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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Oh, you know, I've said it all before, but I'm fond of mysteries, maps, and lost manuscripts. I enjoy maps in fiction and fact, and those with literary roots like this one of Dickens' London. I like being able to click on something and see the associated information. (Not that I can necessarily follow a map--a friend of mine and I got off at the wrong underground station and walked for miles looking for the Doughty Street house/museum. By the time we got there, our main concern was how we were going to find a pub where we could recover our equilibrium and discuss Dickens with a half pint.) Sam at Book Chase has an interest in Dickens. :) Just look at those shelves!

Iliana posted about maps and mysteries today and then I happened on the Dickens' London map via Mindtracks.

Have you ever wondered about why some books stay with you and others don't? Sometimes I will remember great detail from a mediocre novel and almost nothing about a book that received great reviews and that I enjoyed. It is always curious about what manages to find a little niche in your brain, settle in, and make itself at home...and what drifts through without ever gaining a foot hold.

What trivia remains scattered in our brains while important facts fail to emerge when needed? There are certain things that, no matter how hard I try to remember, make no impression on me, and other information so esoteric that no one cares -- that makes it way to the forefront of the grey matter. It is as if certain synapses are gathered in isolation, the information may be there, but is irretrievable. My mapping skills are lacking here, too.

In my mind, I have (speaking of trivial information from a lifetime ago) a picture, from either Jo's Boys or Little Men, of the mind as a kind of huge post office filing system with thousands of little pigeon holes containing information.


  1. I love maps, too. They are especially nice when you are reading a book with a famous setting (like London). As for weird details that stick in your mind--it is amazing what you remember and what you don't. I have noticed on books that I have reread recently that I forget quite a lot. I think I know the story, but then things will surprise me! I like your idea of a post office cubbyhole system--each little slot containing different information!

  2. I remember the bit about the mind being like something of a curio cabinet with lots of little drawers. I think it's from Little Men and my recollection is that Demi is the originator of the thought or speech. It was a particularly comforting idea, I agree.

  3. Now this just shows you what a librarian I am at heart; I couldn't wait and in the midst of my afternoon coffee break, I went to look it up. It does come from Little Men, specifically Chapter 15, when Demi and Dan are sitting up in the willow. Demi is trying to help Dan to curb his faults by telling him this story.

  4. What's always surprises me is when I really don't like a book yet it stays with me. For example, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I hated that book when I read it for a book group long ago yet I could remember it vividly for a long time. And, even though it's been years there are still some things about it I remember. Which makes me think well, did I end up liking it? What's up with that. Ha,ha... Good question and am curious what others will say.

  5. Danielle - And it is interesting to compare, say Woolf's Bloomsbury with Dickens' Bloomsbury.

    Jill - Thanks! It has been over __ years since I've read Little Men and Jo's Boys, but I can still conjure up many scenes. What is funny is that I had Demi's face in mind, but couldn't for the life of me remember his name. Thanks for taking the time to source this memory for me!

    Iliana - That's funny, because I was actually thinking about that before my mind meandered. I was reading a post over at Everybody Lies about ambivalence toward Never Let Me Go. Some books make a huge impression even if you don't "like" them.

  6. I'm another sucker for books with maps. I have my finger in the page all the time I'm reading so that I can keep flicking back whenever I need to. This is especially the case with historical mysteries and fantasy. Is there such a thing as a good fantasy without a map?

    Iliana, I'm half way through 'The Sparrow' and at the moment enjoying it. What was it that you disliked?

  7. Ah,exactly! When I think about it, those books even if I didn't like them obviously they made me think or pushed something in me. And, for that I do appreciate them. Ann - It's really been so long but I think it was the violence that put me off. I think I was also just expecting a totally different kind of book. But,having said that I would recommend that book especially for a book group - lots of good discussion.

  8. Ann - I agree that maps are a huge part of fantasy--I love seeing the geographic lay out of countries, and place names are a large part of it.

    iliana - I just finished Finn, and it falls in this category. There are scenes from this novel that I'll never forget, incidents that made me think, but it wasn't an enjoyable read. The callousness was devastating. Many classic novels fall in this niche; they make you think, they are great for discussion, they make you examine character flaws or cultural failures. They are not necessarily pleasant.

  9. I love picturing things visually, it really helps me organize my thoughts.