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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.


The Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival

February 16, 2012 in American literature, Literary Festivals, New Orleans, Southern Writers, Tennessee Williams

Self-Portrait by Tennessee Williams

While many are drawn to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, there’s another late Winter festival worth its weight in gold. After all the beads have been tossed and the confetti has been swept away, it’s time for literary travelers from around the world to take over the resplendent city.  March 21st marks the start of the five day Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival.  The Festival started in 1987 to celebrate the city’s immense literary culture.

According to the press release, “The five-day fête honors the legendary Tennessee Williams, his works, and literary life in the adopted city he called his ‘spiritual home’ and features two days of master classes; a roster of lively discussions among distinguished panelists; celebrity interviews; theater, food and music events; a scholars’ conference; a poetry slam, writing marathon and breakfast book club; French Quarter literary walking tours; a book fair; short fiction, poetry and one-act play competitions; and special evening events and parties.”  With so many events to choose from, five days doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to experience the festival as well as get a taste of all the city has to offer.  In order to squeeze the most into your experience there are a few easy ways to multi-task.

Since no literary trip to New Orleans would be complete without a walking tour of the multitude of literary landmarks that cover the city, make sure to get your fill with Heritage Literary Tours.  Led throughout the year by retired University of New Orleans Literature professor Dr. Kenneth Holditch, as part of the Festival he will be offering a tour that focuses on landmarks relating to Tennessee Williams in particular.

As for accommodations, there is no shortage of literary culture at the historic Hotel Monteleone, which is offering a limited number of rooms at a discounted rate for attendees of the festival. The 125 year old hotel is a literary landmark in and of itself, as it was once frequented by Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Williams himself, as well as being featured in the writing of Ernest Hemingway in “The Night Before Battle.”  Suites at the hotel now bear the names of Welty, Williams, Faulkner and Hemingway.  The Hotel Monteleone also offers a Literary History Walking Tour, which spotlights the hotel’s place as a literary landmark.  Led by local historian Glenn De Villier, the tour begins and ends in the hotel’s Carousel Bar, which was a favorite of Williams’ and immortalized in the works of Williams, Hemingway and Welty.

In lieu of souvenirs, do a little shopping while experiencing further literary heritage by visiting Faulkner House Books, located at the site of Faulkner’s 1925 residence, where he wrote his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay.  This new and used book store specializes in Faulkner, Williams, and Southern Literature with an emphasis on New Orleans and Louisiana. Faulkner House is a national literary landmark, and for book lovers and history aficionados, not to be missed.

Williams once said, “if I can be said to have a home, it is New Orleans, which has provided me with more material than any other part of the country.” So, take a page from the literary sentinel and find inspiration in the sites and sounds of the city of New Orleans.  Whether traveling to New Orleans for the Festival, or just to experience the city’s rich culture, there is no time like the present to book your trip. 


Featuring Tennessee Williams

Key West Friday: Having Dinner With Tennessee Williams 

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond


The Best of the Best of 2011: A List

December 24, 2011 in American literature, children's literature, Contemporary Literature, Fantasy Literature, Literary Books 2011, New Writers

Artwork by Dan Park

Jeffrey Eugenides, Artwork by Dan Park

There are a heck of a lot of “Best of 2011” lists coming out this week. There’s the best music, the best films, and, of course, the best books. But with so many “best of” lists, put out by practically every blog, magazine, and newspaper around, it’s hard to tell which books really came out on top.

But fear not! After combing through some well respected sources’ “best of” lists, it was clear which books were the real winners. The lists consulted included those compiled by Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review, National Public Radio, Barnes & Noble, The Economist, Paste Magazine, Slate Magazine, Goodreads, the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, the Village Voice, the Los Angeles Public Library, The New Republic, Amazon, The Horn Book, Esquire, and The New York Times.

There were, of course, books that made it onto just one or two lists, but to really be the best of the year, a book’s got to make a bigger splash than that. Therefore, the books that made it onto three or more of these lists are posted below on this compilation of what may as well be called “The Best of the Best Books of 2011”:

The Top 15 Fiction Books:
1. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. Open City by Teju Cole
5. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
6. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
7. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
9. The Submission by Amy Waldman
10. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
11. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
12. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
13. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
14. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
15. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Top 13 Nonfiction Books:
1. Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
2. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
3. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
4. Bossypants by Tina Fey
5. Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
6. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
7. Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson
8. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
9. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
10. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
11. Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
12. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
13. Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

The Top 11 Young Adult Books:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
5. Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
6. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
7. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
8. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
9. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
11. Chime by Franny Billingsley

The clear favorite of critics is The Marriage Plot, which shows up on seven different lists. Additionally, 1Q84, Divergent, and Blood, Bones, and Butter all made it onto six. It goes to show how diverse readers’ (and editors’) tastes are across America. Clearly, though, there’s still common ground, and if you’re looking for a good book to devour this holiday season, chances are you’ll find plenty of worthwhile material on this list.


The National Book Awards Go Viral

November 16, 2011 in American literature, Literary Books 2011, Literary News

National Book AwardThe National Book Awards are a pretty big deal. They may not be as publicized as the Grammys or as glamorous as the Oscars, but on the American literary scene, there are few greater honors.

The National Book Award is given to writers by writers, recognizing the best of American literature since 1950. This coveted award has advanced the careers of both emerging and established authors, and many past winners have become staples of American literature, including William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Pynchon, Rachel Carson, and William Carlos Williams – just to name a few.

Each year, the National Book Foundation receives many entries, but to be eligible, a book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year; no entry can be self-published. This year, 1,223 books were submitted to the foundation, which were then narrowed down to only twenty finalists, or five finalists per category: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Judging each category are five reputable authors who are doing great work in their genre, and who are sometimes past finalists or winners themselves.

Although there has always been a ceremony to announce the winners of the award, for the first time in history, the 2011 award ceremony will be webcast live from New York City tonight at 8 pm EST.  There is no registration necessary: the broadcast will be featured on the foundation’s homepage, Here viewers can watch, in real time, the winners in each of the four categories accept their awards, and see Mitchell Kaplan (co-founder of Miami Book Fair International) and John Ashbery (National Book Award and Pulitzer-winning poet)  receive their lifetime achievement awards. If that’s not exciting enough, the host of the event will be John Lithgow, a talented author, actor, and musician who has written ten books and acted in films and television shows such as Dexter, the Shrek franchise, Terms of Endearment, and Dreamgirls.

This year boasts an incredibly talented group of finalists, all of whom are after the hefty $10,000 prize, a bronze sculpture, and the respect of writers and readers all over the country. These finalists are:

For Fiction:

–       Andrew Krivak,  HE SOJOURN (Bellevue Literary Press)
–       Téa Obreht, THE TIGER’S WIFE (Random House)
–       Julie Otsuka, THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC (Alfred A. Knopf)
–       Edith Pearlman, BINOCULAR VISION (Lookout Books)
–       Jesmyn Ward, SALVAGE THE BONES (Bloomsbury USA)

For Nonfiction:

–       Deborah Baker, THE CONVERT: A TALE OF EXILE AND EXTREMISM (Graywolf Press)
–       Mary Gabriel, LOVE AND CAPITAL: KARL AND JENNY MARX AND THE BIRTH OF A REVOLUTION (Little, Brown, and Company)
–       Stephen Greenblatt, THE SWERVE: HOW THE WORLD BECAME MODERN (W.W. Norton)
–       Manning Marable, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION (Viking Press)

For Poetry:

–       Nikky Finney, HEAD OFF & SPLIT (TriQuarterly)
–       Yusef Komunyakaa, THE CHAMELEON COUCH (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
–       Carl Phillips, DOUBLE SHADOW (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
–       Adrienne Rich, TONIGHT NO POETRY WILL SERVE: POEMS 2007-2010 (W.W. Norton)
–       Bruce Smith, DEVOTIONS (University of Chicago Press)

For Young People’s Literature:

–       Franny Billingsley, CHIME (Dial Books)
–       Debby Dahl Edwardson, MY NAME IS NOT EASY (Marshall Cavendish)
–       Thanhha Lai,  INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN (Harper)
–       Gary D. Schmidt, OKAY FOR NOW (Clarion Books)

Tune in to the live feed now to see which four finalists walk away with the prize!


The Journey Becomes the Vacation

November 24, 2010 in American literature, budget travel, Classic Writers, Economy, Travel, travel deals

Mississippi River

Everyday the price for flying and additional fees slightly increases. Baggage fees, pet fees, and airline meals are greatly overpriced. As a traveler, I would rather spend my money on exploration and spontaneity. So I choose driving across country instead.

As you explore the depths of the road, the act of traveling becomes part of the vacation and not something to simply endure. Traveling by car allows for the journey and the destination to be the vacation.

I drove across country this past summer, and one of the many reasons why I prefer to travel by car compared to by plane is because of the spontaneous stops.

As I traveled the country, I decided to cross into Missouri from Illinois via the Mississippi River. I stood on the Ste. Genevieve ferry and reminisced about the story of Huck Finn and his adventures along the Mississippi River. As I watched the twigs float by and felt the cool breeze wisp across my face, I pictured Huck Finn on his raft drifting across the river beside me.

Take it from a traveler that often takes the wrong turn, spontaneity is freeing.  It presents a new layer of traveling. As I took unintended turns, I instantly rerouted myself along another path towards my destination. Every unintended turn became a spontaneous new adventure and a shift in a new direction.

Edward Gorey's Creepy Cape Cod

October 18, 2010 in American literature, Dark New England, Edward Gorey, Feature articles

All Images Licensed by Edward Gorey Charitable TrustReading this week’s feature article, on Edward Gorey’s creepy Cape Cod, I was put in mind of a book I once saw during one of my many trips to upstate New York.

I first went to visit the Clermont mansion in Germantown, New York in the winter of 2008.  I had gone to see the impressive grounds, which boast a beautifully manicured garden and a breathtaking view across the Hudson River.  Unfortunately, the weather was not amenable to strolling around, so I wound up being forced inside to examine the relics of a family long dead.

This turned out to be an unexpected blessing.  The old house was filled with fascinating artifacts, including a very old, very famous portrait of Andrew Jackson.  My favorite item, however, was (naturally) a large, leather-bound book.  Kept safe under its layer of glass, the book was opened to a page depicting a small girl in several different situations.  In the first, she tucked a poker into the fire.  In the second, she leaned closer.  In the third, she ran as her dress spread out behind her, ablaze with orange flames.  The moral?  Don’t play with fire.

This was, surprisingly, a children’s book.  Back when it was written, childhood was seen as a dangerous time, filled with unexpected perils.  Death was always around every corner.  Nowadays, we tend to favor happy books with happier endings, though this was not always the case.

Perhaps this is why Edward Gorey is one of my favorite children’s authors, along with Roald Dahl.  Both realized that childhood was not always fun and games; sometimes it felt dark and dangerous.  Their works don’t coddle children or shelter them from the world.  Instead, they recognize the weirdness of being a kid, the sense that everything is bigger and more threatening than most adults would like to admit.

Join us this week as we examine the life and works of Edward Gorey in our latest feature article, A Brief History of Edward Gorey’s Creepy Cape Cod, part two of our Dark New England series.

(An LT extra, check out a review of the Hudson Valley’s Pumpkin Blaze!)


Third-hand captivity narratives

September 22, 2010 in American literature, Dark New England, involuntary travel, New England Travel, Weekend Getaways

When I read Katy’s post about LT’s Dark New England theme, I thought of centuries-old stories set in a wilderness that no longer exists, Hawthorne’s characters tempted by the devil in the woods.

Then, last weekend, on the drive to his late godfather’s place in Maine, my boyfriend me told a story that hit a little closer to home.  His mother had recently stumbled across an old family Bible in the attic.  Inscribed in it was the name of a distant great aunt who was accused of committing withcraft in Marlborough, Massachusetts in the early 1700s.

More interesting, though, was a letter folded in the Bible, recounting the experience of another Marlborough aunt.  She started in an idyllic domestic setting, singing in the kitchen as a pie baked in the oven and her sister’s children made God’s Eyes on the floor.

Then the tomahawks came out, the arrows flew through the air, and, in a few minutes time, everyone but the singing aunt was slain where they stood.  Enraptured by the beauty of her song, the invading tribe decided to take her as a captive instead.  They brought her back to Marlborough four years later.

I haven’t heard many more details — I do know that she married her fiance when she came back to town — but until I get them, I like to hope that the letter is a concise, Quaker variation on Mary Rowlandson’s The Soverignty and Goodness of God, with sheet music of the melodies she dreamt up on the frontier.

I scoured the internet, just in case, but I couldn’t find any such music, or even an operatic captivity narrative.  (His mother’s a writer and his grandmother was an opera singer; I thought they might appreciate the connection.)  No such luck, but I did find a blogger/musician who wrote a song inspired by Rowlandson’s experiences.  Listen at your own risk.

Announcement: Literary Traveler Goes Dark For October

September 16, 2010 in American literature, announcements, Dark New England, New England Travel

In the rich literary tradition of Photo via Matt Trostle's Flickr StreamAmerica, tales of the supernatural have always occupied a special place. Stories of the fantastic and the unreal have not only entered our imaginations, tainting the way we think about the very ground below us, but also the cannon of great literature. From Washington Irving to Edgar Allan Poe, we have always celebrated the authors that have the power to make our skin crawl and our nights restless.

This fall, Literary Traveler will feature a new theme for our feature articles: Dark New England. As the days lengthen, and All Hallows Eve approaches, we will be publishing several articles that center around some of America’s best horror writers, including Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. We will also highlight one of our favorite underrated writers: Shirley Jackson, author of The Lottery fame.

Join us as we journey to Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts in search of what makes New England so uniquely suited to images of ghosts and specters, stories of hauntings and awakenings.

Edith Wharton's Morocco: A Literary Trip Through Fez

May 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photograph from FreeDigitalPhotos.netIn high school, my favorite teacher, Miss Reynolds, once told our class that F. Scott Fitzgerald was famous for writing “the perfect sentence.”  I knew immediately what she meant.  While some authors are masters of the paragraph, and others shine most strongly with a single phrase, Fitzgerald’s majesty lay between two periods.  He has the rare ability to capture an image – or a feeling – completely within these bounds of punctuation.  Unlike Hemingway, Fitzgerald’s writing tends more towards prolix than terse, yet it is possible to get a real feel for his writing by reading just one of his immaculately-crafted sentences.

I have always felt that Edith Wharton came from the F. Scott Fitzgerald school of writing.  Like Fitzgerald, Wharton uses words to the utmost advantage; she does not let the reader guess at her meaning, but rather paints with phrases, colors and tints our view with her writing.  She has the ability to transport a reader back in time, to the Age of Innocence, or move us through place, to the winding streets of Morocco.

In our newest feature article, writer Inka Piegsa-Quischotte travels through Fez, searching not only for the Morocco of Wharton’s description, but also for a house. She is looking to purchase a mini-palace; a burrow of tiny bedrooms and storage spaces that she can call home.  Like me, Piegsa-Quischotte has been seduced by Wharton’s perfect sentences and her ability to conjure up an entire world through a single phrase.  Clip-clopping on the back of a mule through the covered alleys and tented streets, Piegsa-Quischotte can’t help but remember the poetry of Wharton’s language, and the aptness of her descriptions.

This week, join us in Morocco, where we ride on colorful saddles and smell the many scents of Fez in Pink Saddles & Djellabas, Edith Wharton’s Fez In Morocco. Allow yourself to be guided by Piegsa-Quischotte and her new-found friends as they work their way through a foreign land, searching for beauty and something far more lasting: a room of one’s own.

Connecting the Dots: Under the Tuscan Sun, New Moon, and a Visit to Montepulciano

May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photograph by Deborah DownesI am, it must be said, a good patriot.  I love my country and adore all things American.  However, America, beautiful as it may be, lacks a certain something. We might have wilderness and amber waves of grain, but our melting pot mentality makes a unified national character somewhat harder to obtain.

Not that I am complaining; I am thoroughly convinced that the United States is one of the most wonderful places in the world.  However, I occasionally feel a certain twinge of jealousy when reading about the historic centers of the so-called Old World.  As much as I adore our purple mountain majesty, I sometimes suspect that Europe has cornered the market on majestic.  There is a grandeur conferred on buildings and squares by age and the slow weathering of time that no amount of modern mechanics can ever recreate.

Today Literary Traveler has added a new feature article to our website, titled Sun & Moon in Montepulciano, Under The Tuscan Sun & New Moon Film Locations. In this piece, writer Deborah Downes journeys to a hill town in southern Tuscany to see the sights immortalized in two famous films.  Both movies (and both books) center around an American woman visiting Italy, traveling through the crowded city streets and learning her way around the new landscape and culture.  Although very different, New Moon and Under the Tuscan Sun share more than just a setting – they also share a sense of adventure, the over-brimming of excitement that comes with the exploration of an ancient place, and the somewhat contradictory feeling that stems from the discovery of something new.

Join us in Italy this May Day by taking a look at our newest feature article.  Not only did Downes teach me a thing or two about Italian history, but she also takes her readers on an imaginative journey through the snaking alleyways and winding streets of Montepulciano.  For those of us unable to travel across the Atlantic, this is the perfect weekend getaway.  Just try not to get lost.

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