If you're looking for a unique and relatively inexpensive gift idea for a literary friend, you might want to wend your way to the Literary Gift Company, based in England but online at theliterarygiftcompany.com, for a copy of their USA literary map. Available as an 84x59cm poster (that's 33x23 inches to those in the USA) it's a fun and intriguing gift.

At first glance, it looks a simple enough concept - author names laid out to form a map of the USA. But the fun starts when you start to try to work out the reason for each author's placement. Not yet in possession of the poster itself (which costs £9.95, about $16, plus shipping) I had to resort to peering at the online version with the aid of a magnifying glass - and some of the positionings sent me scurrying to read up on the author.

For example, what's Vladimir Nabokov doing on the West Coast, somewhere around the California/Oregon border?
Why are Mark Helprin, Sylvia Plath and T.S. Elliot loitering in the Atlantic Ocean?
And what's F Scott Fitzgerald doing in the vicinity of Lake Superior?

(Answers below the map!)

The Literary Gift Company also offers a map of Britain as a poster and dish towel

US Author Map

I don't know for certain why the map's creators positioned the above-mentioned authors as they did, but I assume it's because...

  • Vladimir Nabokov's family fled Russia in 1919 when he was about 20, eventually settling in Berlin. In 1937 Nabokov, and his wife and child, moved to Paris and then, in 1940, fleeing the advancing German troops, to the USA. Although living on the East Coast, Nabokov took regular butterfly-collecting trips to the West Coast, and rented a house in Ashland, Oregon in 1953 where he wrote Lolita. The financial success of Lolita allowed him to return to Europe a few years later, where he and his wife settled in Switzerland.

  • Mark Helprin's bio states that he was raised "on the Hudson and in the British West Indies". American writer Sylvia Plath was born and brought up in the USA but spent much of her adulthood, including her married years to English poet Ted Hughes, in England, where she committed suicide in 1963. T.S. Eliott was born in the USA but became a British citizen when he was 39.

  • F Scott Fitzgerald was born, and spent a fair amount of his childhood, in Minnesotta

Are you surprised by the positioning of any of the authors?

Bill Cosby a literary author? Fantastic idea, baffling execution.
# Posted By Amy | 5/3/11 8:10 PM
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