Sunday 9 December 2018


The Writer's Map: An atlas of imaginary lands edited by Huw Lewis-Jones   {Reviewed by STELLA}
What could be better than opening a new book to find a map of a yet-to-be-discovered world? If you were a child like me, you would have spent as many hours looking at the map and imagining yourself in it as you would have done reading (and re-reading) the book itself. From Milly Molly Mandy’s village - her home, the house that little friend Susan lived in, where they picked berries, the village green where the fete would be - to the land of Narnia through the wardrobe, maps in books were a key that opened a portal to the worlds beyond home, school and the dreariness of the ‘real’ world. Finding a Moomin book in the deaccessioned shelf at the public library was a discovery in itself, but that it included an amazing and delightful world, with a detailed map, was unforgettable. Maps still have that fascination and I never tire of atlases. There’s something about imaging oneself elsewhere. The Writer’s Map is a beautifully illustrated atlas of literary maps, edited by historian Huw Lewis-Jones, with accompanying insightful essays from writers, designers and illustrators. They talk about the influence of maps on their own work, the importance of map-making in creating plot and place and the wondrous spaces, emotional and physical, that maps have taken and continue to take them. Philip Pullman, the creator of Northern Lights, opens with an essay entitled 'A Plausible Possible', where he describes creating a map for a book he wrote called The Tin Princess. To create a plausible scenario for his princess, Adelaide, he needed a possible world where the plot could play out. Other authors in the book write about the relationship between map-making and fiction: David Mitchell sketches and draws maps for his books, despite the fact that these do not appear in the finished novels. There are examples from his private notebooks showing islands, mountain trails and fortifications. “Maps of fictitious places are maps of mind. You lose yourself in them and find, if not factual truth, then other kinds.” Brian Selznick, the author/illustrator of several amazing books, remembers his fascination with the anatomy section of his Golden Encyclopedia, with its mapping of the human bodies, all the pathways of connected systems played out with layered acetate sheets. As a ten-year-old he had a major operation, one that he recovered slowly from. Drawing was his world and continued to be so. “We all end up drawing the maps to our own futures, though we usually don’t know it at the time.” The book is split into four sections, 'Make Believe', with introductory essays from Huw Lewis-Jones and Brian Sibley; 'Writing Maps', with author contributions; 'Creating Maps', with contributions from illustrators and designers; and Reading Maps. Many of the contributors draw on their childhood memories and their love of books and maps, and how these influenced their own work. References include Treasure Island, Middle-earth, Narnia and Moomin Valley. They also outline their own journeys as map-makers, storytellers and creators of imaginary worlds. The Writer’s Map is lavishly illustrated and a pleasure to read. It will have you wanting to delve into an imaginary world immediately, or to take up your pencil to draw your very own.  

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