A recent article in the Huff Post discussed whether or not people get anything out of visiting the homes of authors past. Dickenson, Twain, and Wharton are a few of the authors mentioned. The article comments on the emotional experiences tourists have when visiting these homes; they feel more connected to the author and feel they understand their stories better. Some of the homes are even the catalyst for larger discussions, like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house where the speakers lead discussion on topics such as human trafficking and mental illness.
Stowe’s House in Cincinnati, Ohio. Much nicer than mine. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Beecher_Stowe_House_(Cincinnati,_Ohio)
This got me thinking about modern authors and where we write. Let’s say I write the next Great American Novel. (Not that I’m saying I would; my ego isn’t that insane. But just for a second, let’s pretend.) Would anyone want to visit my house? To see my dime-a-dozen particleboard desk that I barely ever sit at to write? Or to look at my laptop that I update every few years, and at most would only have contributed to a few of my works? Would they be impressed with my average, cookie-cutter neighborhood? Will tour groups get emotional seeing the chair where I penned (typed, whatever) my novels? (In sweatpants while chowing down on a bag of chips and guzzling gallons of caffeine, which is something I highly doubt Emily Dickenson would have been caught dead doing. Mark Twain, maybe, but not Dickenson.)
I can’t see any of this happening, and I’ve never had the urge to visit the homes of S.J. Bolton (my favorite author at the moment), Philip Pullman, or J.K. Rowling. (Fun fact: Dear old J.K. wrote the first couple Harry Potter books in various cafes.)
Does experiencing where an author wrote allow you to more fully understand their mindset when writing? Does it give you a backdrop for the stories they wrote? Does a café tell you anything about Harry Potter? Unless they serve butterbeer, probably not.
There may be exceptions, however. My honeymoon was near Portland, Maine. While there, my husband and I took a ferry out to one of the many islands in the area. This one was quaint and very New England. We rode bikes and explored the island for a couple of hours, then went to wait on our return ferry. While we were waiting a heavy mist rolled in. The mist enveloped everything: the trees; the skyline; the ocean; other people. It ate up the sound on the island and birds disappeared. The ferry even had to cancel because the view was inhibited. The point is, Stephen King is from Portland, and being stuck in this mist was, for me, a bit of an inside view into his mind. My husband and I even joked at the time that it was no wonder his stories were so messed up if this creepy unnatural mist was what he had to deal with.
So maybe there is something to seeing where an author wrote. However, this day and age, with all the free information and the like, I would bet the author in question would have to write something so unique that people just had to see where the idea was thought up. And that where had better be unique as well. No room for cookie-cutter developments and ordinary landscapes. Although, to quote the article, maybe it’s just that “we’re all pretty nosy when it comes to wanting to peek into other people’s homes to see how they live.”
Perhaps I should hunt for a more future-tour-group-pleasing abode.