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The lure of writers' houses

July 14, 2010 | 10:48 am
  Edwardgoreyshouse

The website M + E -- run by author Emma Straub and her husband, Michael Fusco -- is selling a new series of four literary posters, each with an illustration of a writer's home (with address). The illustrations by Aislinn Forbes give each house its own personality; they're set on a white background, with splashes of a single color. So whose houses can you buy for your wall? Edward Gorey's, Emily Dickinson's, Edgar Allan Poe's and Flannery O'Connor's.

These are all, yes, dead writers, but the houses live on, and they are a lure for people with a desire to connect with an author and his or her work. The National Book Awards, after getting hundreds of suggestions, decided to travel to O'Connor's home this fall to announce this year's awards finalists. The National Book Awards will be at O'Connor's childhood house in Savannah; the poster is of her rural home, Andalusia. Both are now museums.

The poster series has been made in conjunction with the new website Writers Houses, a combination of personal stories, links and photographs. Launched Tuesday, it's a bit thin on the personal stories, but it has pictures and location information for the homes of more than 30 authors, including Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco apartment, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Missouri farmhouse, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington and the John Steinbeck house -- and restaurant! -- in Salinas.

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Is literary tourism worthwhile? That's a question Anne Trubek explores in "A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses," coming this fall from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Although I haven't yet seen the book, I understand from talking to Trubek earlier this year that it's part memoir, part travelogue, and, well, part rant. She visits Hannibal, Mo., where Samuel Clemens lived before he became Mark Twain, Hemingway's place in Key West, Fla., and more.

Something similar inspired Brock Clarke's 2007 book, "The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England." Don't worry, Clark is not an arsonist -- he's a novelist. The book is fiction.

Armchair travelers who'd like to stick with posters of the authors' homes can get them for $20 each; buy all four for $75.

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Illustrations by Aislinn Forbes


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