I’m going to England in May. Among a list of things I am excited to do, seeing a Shakespeare play by the RSC is near the top. (with our fingers crossed and some well planned travel we’ll be seeing Hamlet – squee!). Seeing Anne Hathaway’s cottage is not even on the list. I don’t really care about seeing where Shakespeare might have lived, or went to school, or bought a pair of gloves. I don’t care about seeing his tombstone. I don’t really even care so much about seeing the Globe.
I’ve had a drink in a bar that Edgar Allen Poe “supposedly” drank at. I’ve stood in front of a space in which Walt Whitman was “supposed” to have lived. These so-called landmarks mean nothing to me. The bar had neon signs along the back wall and the space was a fire hall. The work of these writers means a great deal to me. I adore Leaves of Grass and if I had to pick one Poe work I’d go with The Masque of the Red Death. Or The Pit and the Pendulum. Or Berenice. Or… you get the point. I connect to what these writers did. What they wrote. What they left in the world. I connect to the words. That is what makes these writers come alive for me.
Now this isn’t always the case – I’ve seen Mark Twain’s pen and for some reason THAT thrilled me. Who’s to say it’s really his pen? But I like pens. Or obsessed. You choose.
It’s a funny distinction because I do love buildings with history. Knowing that I’ll be in buildings that are hundreds and hundreds of years old is darn cool. I am looking forward to seeing the ruins of castles and perhaps an area where the Romans once stood. And who knows, maybe I’ll feel differently once I’m there. Maybe I’ll be lining up to take a picture of Shakespeare’s grave. But I doubt it.
What connects you to writers of long past? What makes them come alive?