Wishful Travel: Literary Places that Need to Start Existing

1. Neverland

OK, we all know Peter Pan was a book before it got co-opted by Walt Disney and his sexy little Tink and her palette of pastels, right? But of course–it was a novel by J.M. Barrie, who wrote it either before or after he wrote the play (O, forgettable Foreword!). You will stumble upon it as a download as you cruise Amazon.com for legitimately free stuff for your Kindle.

Anyway, the real form of this story is more overtly dark and depressing than the Disney version, which is really only depressing by essence of being Disney. Never-Never-Land is this formless island of mishaps and truly harrowing dangers. Death seems to threaten in a random way at every turn, and if that’s all too rich for your blood, you can go home to the Darling house, where they’ll lock you up with the dog and years and years will pass. When Mr. Pan returns finally for your own fresh offspring, he will find you a dry, cracked-up mama in a rocking chair.

“Gotta jet,” he’ll quip, in words a bit more British.

2. Michael Chabon’s Brooklyn

I don’t have a lot to say about this, but if you’ve read certain Michael Chabon novels (like maybe The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), you have an inkling upstairs that Brooklyn is a magical place full of deep history, cool contradictions, and luminescent adolescents. Racial harmony, too.

I don’t know a lot about New York, but no.

3. Playground equipment at night (see: Murakami’s 1Q84, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being)

For a while I kept happening upon literary fiction that utilized Hitler as a character and narrator (Fox in the Attic, Life After Life). This wasn’t part of the book jacket promise and seemed surprising. Lately, my thing is finding books that have repeat scenes on playground equipment at night. Here is your PowerPoint on this concept:

Who: Lonely Japanese adult male
What: Contemplating loss vis-a-vis fatherhood, romantic love, the possibility of suicide
Where: A park, in the dark, on a lark
When: Night, habitually
Why: A lonely swing needs a seat. A lonely slide needs a guy.

Wouldn’t you like to come upon these creepers at your own nearest playground? Don’t worry, they won’t bite. Bear in mind: they are Japanese protagonists, so they probably won’t even talk.

4. Mr. Darcy’s sinewy arms

5. The Lighthouse

This is selfish and almost a little mean to Mrs. Ramsay and all her tots, but I want to hit the English seaside somewhere, someday and just STUMBLE UPON the lighthouse in question. It should be pretty commercialized, too, with a tour every hour and a crank machine that flattens my American pennies into lighthouse logoed trinkets. I will simper in the knowledge that I made it–in fact, I will press my hand into my American boyfriend’s and say, “We made it. We made it.” This will not be a vindication for the Ramsays, but a fresh spraying of salt on their timeless wounds. Nor shall I be the only one taking her dark delight.

6. Nabokovian bedrooms

You know that nothing actually happens in these, don’t you? It’s all antiseptic dreaming, the details stenciled in by written words richer than human flesh. I love the bedrooms of all of Nabokov’s male Russo-narrators, but I especially like the bedrooms of the young emigres in boarding houses. If you feel like making a literary detour, you’ll find these all lined up in the hallways of Nabokov’s early Russian novels. (The tightly spun, haunting Mary is a personal favorite of mine.) The emigre lives a limited existence, walks headfirst into language blunders and unfamiliar puns, and generally cannot handle the social milieu around him. Thank heavens for a heavy door and a soft bed. Lantern light. And these dreams we were just talking about.

I would like to at least have an eye to a real keyhole of something so perfectly quiet and self-enclosed.


3 thoughts on “Wishful Travel: Literary Places that Need to Start Existing

  1. Gone Away Lake from the book of the same title by Elizabeth Enright needs to exist. Also, this post is amazing.

  2. Pingback: A Sense of Place | Go Go Go

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