Books, mapped

I’m kind of fascinated by the relationship between literature and place. For a start, those blue cultural plaques that indicate the house that a famous writer once lived in always kind of knock me out, just for their immediacy. I suppose it’s kind of inspiring to think that this, right here, is where so-and-so wandered off in the afternoon to grab some lunch, or clear their heads. George Bernard Shaw lived right around the corner from me once (as did Leopold Bloom). I cycle past Patrick Kavanagh’s bench every day going to work.

Then there’s the recognition of places you already know when reading a book. Dublin has lots of examples of this too (Joyce, of course, O’Casey, Yeats), and I especially sense it in the old pubs here (you can go for pints with Con Houlihan in Madigans or Brendan Behan in McDaids).

All of which is quite the preamble to saying that one of my favourite Google products in ages launched this week: Maps in Book Search. Now every book information page has got a small Google Map showing the locations featured in the book, with links to an extract for each place.

Here’s the map for On the Road showing all of Sal and Dean’s stops:

On The Road

Book Search is still scanning like crazy, so I’m looking forward to seeing maps of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy and Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory, among others, some time soon.

— 31 Jan 2007