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Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Peter Turchi
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009
This book tells us how maps help us to understand where we are in the world in the same way that literature, whether realistic or experimental, attempts to explain our realities. "Maps of the Imagination" explores how writers and cartographers use many of the same devices for plotting and executing their work, making crucial decisions about what to include and what to leave out, in order to get us from here to there, without excess baggage or a confusing surplus of information.Turchi traces the history of maps, from their initial decorative and religious purposes to their later instructional applications. He describes how maps rely on projections in order to portray a three-dimensional world on the two-dimensional flat surface of paper, which he goes on to relate to what writers do in projecting a literary work from the imagination onto the page.Drawing from texts as varied as poetry by Louise Gluck, stories by Kate Chopin and Robert Coover, novels by Robert Louis Stevenson and Italo Calvino, the film "Memento", and Chuck Jones' "Roadrunner" cartoons, Turchi ranges across a wide literary geography, illustrating his argument with an array of maps and illustrations, which will be scattered throughout the text.

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Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer + You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination + The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography
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Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Trinity University Press,U.S.; illustrated edition edition (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595340416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595340412
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Peter Turchi is the Director of the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He is the author of the novel The Girls Next Door and the story collection Magician, and the coeditor, with Andrea Barrett, of The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work and, with Charles Baxter, of Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is something of an odd book, in that it tries to use the metaphor of the map as a way to present the writer as an explorer and presenter. The book has the sub-title "the writer as a cartographer" and its 240 pages are divided into chapters on such things as "projections and conventions", "theater of the world", and "a rigorous geometry". To be honest I was disappointed with my initial reading. The book in itself was interesting but it was not what I expected. Firstly I expected that the metaphor of the map would by fully exploited, at least in the visual sense. I also expected the author to focus more explicitly in his text on the actual process of mapping the creative thought processes of authors and writers. However it is true that Peter Turchi did highlight concepts such as purposeful omission, compression, perspective, orientation, emphasis, illusion, etc., as being fundamental both to map making and to writing. So my first reading was from the perspective of a cartographer as a writer (and I KNOW the sub-title is exactly the opposite). Let me now turn to my second reading, approached now the book as it should be approached - a storyteller as a "cartographer" of ideas. On this basis I found the book far more interesting, and the use of the map metaphor potentially quite risqué. It would however have been nice if some space had been given to the technical/scientific author, but nevertheless Turchi did give me some ideas about how a creative writer might try to "map out" his ideas and create a structure to allow the reader to explore a story. Unfortunately he did not introduce the ideas of interactive or non-linear narrative, or games as stories (or stories that are games without endings), where I think the map metaphor would have really come in to its own. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and thought provoking 21 Oct 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a superb and thought provoking book. There is so much in it. It does exactly what the title says. I recommend this book if you are interested in writing, creativity and the way in which the mind works. I found it utterly compelling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wide landscape of snow... 24 Aug 2013
By HelenL
Format:Paperback
I must say I bought this book for the imagery, but when I really got my teeth into it (chapter 2), I literally couldn't put it down. It's been a while since I was this taken with a book, particularly non-fiction.

Turchi is so insightful - I found many parallels with methods of art criticism as well as literature, and it's fascinating to see links between the two. The layout is wonderful, Turchi makes excellent use of footnotes, chapter divides and metaphors relating to other author's work, which are examined delicately and humbly. To see an author reference other authors you like is great - particularly Italo Calvino.

The highlight is chapter 2 - a wide landscape of snows, exploring the metaphorcal and literal blank as a narrative tool. Turchi writes thought-provokingly about omission, and especially about how the reader maps their own story, extending what the author has told them into a wider space.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint-hearted 9 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is an interesting read for the writer and potential writer. Without being too scholarly, it explorers the writer's craft and enlightens the reader.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the Text, Revel in the Illustrations 24 Nov 2004
By JAL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's hard to know how to categorize this book: is it an art book or a book about writing? It's both, of course, and the text is very well-written, it's worth mulling over. But the genius of the book is its beautiful design and its inclusion of hundreds of illustrations. This is the kind of idiosyncratic book that drives bookstore staff mad - they never can figure out where to shelve it. The making of a map of the imagination is more than a metaphor, though thinking about "discovery and exploration" as metaphors for creativity is not exactly new. Beyond the metaphor, though, a writer's mapmaking is both necessary and practical - the mapping out of a work of fiction or of a poem, the actual exploration and plotting of a narrative arc, the sense that the writer is both guided by the mapmaking and providing a guide to his readers. Fascinating stuff, and truly beautiful and full of SO MANY extraordinary illustrations. It's one-of-a-kind, and worth purchasing. Pick it up and be seduced.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Writers and Map Lovers 7 April 2006
By K. S. Karshna - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book defies genre. It is an examination of the correlation between writers and map-makers. If you love maps, and want to incorporate some of that passion into your writing, this is the book for you. I find myself coming back to it frequently, like a reference book on how to write the sort of story I'd like to read.

Especially interesting is the portion of the book devoted to the empty spaces on maps.

I can't resist Turchi's wonderful phrases, such as:

"...a blank on a map becomes a symbol of rigorous standards; the presence of absences lent authority to all on the map that was unblank."

Brilliant.

It will take you on a journey. And the book is lovely to look at and hold.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writers and Map Lovers: Unite! 5 Dec 2006
By Jason Fisher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What a terrific book! I read this around the same time I undertook Cowan's Mapmaker's Dream (which I have also reviewed on Amazon), and the two books -- ostensibly on similar subjects -- could not be more different!

Turchi's book is a genuine treasure! His prose is wonderful, full of rich images and musical language throughout. It could easily serve (and probably has done) as the text for a creative writing course, and there are thought-provoking passages on just about every page. The illustrations, too, as a prior reviewer has noted, are beautiful and fascinating. Turchi has unearthed kinds of maps I'd never conceived of before, placing them alongside medieval mappaemundi, early political maps, upside-down maps, maps drawn by children, maps drawn from memory -- you name it! Throughout the book, Turchi reinforces the point that cartography is an excellent metaphor for the way writers think, write, and revise. And as obvious a metaphor as you might be tempted to think that is, Turchi continues to surprise and delight with his imaginative insights, page after page.

The book, too, is an absolute jewel (I'm speaking of the first edition hardcover here). The perfect weight, with heavy boards bound in cloth and a sewn binding; the perfect paper weight, highly readable type, and excellent use of color throughout. This is how all books should be made.

I can't rave enough about it. Check it out for yourself, and I don't see how you could be disappointed. The only real disappointment comes when you turn the last page and find no others to follow it.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and engaging extended essay about writing 23 Jan 2008
By Nadyne Richmond - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm not a writer, not in any meaningful sense. I am a reader, and I deeply admire writers who can immerse me in their story.

I received this book as a gift from someone who I respect. It seemed an odd gift, but now I understand it. This is one of the best non-fiction books that I've read in quite a long time. In this book, Turchi gives us a fascinating and engaging extended essay about writing. He compares it to the art and science of cartography, pointing out the myriad and unexpected ways in which cartography and writing are similar.

While the idea is an interesting one, Turchi makes it all the more approachable through the examples and quotes that he sprinkles liberally throughout the book. This is possibly the only book that references both the storytelling of "Lolita" as well as that found within the Road Runner cartoons that I grew up with. I found myself constantly writing down more books, stories, and poems that I needed to read, based on how they were discussed herein. Many of them are books that I've been meaning to read, such as "Treasure Island", others are authors that I've heard discussed before but never in a way that made me want to rush out and read them.

The book is full of maps, ranging from early maps of the world to a map drawn by the author's son showing locations in town for street luge. These maps serve as a reminder of one of the central points of the book: cartography and writing both choose what to illuminate and what to ignore. I remember annotating a map with landmarks that I found useful, which tells you just as much about what I found useful at the time as it tells you about what I didn't find useful at the time.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I feel like I need to send a copy of it to every writer I know.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars UNPUTDOWNABLE! 25 Aug 2008
By Carlo Muttoni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes to get lost in the thick forest of words, beautifully arranged by the author, to take you through uncharted territories. You'll be introduced to a magic world where maps, stories, life and time are blended into a mind galaxy. Peter Turchi is a gifted writer, full of wit, imagination and knowledge. More than a book, it's a journey into text and its endless possibilities. Don't miss it!
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