Saturday, June 11, 2011

Literary pilgrimage (by accident)

When my husband and I were on a road trip in New York state recently, we passed a place labeled "Lake Tiorati." The word "Tiorati" rang a bell, and I strained to pull out the memory. "Camp Tiorati" came out--but where was it from? I even had the lines to a poem or a song about loving Camp Tiorati stuck in my brain.

Then I got it: Laura's Luck, by Marilyn Sachs, a book I first read as a child. The book takes place circa 1940, though it was written in the 1960s, and continued to be reprinted for decades. Its characters travel from New York City to a summer camp called "Camp Tiorati," located on a lake. I had never dreamed it might be a real place. I'd assumed that Sachs had made it up.

We drove past the lake, and I wondered if the island clearly visible in the middle of it could be the "haunted island" where Sachs's Laura and her friends camped in the book.

I tell you, I was book-geeking out all over the car. Fortunately, my husband has been married to a writer for a few years now, so my geekery did not alarm him unduly.

There are people who make literary pilgrimages--Jack Kerouac's fire lookout station is one destination that springs instantly to mind; the South Dakota town where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived is another--but there's nothing like having the setting from a book dropped unexpectedly in your lap. Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage, or wanted to?


  1. I was coincidentally reading 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, when I was sent to Barcelona for a conference. Inside is a map that lists the locations through Barcelona that the events take place.
    I spent all my free time dragging my coworker to see all the sights.

    It's truly incredible to see where everything occurred (even if its fiction!)

  2. That is really cool. I live pretty close to Little House in the Big Woods land I've never been to DeSmet, SD though. I want to visit Mankato and check out where the Betsy-Tacy books were written sometime this summer.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Matthew and Carrie! It's fascinating when we try to find the world we imagined from the page out in IRL. There's that risk of disappointment, the possibility of validation, and the hope of finding something even better than we imagined.

  4. I would love to do this. I already have my list of places to go. Now, I just have to get myself moving.

    My 9 year old is currently reading "The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" and hasn't stopped talking about visiting the Metropolitan Museum. We're going there first.

  5. A person could write a whole book about literary pilgrimages. In fact, I remember reading a book written by a woman who retraced Mary Kingsley's footsteps through Africa.

    Have fun at the museum!