Weekly Geeks – Literature in a ‘City Much Like Hell’

16May09

wg-sticky-url6 So, this week, ‘Weekly Geeks‘ asks us to take a literary tour of our hometown.

Do you live in a place where a famous author was born? Does your town have any cool literary museums or monuments? Does Stephen King live at the end of your street? Was Twilight set in your hometown?

You can talk about famous (or not so famous) authors who live there, novels set in there, or any other literary facts that you know about where you live. Feel free to embellish with pictures of places and/or authors, maps of the area, and fun facts about the authors. 

So, a ‘city much like hell’? Did you get the reference? How about if I say, it’s the city of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards. And a couple of more hints: a famous song about a bridge falling down? The host of the 2012 Olympics. Guessing all of you have gotten it by now: London

London’s a great place for literature. Many famous authors and poets have lived here/been buried here, and some incredible books have been based in London. In fact, Waterstones now-a-days has a table devoted to books on London (fiction and non-fiction), much like it has a table devoted to children’s best-sellers, and many tables devoted to their everlasting three-for-two sale. 

So, while I could easily make this a five thousand word essay, let me just stick to a few of my favorite authors, and a few books that I have enjoyed tremendously. Oh, and for the record, it was Shelley who compared London to hell. I didn’t know that ’til much recently, and I don’t agree at all. For all its horrors, I haven’t found a city I’d rather live in. Not New York, not Hong Kong, not Rome, not Paris. Maybe Los Angeles, but…. let me move on, before I digress much further. 

So, a few random facts: Milton, Hardy, Kipling, Tennyson, Chaucer, Dickens and Beatrix Potter are all buried in London. Orwell lived here for a while, and wrote the book Down and Out in Paris and in London based on his experiences slumming it out in London during the Great Depression. A few of Dickens’ novels were based in London, focusing on poverty, orphanages, pickpockets and of course – the Victorian Society. Oliver Twist, which takes us back to the 19th century London, is easily the first book that comes to mind, when I think of Dickens and London. And, apparently (I wish I could confirm this), it’s the first book in English that has a child protagonist. 

One of the greatest detectives of the millennium lived in London as well. Who, you ask? Elementary, my dear Watson. As he himself once said: Eliminate all other factors, and the one remaining must be the truth. The other variation of that, being, Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. The last one is actually one of my favorite quotes of all times (I used to love mystery novels, and used this principal to try and figure out the whudunnit). Anyway, it’s good old Sherlock Holmes living at 221B Baker Street, with Dr. Watson. 

Moving from detectives to plays: The greatest playwright, Shakespeare, lived in London for a bit. The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing were all written while he was in London. Weirdly enough, I’ve been to Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, but not done any Shakespeare related sight-seeing in London. Is that weird, or is that typical? 

Anyway, thought I’d share some pictures of Shakespeare’s birthplace/home from my trip up to Stratford-upon-Avon a few years ago:

And to wrap it up, here are some more random facts:

John Keats gave up medicine to become an author. He trained at a hospital near London Bridge (Guy’s Hospital). I don’t know much about him as a doctor, but some of his poems were amazing. 

Oscar Wilde’s last evening in England was in London. 

Lord Byron lived in Piccadilly before being driven into exile in the 19th century. 

Moving to slightly more recent times, Kings Cross station has erected a Platform 9 3/4 sign, as well as installed half a trolley against the wall, so that is looks like the other half goes over to the magical world of Harry Potter, from where he can catch the Hogwarts Express. 

Oh, and John Le Carre lives in Hampstead, which is about 20 minutes from mine. Never seen him or met him though… maybe I need to hang out there more often? 

So yes, that’s literature in London for you, in a nutshell – and the little I can remember. I’m sure I’m forgetting loads.

Do you have any more facts about literature and London? Have you met a famous author here? Have you met a famous author anywhere? Do you have a favorite book that’s based in and around London? Or, a movie? Maybe a song? 

…. and have a nice weekend, fellow-geeks. 

 

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12 Responses to “Weekly Geeks – Literature in a ‘City Much Like Hell’”

  1. 1 Maree

    Fantastic. You certainly have a rich literary tradition to draw from. I love Sherlock Holmes, but haven’t read any for oh …. years.
    Happy Weekly Geeks :)

  2. 2 Lynn

    Great job! I got lazy and didn’t include anywhere near as much about Boston in my post as you did about London. Makes me want to visit. :)

  3. 3 rikkiscraps

    You certainly have a lot to talk about in this regard. I’m very impressed. You could probably spend weeks on end walking around Londond following the traces of stories and authors.

    • 4 uncertainprinciples

      Yeah, you could – I think I saw a tourist ad to follow the London literary history. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve covered even half of the literary scene.

  4. 5 Lynn

    Responding to your comment on my post: My mother loves Enid Blyton books! (Her mother is from England, near Devonport). My husband is from New Zealand, and I think her books are still very popular there too, judging from the ride-on Noddie car at the supermarket. :)

  5. You could have an entire blog devoted to London literature and I would read it if you did! Great post. You’ve mentioned many of my favorite London authors. Happy weekly geeks.

    My post is on San Diego and Susan Vreeland.

  6. 7 Kerrie

    I love London – thanks for the reminders

  7. Ah, London. I will get there someday. This was a good substitute, though. :)

  8. I couldn’t get over the richness of London’s history when I was there – just the literature alone is astounding! Happy Geeks Week!

  9. Once I knew you’re in London (Big Ben did the trick for me ;) I *hoped* you would post about Sherlock Holmes! :)) Thanks for sharing.

  10. 11 Trin

    Man, do I envy you. London is my dream home.

  11. 12 susan

    Enjoyed your post. Here’s mine, Detroit: City of Poets


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