Thursday, May 4, 2017

And I ask myself: how did I get here?

Q: Do you or your favourite authors use setting as character?

A: I never know what it means when people say "setting as character".  But I can say that my favourite authors use setting brilliantly and make fictional places real.

I've never been to Minnesota but when I get there I'll happily leave the Twin Cities behind to visit Lake Wobegon. I must have read a hundred of Garrison Keillor's stories before I realised that might be a problem. 

And when we got lost in Maine a few years back, trying to find LL Bean (and nearly ended up in Canada), it would have been fine but for the hovering spectre of suddenly finding ourselves in Stephen King's Derry, and seeing that clown's face in the storm drain. 

Kilburn High Rd
I adore the way Robert Galbraith writes about London, with such on-the-ground knowledge. I can smell those City pubs where the bankers hang out. I can feel the frustration of Strike being unable to cross the road to get to his flat because of the endless endless roadworks.

And I never get fed up driving down Kilburn in the rain (after six hours on the road from Scotland) because of Ruth Rendell.

My very favourite writer about London, though, is Margery Allingham, who could always find the oddest little corners and plop a strange building or two there. I went to meet a TV producer for lunch once and her instructions on how to get into the club garden (round the back of a chapel) had a familiar ring. "I feel like I'm in a Margery Allingham book," I said, once I'd tracked her down and immediately felt foolish. But when she said "Yes!" loud enough to make a waiter jump I knew we'd get on. 

Edinburgh (my home city) has many faces and many writers look upon them. The Edinburgh of Irvine Welsh, immortalised in Trainspotting, is absolutely real.  The Edinburgh of Alexander McCall Smith, familiar from The Sunday Philosophy Club is equally real. And somewhere in between them are Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson. 

Modern Art Gallery, Edinburgh
So, even though I've never been to Baltimore, I trust that the Baltimores of Anne Tyler, David Simon and John Waters are all real too.  Maybe not John Waters, but I hope so.


Paul D. Marks said...

I'm sure John Waters' Baltimore is the real deal, or at least the "other" side of the real deal ;)

Jacki said...

But how terrible it would be if John Waters' Baltimore was not real!

Finta said...

Real or unreal or not real?

We're planning a drive to Three Pines this summer. Not real but close

We will be in Monterey on Cannery Row later in the year. Real.

Gamrie? Unreal!

Ann in rochester

Catriona McPherson said...

How could I forget Cannery Row And now - if JW's Baltimore is real - I have to get there.

Susan C Shea said...

Yes, you do know what it means because you dashed off a half dozen very good examples of how the setting become as much a breathing - or breathable - being in some novels. Good examples!

Ritter Ames said...

Lovely post. Made me itch to immediately get out the authors listed and fall back into their wonderful locales again.

Carol Pouliot said...

When I get homesick for England, all I do I pick up one of Deborah Crombie's wonderful novels and I'm all set.