Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Traveling Through Books

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

I've always dreamt of traveling. Not just to historical landmarks, exotic beaches, or foreign countries, (although I wouldn't mind traveling to any of those places!) but, also, to travel to the places that are no longer accessible. Only in picking up a novel can I travel through time and visit a beautiful countryside such as Jane Austen's 18th century England in Pride and Prejudice. Or to feel the demoralization and brutality of the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution in Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Now, let's expand our horizons and travel not to the places that once existed, but to those that never existed but in the minds of talented writers. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien created a world that over 150 million readers immersed themselves within. The same goes for C.S. Lewis's epic Narnia series that had over 80 million fans itching for more. These worlds weren't real, but they felt real to the readers who loved them.

What makes a place feel real? Ms. Austen was able to experience England in the 1800's and so she wrote what she knew. (Isn't this what most writers do? Write what they are familiar with?) But I'm quite certain that C.S. Lewis never really traveled to Narnia (or maybe he did and he wrote about it so people wouldn't think he was crazy? Who knows?). In either instance, both of the worlds they created seemed so real that millions of people have responded to the creations of their imagination.

Does a writer have to travel to a place to write about it? I'm sure it would help. And I, certainly, would love to travel to some of the non-existant places in the worlds I've created in my own books. The Internet helps, too. Want to go to England? It's a click away! Ireland? Click! New Guinea? Brazil? Tahiti? Click! Click! Click! How spoiled are we? Is it enough, though? I would like to breathe the fresh air of the long grass on the rolling hills of Ireland and taste the salt on my tongue on the shores of Tahiti while my toes sink into the sand. Wouldn't we all like that? :)

An old writer friend of mine wrote a novel in which her characters went camping. Her details were so vivid that I could actually hear the campfire snapping and feel the nip of the cold air on my nose. It made me want to go camping! That is talented writing. And while I'm sure she's been camping a time or two in her life, she certainly wasn't sitting with her laptop out in the middle of the woods.

So, even if we can't experience these places in person, we are lucky that we can visit them in the written words of writers. We are lucky that we can research them in libraries, the Internet, and by word of mouth from natives of different lands. Only through talented writing can we travel back through time, to places that cease to exist, and to real places that some of us can only dream of. How amazing is that???

Kalina Kay