo Noda of his chronic anxiety, while I attempted to overcome anxiety of my own. Psychotherapy machines used to enter another person’s dreams are captured by terrorists who plan on controlling the real world by taking over the dream world. As dreams become reality in the story, my own reality became the fantasy land which springs to life from the pages of this wonderful novel. The immersive writing and captivating world of Paprika helped me escape from the dull pain and discomfort of the more difficult days of quitting.


Loretta Donelan — The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster — A book that I have long been thankful for is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Whenever I am feeling like a Milo, and life seems a bit bland and meaningless, I return to this children’s classic. Reading about Dictionopolis and Digitopolis always makes me grateful to be a student, and the happy ending comforts me and gives me hope when I’m down. Also, every time I reread it I discover some clever joke or wordplay that I hadn’t noticed before. My favorite part? When Milo gets into a car and is instructed to be quiet because the car “goes without saying.” I’m grateful to be able to keep returning to The Phantom Tollbooth.


Alyssa Smith Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the first novel I read entirely on my own and it helped me realize how much I loved to read. It was probably the most memorable part of 1st grade. I was amazed that being completely engrossed in a story that took hours and hours to get through could be so much fun. I became the kid who couldn’t help reading during meals and play dates. At my first job after college as an assistant Kindergarten teacher, I shared my fondness for the story by reading Dahl’s novel to my rowdy students during lunch. Thankfully, they were similarly spellbound throughout each reading and I was able to bond with the kids over Charlie’s zany adventure.


One in a Million — Words to Celebrate the 4th of July

July 4, 2013 in History, Holidays, Holidays Literary Traveler, Staff Post

Like any big festival, 4th of July is about first losing yourself, then finding yourself in the crowd. It’s an experience that can sometimes result in moments of meaningful transcendence when individuality expresses itself as part of greater humanity. But it can also explode in protest, when the individual recognizes their own self-worth and takes a stand for their rights. It can take the form of individuals in dire situations, who maintain a hope for the future where it would be easy to give up.  And yet they persevere.

We all have memories, gorgeous conceptions of this day.  From what it means on a larger scale as Americans to the modern-day traditions associated with the holiday. For every person filled with childlike wonder at the spectacle of fireworks there is an adult weary of the sparkle and clamor of the celebration’s chief export. And since this is America, where everyone gets to choose how to spend their time, a solo barbecue to an indie rock soundtrack is as good a way of celebrating as any. America invites all perspectives, so this 4th of July we crowdsourced some words from literature and song that soar above the soundbites and express something greater than themselves – and ourselves.

Jessica Monk, Contributing Editor

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. – Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and author was asked to give a speech in Rochester, New York for the 4th of July celebrations, 1852 — eleven years before the abolition of slavery. He used it as an opportunity to mastermind a righteous attack on the hypocrisy of a nation who held the liberty of human beings to be a self-evident truth, and yet had allowed the fugitive slave law of 1850 to be passed by Congress. Douglass’ speech is delivered with the pure rage of a man who had lived his truth and found no alternative but to fight for his own liberty. He showed America that just as there was no way back for an escaped slave who had declared his independence, so America too, after shaking off its own oppressor had no alternative but to live according to the principles that had freed the nation.

This urgency of progress is what Douglass gave back to America, 76 years after the founding of the nation. He told America in no uncertain terms that the world was changing due to technology and communications, that it was no longer a closed, oppressive prison. And that America would have to keep up with this new open world by reexamining their commitment to freedom. Freedom, for an escaped slave, was not an easy word to cast around. 150 years after the emancipation of slaves, Douglass’ words inspire Americans to keep close to the pulse of freedom as a living thing, rather than just a graceful ideal.

Antoinette Weil, Marketing Coordinator

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. -Dwight Eisenhower

On the Fourth of July you can find me poolside, Bar-B-Qing, watching fireworks and drinking a few cold ones with my closest friends and family. Relaxing with my favorite people is how I like to spend my holiday. But in thinking about the meaning of Independence Day, what it’s all about is freedom and liberty. In looking for words to celebrate this American holiday I could find none truer than Eisenhower’s words. For each of us has a role to play in making this nation work. Each of us has an individual responsibility to take part in the system to ensure that it stays strong. A mass of people working for each other and for themselves. I know it may not seem very literary to quote a former president. But for me this is freedom, these words are liberty, and this is Independence Day.



Caitlin O’ Hara, Editorial Intern

Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed— I, too, am America.

– Langston Hughes, “I, Too, Sing America” 

In 1945, roughly 20 years before the Civil Rights movement would come to a head in America, Langston Hughes was a major part of creating the feeling that would define African American nationalism. Hughes doesn’t denounce America, he relays a powerful, positive certainty that change awaits. Almost 70 years later, the last words of his poem “I, Too, Sing America” resonate in an America embroiled in the gay marriage debate. I am proud to live in a state that has seen the light for almost 10 years, and have faith that our country will slowly but surely follow, bit by bit. It is because of the hopeful certainty of Americans like Hughes that the fight for rights becomes a peaceful, beautiful reality.


Amanda Festa, Managing Editor

Today’s the fourth of July
Another June has gone by.
And when they light up our town I just think,
What a waste of gunpowder and sky. – Aimee Mann, “4th of July”

Since I am patriotic, but also a fan of angsty female rock vocalists, I am drawn to rock goddess Aimee Mann’s 1993 song “4th of July.” The song is classic 90s — mellow, brooding, and in my head she is wearing flannel when singing it — but it also sums up my secret shame surrounding the Fourth.

I love celebrating America’s birthday and all that Independence Day stands for. I feel incredibly fortunate for my life and my freedoms. I am always available to partake in BBQ or beach day, and I really enjoy wearing clothing fashioned out of the American flag — but when it comes to the 4th of July there is one tradition that I don’t quite understand. I don’t like fireworks. There, I said it. This is covered in that free speech thing we are celebrating, right? I was born and raised in Boston, I did the Boston Pops Esplanade hoopla as a child, and I think it had the opposite effect on me than it did on most. I think the large, slow-moving droves of people craning their necks and pushing and shoving their way closer (It’s in the sky, people, you don’t have to move forward, just look up) have sufficiently outweighed the aesthetic. Yes, I’ve seen the finale. It’s just a lot of them at once. I understand they are a big deal to a lot of people (absolutely everyone except me), and I will feign excitement if my 3-year-old nephew looks my way during the display — I am not a 4th of July Scrooge, I swear. But, Independence Day is about more than just fireworks — and at 237 years old, we have a lot to celebrate. I’ll be over here, with my American flag jean shorts and Sam Adams Summer Ale. Cheers, America!


Jamie Worcester, Editorial Intern

They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty and makes it touch some spring in the heart which more enduring excellences cannot reach. – Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver

Growing up, the evening of July 4th was always spent on my grandfather’s boat anchored out on the Long Island Sound. Good food and anticipation always awaited me on those evenings spent with the family. Being on a boat, we avoided the traffic of cars and beach chairs, of wild revelers and antsy children, and had the best seats for this community spectacle. We were rocked by the ocean and deafened by the sounds of fireworks launching. What I remember most is waiting for the grand finale. Nothing trumps a grand finale.


Tatsiana Litvinskaya, Editorial Intern

I’m proud to be an American – Lee Greenwood

I had often heard the phrase “Proud to be an American” and didn’t know that it was from a famous song back in the 80s sung by Lee Greenwood. I celebrated my first 4th of July in 2009, just a month after I came to the U.S. I had culture shock, experiencing how different this country is from my home country. On the 4th of July, friends and I went to the Charles River, a favorite place for Bostonians to watch fireworks. Thousands of people were gathered there with tents, chairs, sport mats, ready to spend time and have fun.

When the time came, people stood up, put their hands on their hearts and started to sing. I don’t know exactly what they sang — I couldn’t make out the words in such a mix of many voices, and my English wasn’t good, but my friends and I tried to join in with the crowd anyway. At that moment I experienced an unbelievable few seconds of happiness, luck, and blessing that I came to this country. I felt myself to be an American, and I could sincerely relate to the words of Lee Greenwood, I was indeed “proud to be American.” Happy Independence Day, America!

Alice Pinero, Editorial Intern

I came to this country without a penny. I went to medical school. I’m a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst. That’s America. That’s America. – Holocaust survivor Henri Parens, from America’s Table.

Like so many others during WWII, Henri Parens and his family fell victim to Nazi rule. When he was twelve, his mother put his name on a clandestine list of children to be transported from France to America. He recounts memories of his final goodbyes to his family and his arrival by ship to New York City after successfully slipping free of Hitler’s grasp. Henri landed in America alongside many other young escapees, knowing no one, with no money, and no idea where to go. His success story is one that truly accentuates the infinite possibilities provided by America. It was a safe haven and new beginning for Henri and remains to this day synonymous with “the home of the free” and “the land of opportunity.” As we begin to celebrate the Fourth of July, it is essential to acknowledge and appreciate these boundless liberties with which our country has blessed us. May the Statue of Liberty remain forever, as it did for Henri many years ago, the threshold to safety and hope in times of hardship and adversity.


From all of us at Literary Traveler — Happy 4th of July!! 



Happy Thanksgiving from Literary Traveler!

November 21, 2012 in Food, Holidays, Holidays Literary Traveler, Travel

Please enjoy this interesting article and accompanying pictures featured in The Atlantic about holidays all over the world that encourage “thanks giving”.

Here at LT, we’re grateful for the opportunity to travel, meet people, and share our love of literature and the arts.

What are you thankful for this year? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Happy Halloween From Literary Traveler!

October 31, 2012 in American Authors, American History, Bookstores, Classic Literature, Dark New England, Edgar Allen Poe, Famous Museums, Halloween, History, Holidays Literary Traveler, Horror, Horror Writers, Massachusetts Travel, New England Travel, Psychology, Short Stories, Stephen King, Vampires in Literature

Literary Traveler has been very excited about Halloween…and it’s finally here! To celebrate, we’d like to show off all the work we did in advance of the spookiest day of the year. All Treats.

Halloween Reflections – “Halloween is a time when the veil between the dead and the living was at its thinnest.”

Mercy Brown: American Vampire – “Like the vampire, tuberculosis visited ordinary communities seemingly at random – preying upon family members, slowly robbing them of their life and turning them into fevered ghostly individuals with a persistent bloody cough.”

The House of the Seven Gables – “If Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables house was once haunted by the uneasy ghosts of family (his ancestors were involved in the Salem witch trials), the resident ghost today seems to have the philanthropic and busy spirit of Miss Emmerton.”

The Hawthorne Hotel – “Despite general manager Judi Lederhaus’ assertions, hundreds of tourists stream into the stately lodgings ready to embark on a supernatural safari.”

The Psychology of Salem – “The most dangerous element of the teenage mind is the inability to grasp the concept of linear thinking. Some teenagers cannot see beyond immediate gratification.  This makes decision making tricky.”

Master of Creep: Edgar Allen Poe – “Poe created complete universes in which the reader starts to believe the narrator.”

The Salem Witch Trials – “In 1692, fear spread through Salem, Massachusetts like contagion, infecting the minds of the mainstream, and claiming the lives of those among the periphery.”

Literary Traveler Goes to Salem – “I mosey by a zombie playing the saxophone for a couple of onlookers and I am officially sold on the city of Salem.”

Living Literary History at Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables

October 19, 2012 in American Authors, American History, American literature, Dark New England, Famous Museums, Gothic Literature, Halloween, Holidays Literary Traveler, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Travel, New England Travel, Travel

Located on the waterfront in Salem, Massachusetts, The House of the Seven Gables is a higgledy-piggledy pile of secret staircases, parlors and garrets – an eccentric collage architectural styles that has borne the stamp of every owner who lived there. But the strangest thing about the house is that, since the publication of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel of the same name in 1851, The House of the Seven Gables has been gradually evolving to look more like the house of Hawthorne’s imagination.  As our fabulous and knowledgeable tour guide, Jeff Horton, explains, “in a sense, the fictional novel saved the real house.”

It’s clear that, for Horton, associate to the group tour coordinator of The Gables, this is not just a job, but a personal passion.  Upon learning that we are literature enthusiasts, he insists on running to his car to procure his own 1922 edition of Hawthorne’s book, animatedly pointing out that it was edited by a high school teacher from Somerville, Massachusetts,  Literary Traveler’s home-base.

Horton is extremely well-versed in all aspects of the Turner-Ingersoll House (the official name of The Gables), as well as the Nathaniel Hawthorne House, where the author was born.  The latter was located across town until 1958, when, to the delight of certain Hawthorne enthusiasts, it was transported on a flat bed truck to its present location next door to The Gables.

Originally built in 1668, the Turner-Ingersoll House is the oldest wooden mansion still standing in New England.  Upon the start of the tour we are struck by the low ceilings, built to conserve heat.  Horton segues into an overview of the hardships of seventeenth century living, which far exceed ducking through doorways, and than swiftly recovers our spirits with a little historian humor: “we love history – it’s like The Hunger Games everyday of your life.”

One of the most surprising things that we learn on our tour is that Nathaniel Hawthorne never knew the seven gabled house that he wrote about. Its first owner was the wealthy merchant family Turner, which accumulated a fortune through its involvement with the ‘Triangle Trade’ in China.  In what was to become a tradition of great wealth lost and gained, the house passed from the Turner family to the Ingersoll family, after the third generation Turner squandered the family fortune. The Ingersoll family, in an attempt to adapt the house to a Federalist style, removed four of the seven gables. It was only through his Ingersoll cousin Susanna’s descriptions of the house that Hawthorne conceived of the uncanny seven gabled house of his novel.

And it’s Hawthorne’s book that is the reason the house is preserved today. A fan of the author’s work, Caroline O. Emmerton, who acquired the house in 1908, founded The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association to commemorate the literature of Nathaniel Hawthorne and educate the community. If Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables house was once haunted by the uneasy ghosts of family (his ancestors were involved in the Salem witch trials), the resident ghost today seems to have the philanthropic and busy spirit of Miss Emmerton. Emmerton replaced the remaining gables, turned the back room of the house into a sweet-shop like the one in Hawthorne’s novel, and used the profits from tours to educate local Polish immigrant children. The Settlement Association still works within the Dominican community to help immigrants today.

With the assistance of the architect Joseph Everett Chandler, who was known for his controversial restorations, Miss Emmerton hammed up the house’s Gothic credentials by restoring the staircase embedded in the house’s chimney as a ‘secret’ one, complete with false paneling and a concealed lever to open the secret door. This staircase was designed as a literal representation of how the novel’s character, Clifford Pyncheon, moved from room to room without being seen. Thus the house’s Gothic elements were, within less than a century of Hawthorne’s death, no longer fearful evidence of the house’s bad karma, but of great literary worth.

As we finish up the tour, I wonder whether this strange house – like so many other mansions before it – has been fixed in this perfected, seemingly final state, nevermore to evolve. As a national tourist site, it would seem so.

However, Horton gives us a more nuanced impression.  In the famous accounting room, typically closed in October due to the heavy flow of tourists, he shows us a map – a battered, old looking artifact that seems to fit perfectly into the room’s furnishings next to an authentic wooden chair.  But we soon learn that the map was created by a museum employee, who baked it in his oven to create its time-worn, weathered look. Horton’s advice says a lot about both the house and our view of history: “You have to be careful when you come to museums”, he warns, “things aren’t always what they seem.”

Top 3 Literary Alternatives to Disney World

May 2, 2012 in Charles Dickens, Feature articles, Holidays Literary Traveler, Summer Fun, Travel

Everyone knows the Internet is the best place to find reliably accurate statistics and hard facts. No? Well, do me a favor and suspend your disbelief in that last sentence, at least until my 500 words are up.

According to the, ahem, Internet, over 70% of the American populace has visited Disney World and its affiliated attractions at least once in their lives.  That makes a pilgrimage to metropolitan Orlando as American as apple pie, NASCAR or a tenuous grasp of world geography.

Now, you may or may not be saying to yourself, “70%! That seems so low! What is the rest of America doing with their precious vacation time? Exploring the natural beauty of one of our world-class national parks? Comparing the food at T.G.I. Friday’s in Times Square to the one at the mall near their house?”

Wrong. The remaining 30% are the hip insiders who know that when it comes to theme parks, one with a few quirks and lots of heart will always beat the sprawling, vaguely imperial nature of Walt Disney’s brainchild.  So, on that note, here’s a list of some of those “underground” theme parks to shake up your family’s tri-annual trips to central Florida.

The House on the Rock – Iowa County, Wisconsin: While not a “theme park” in the traditional sense, this one of a kind architectural wonder is treat for fans of whimsy and kitsch. The House itself rests on a 60-foot tower of rock and resembles a modernist’s fever dream. Its interior is an extensive complex of themed rooms and corridors. There’s a nautical room, a Christmas room, a room containing an entire automated symphony orchestra and even one that resembles a 1950s era America even Norman Rockwell would find too sanitized. Home to both the “world’s largest indoor carousel” and a massive collection of dollhouses, The House on the Rock is sure to provide ample, if somewhat over-stimulating fun for the whole family.

Grūtas Park – Vilnius, Lithuania: For those families out there with a macabre sensibility and ambition to spare, this tribute to Soviet brutality is a trendy pick. What it lacks in rides and traditional theme park fare, it makes up in meticulously recreated Gulag prison camps and something called “The Terror Sphere.” The park’s core consists of 86 statues; each dedicated to a famous Communist or political dissident whose life’s work shaped the story of Soviet occupation. Fun fact: this is the only attraction on the list that has won the Nobel Peace Prize, which it did in 2001. Once you’ve had your fill of staring unflinchingly into the faces of totalitarianism, the park also offers restaurants, playgrounds and even a small zoo. While Grūtas Park may seem a bit stern or melancholy for a family vacation, keep in mind that the next time little Billy thinks about refusing to do his chores, he’ll have the stark, indelible image of that Gulag in his head to send him on his way.

Dickens World – Kent, England: Sure to delight the English majors out there, this recently opened theme park is dedicated entirely to the life and work of Charles Dickens. Complete with a “Great Expectations” log flume and the haunted house of Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens World promises an immersive trip to Victorian London. How immersive? Cleverly hidden “smell pots” that reek of rotten cabbage and animal parts are a masterstroke.  There is even a hi-definition cinema show based on Dickens’ final completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, because you haven’t seen urban squalor and class struggle until you’ve seen it in 3-D! Once you’ve had your pocket picked by the Artful Dodger in the impressively rendered central square, head over to the themed restaurant for a room temperature beer and some figgy pudding (I know, I’m not sure either). Word to the wise: if you let little Billy into the colorful and colorfully named “Fagin’s Den” play area, it could take weeks to wash that Cockney street urchin accent out of his mouth.

BONUS! – The still-in-development “Napoleon’s Bivouac” theme park – Paris, France: Kids today. You know, I bet they don’t even know that Napoleon wasn’t even short. In fact, he was about 5’7”: quite average for his era. Luckily, a group of French venture capitalists are out to remedy this sort of ignorance to the greatest Frenchman of them all. In early 2014, ground will be broken in Montereau, France on a project that promises to bring the “little” general’s exploits to vivid life. Early blueprints seem to divide the grounds into the different episodes of his life. Visitors will begin and end their Napoleonic journey on two islands. First, Corsica, where they’ll witness the humble beginnings of the future Emperor of Europe and finally, Saint Helena, almost 1,200 miles off the Atlantic coast of Africa where the grizzled old general died in exile. Though traditional rides and rollercoasters are a given, the park’s designers have hinted that the big attraction will be elaborately choreographed battle reenactments complete with gunfire, pyrotechnics and a cast of hundreds. So, come 2014, wear your bicorne hat at a jaunty angle and meet me in Montereau! Euro Disney, eat your heart out!

What the Real Irish Do on St. Patrick's Day

March 17, 2011 in Holidays Literary Traveler, Irish Writers, travel to Ireland

Chicago St. Patty's Day

by Katie Davis

Every March 17th, Chicagoans dump 40 pounds of vegetable dye into the Chicago River until the entire waterway glows an electric, shamrock green. New Yorkers celebrate the day with the “oldest, biggest, and best” St. Patty’s Day parade in the world, which originated in 1762. But no matter how popular the holiday has become for Irish-Americans (or those who wish they were), I always wonder: What happens on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland?

Why, St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, of course!

This festival, founded by the Government of Ireland in 1995, seems to be a way for the Irish people to claim ownership of a holiday that is rightfully theirs and showcase a wide range of Irish traditions and talent. The five-day celebration, which drew crowds of 90,000 people last year, holds whimsical parades, fireworks, and other grand-scale spectacles, as well as music, dance, film, visual art, and comedy displays and performances.

Interestingly enough, this year’s St. Patrick’s Festival will focus on the rich Irish literary tradition. There will be a literary-themed scavenger hunt, in addition to readings and discussions with many of Ireland’s most talented writers, including Nobel Prize-winning poet, Seamus Heaney. As a recently designated UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin has always been home to many big name authors like James Joyce, WB Yeats, and Oscar Wilde, yet this year’s Festival Parade will gather inspiration from a contemporary short story, composed by Booker prize-winning novelist, Roddy Doyle, especially for the event.

The piece, entitled “Brilliant,” is a surreal and playful tale that illustrates the quest of a group of children as they seek to rid Dublin of the “Black Dog,” who has stolen Dublin’s “funny bone” and thrust the city into a state of gloom and depression. By repeating the word “brilliant,” which Doyle describes as “the city’s favourite word,” the children destroy the Black Dog and bring positivity and light back to Dublin.

The story is very much a celebration of the city’s character as it employs many elements of the Dubliner dialect and personifies various city streets and monuments who quirkily assist the children. All in all, the story seems to truthfully reflect the happy purpose of St. Patrick’s Festival: a jubilant celebration of the talent, culture, and resilience of the Irish people that seeks to inspire and entertain the locals, as well as Irish-admirers from around the world.

Literature buffs and adventure-seekers alike should check out the St. Patrick’s Festival home page for event dates, further info, and photos.

Irish James Joyce, Dublin Pubs to Italy and Switzerland

March 14, 2011 in Holidays Literary Traveler, Irish Writers, travel to Ireland

St. Patty’s Day is on the way.  Although it’s only a small, religious celebration in Ireland, we Americans know how to take a holiday and turn it into debauchery and fun!  All this week, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th), we’re blogging about Irish writers, starting with arguably the most famous of them all: James Joyce.

To find the spirit of James Joyce, you have to travel all over Europe.  To start, it’s best to visit his native Ireland–just as writer Mike Karsnak did for his James Joyce pub crawl through Dublin.  Immerse yourself in Ulysses and start drinking your way through Dublin’s literary pubs.  Joyce would have loved the raucous and the tribute to him and his work.  Forget the lush green countryside and start drinking!

You might want to move onto Trieste, Italy, Joyce’s favorite city, to find his teaching roots and love of culture and language.  Writer Kit Snedaker discusses how Joyce taught English, but also befriended an Italian family and learned their dialect of Italian.  He also used this Trieste inspiration for his literary works and even got his Italian friend published.

If you want to pay your respects to Joyce’s grave, you must travel to Zurich, Switzerland.  As Jennifer Eisenlau writes, Joyce’s grave is somewhat of an anomaly.  No one seems to know where it is and there is no fanfare surrounding his tombstone.  However, with Eisenlau’s help, you can most certainly find it and celebrate Joyce in his remote place of rest.

So start celebrating St. Patty’s Day early with LT.  Here are some Joyce articles to help you get in the festive mood:

A ‘Moral Pub’ Crawl Through James Joyce’s Dublin

James Joyce A Portrait of The Artist in Trieste

A Visit to James Joyce’s Grave



Holiday Candlelight Tour Washington Irving's Sunnyside

December 13, 2010 in American literature, Christmas Literary Traveler, Classic Writers, Historic Hudson Valley, Holidays Literary Traveler, Washington Irving

Courtesy of Historic Hudson ValleyAn evening candlelight tour at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside home in Tarrytown, NY seemed like the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.

Sunnyside is perched atop the Hudson River, allowing for striking views even on a cold December night.  Before the tour, I entered a converted barn where carolers in traditional costumes of the 1800s sang Christmas carols and explained their significance and origin between each song.

My tour group descended down a lantern-lit path to meet a costumed guide, who properly welcomed us to Sunnyside.  In each room, a costumed guide provided history and read an excerpt of Irving’s personal letters or writing.

The house was narrow, but festooned with evergreens, holly and lit candles.  However, I couldn’t find a Christmas tree.  As the guide explained, Christmas trees were a newer tradition in those days and many houses, such as Sunnyside, did not have them.  Irving loved Christmas so much that from his ambassador post in Spain, he would instruct his family to meticulously decorate Sunnyside.

Irving never married, instead sharing his home with his extended family.  His two nieces resided as the ladies of the house.  They tended to daily life, including Christmas dinner.  Dishes included breading pudding, mincemeat pie and turkey.  A holiday favorite was wassail, a hot punch of mulled cider, sugar, cinnamon and ginger.

In Irving’s study, a box of brightly-colored eraser-like objects seemed out of place.  In fact, they were ribbon candy, a common holiday treat in the 1800s.  In the living room, a costumed guide played piano and urged us to sing along to Silent Night and Jingle Bells.

Upon exiting Sunnyside, I drank hot apple cider.  I stood by the small bonfire.  I was finally ready for the Christmas season.

Note: Dress warmly, including hats and gloves, because you do walk outside.  Strollers cannot fit inside Sunnyside.  Children must walk or parents must carry them.

Christmas Articles from Literary Traveler:

The Real Story Behind Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Who Wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. A Literary Debate

Christmas 2010 Literary Traveler

December 2, 2010 in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Christmas Literary Traveler, Historic Hudson Valley, Holidays Literary Traveler, Washington Irving

Illustration by John LeechIt’s the Christmas season at Literary Traveler.  I’m personally very excited because I’ll be attending the first Christmas fair of the year this Saturday.  I’m going to the Evening Candlelight Tour at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside the weekend of December 11th.  Of course, I’ll write a blog post about it, so stay tuned!

In addition, we have two culturally-enriching Christmas articles for you.  The first is an oldie (but a goodie) on Who Wrote ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? A Literary Debate.  I actually wrote this article a few years ago, but it still resonates in my mind every time I hear the poem recited.  Is it a work of Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston Jr.?  Read to make your decision.

Our latest article is phenomenal.  Written by one of our best LT writers, Paul Millward, the article explores The Real Story Behind Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Did you know Scrooge is a representation of Dickens’ real father or that Dickens himself actually worked as a child laborer?  We promise you’ll never view A Christmas Carol in the same way again.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas, always remember during the holiday season, it’s best to explore your literary imagination …

~ Happy Holidays ~

Francis & Linda McGovern, Founders of LT

Jennifer Ciotta, Network Editorial Director

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