Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographerby Peter Turchi
Pub. Date: 08/28/2007
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Maps of the Imagination, Peter Turchi posits the idea that maps help people understand where they are in the world in the same way that literature, whether realistic or experimental, attempts to explain human realities. The author explores how writers and cartographers use many of the same devices for plotting and executing their work, making crucial decisions
Maps of the Imagination, Peter Turchi posits the idea that maps help people understand where they are in the world in the same way that literature, whether realistic or experimental, attempts to explain human realities. The author explores how writers and cartographers use many of the same devices for plotting and executing their work, making crucial decisions about what to include and what to leave out, in order to get from here to there, without excess baggage or a confusing surplus of information. Turchi traces the history of maps, from their initial decorative and religious purposes to their later instructional applications. He describes how maps rely on projections in order to portray a three-dimensional world on the two-dimensional flat surface of paper, which he then relates to what writers do in projecting a literary work from the imagination onto the page.
- Trinity University Press
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Maps tell stories, which is more or less the starting point for Peter Turchi's meditations on the manifold relationship of maps and mapmaking with books and writing. Turchi teaches writing and he knows the literature that tends to interest writers. But non-writers can profit by his ruminations as well, especially readers looking for ways to consider revered authors who work in less conventionally naturalistic forms. In a way, this book confounds the Gregory Bateson dictim that the map is not the territory. In this case, the map is quite a journey. For example, Turchi notes that in Arctic Dreams, a book by Barry Lopez, there is a map of the Alaska coast drawn by a Native American fisherman. 'The product of years of mental mapmaking, the map shows the coast as seen from above---that is, it offers a view the fisherman had never seen---yet the map is extraordinarily accurate.' The map is a mental construct, based on experience of the senses. This suggests what the Italian writer, Italo Calvino, noted about reading the great Argentine writer, Jose Luis Borges: that while much of 20th century writing attempts to express the chaotic flow of existence, Borges represents another tendency (which Calvino would himself explore) of imposing a mental order---'a rigorous geometry'--- on that chaos. This leads Turchi to a consideration of Borges, Nabokov, and the games of Risk, Monopoly and chess, ending this relatively brief section with an analysis of Roadrunner cartoons. Besides the fine and lively prose, there are wonderful maps and other well-chosen illustrations. Physically this is an unusually handsome book, with comfortably thick and well-bound pages, and an attractive typeface and layout. It even feels good and well-balanced in the hand. These are not minor virtues, especially when combined with this text. For this is a book to savor, to explore, to hold and to keep.