I recently received a lovely email from Oregon-based photographer Robert Owen, who told me that he has embarked upon a photo tour of The Year of Fog. The tour begins at Ocean Beach and follows narrator Abby's sojourn through San Francisco, from the Outer Richmond to the Mission and beyond. You can view the photographs, which are continually being updated, here.
"I'm a sea captain," Owen wrote, "and I read your book miles away from San Francisco. During free time on the voyage, I re-read and indexed the novel's scenes and places and felt strongly urged to trace the paths of your characters through their fictional world. The Year of Fog, its powerful themes of search and memory, became an inspiration for my own search."
This made me think about the relationship of place to certain books. I have an old paperback copy of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer which has traveled with me to China (where I did the research for my first novel, Dream of the Blue Room), Iceland, Argentina, Slovenia, and elsewhere. When I'm abroad, having Percy's familiar novel nearby is a source of comfort. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, near the Louisiana parish where Percy's everyman, Binx Bolling, lives out his days of quiet "malaise." I can open The Moviegoer to any page and feel a shudder of recognition, the pleasure of reading a remembered sentence. "To become aware of the possibility of a search is to be onto something," Percy writes. "Not to be onto something is to be in despair."
Do you have a favorite book that travels with you? If so, what is it, and why does it speak to you when you're away from home?