Randy Cohen proposes an idea that appeals to me: “a literary map of Manhattan—not of its authors’ haunts but those of their characters.”
I began thinking about this map years ago while reading Don DeLillo’s ”Great Jones Street.” Bucky Wunderlick gazes out the window of his ”small crowded room” at the firehouse across the street. I realized: there’s only one firehouse on that street and few buildings that contain tiny apartments rather than commercial lofts. I know where Bucky Wunderlick lives. Or would live if he existed. He’s got to be at No. 35. Knowing this made walking around the neighborhood like walking through the novel. But I walked without a map. Shouldn’t there be a map of imaginary New Yorkers?
It would be a lush literary landscape—the house on Washington Square where Catherine Sloper waited and yearned, the coffee shops where the characters of Ralph Ellison and Isaac Bashevis Singer quarreled and kibbitzed, the offices where John Cheever’s people spent their days, the clubs where Jay McInerney’s creatures wasted their nights, the East 70’s and Upper West Side avenues where the Glass family bickered (Salinger gives several addresses), downtown where Ishmael wandered the docks.
He gives a number of examples of fictional locations, both exact and vague, and “can imagine maps of Brooklyn, Chicago, London and more.” (There is a certain amount of this in The Atlas of Literature by Malcolm Bradbury, but it covers too many areas and centuries to have much detail on any one place.) He says “Since nobody is widely enough read—I’m not widely enough read—to know the haunts and houses, the offices and bars and subway stops of so diverse a population, I appeal to Book Review readers to send in their favorites”; the address is email@example.com.
Update. The website is up.