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Friday, December 2, 2011

Atlas Riffing

As a kid in school, I really liked geography (in those days a piece of "Social Studies") but did not let on - it wasn't then considered a very "cool" subject. But it's possible that early enjoyment of geography contributed to my strong adult interest in other cultures, travel, perhaps even my enjoyment of ethnic foods.

Now that my time is more flexible, my continuing interest in geography gives me the latitude to do a fair amount of what I've termed "Atlas riffing". When I'm reading at home my Atlas is close by. If a locale described is unfamiliar to me, a fairly routine occurrence, I will often locate it in my Atlas. But once I step inside that book, all bets are off. I begin bouncing from place to place like a deranged but happy pinball.

To wit: Early last night I finished a novel called "Swamplandia!" by Karen Russell. The book takes place in the Ten Thousand Islands region of the Florida Everglades, a part of that state I've never seen. After locating it on my Atlas and reading the page of text, I flashed to another novel I'd finished earlier this year called "In The Lake of The Woods" by Tim O'Brien (See the connection? Water). So...my Atlas now took me to Northern Minnesota to find the Lake of the Woods. And so on.

Bottom line: When I finished this particular round of Atlas riffing, 4 glorious hours had gone by. My travels had taken me to Ghana, the Solomon Islands & the Yukon territory to name just a few. And this Atlas has so much more than just maps. Now that I'm old enough to not care about peer pressure as much, I'm unafraid to say this - it's a very cool book. Call me a nerd if you must; geography makes me happy.  


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