Each point on the compass has developed its own associations in Western culture. North is treated as the "fundamental" direction, which is why we tend to list it first. Standard maps are oriented with north at the top, and the phrase "north of" something means "greater than." We also associate the north with colder climates, even though the South Pole is pretty cold, too. South, therefore, is the opposite of north, and is defined by it. Words like "down" and "under," and using "south of" to mean "less" or "fewer," are all examples of how we think of south. East and west are defined first by where the sun rises and sets. These associations with beginnings and endings are universal, and are evoked in everything from songs like "Sunrise, Sunset" to the line "westward the course of empire takes its way." (By the way, the utterer of that line, the 18th century Anglo-Irish Bishop George Berkeley, could scarcely have imagined it would serve as the inspiration for the name of Berkeley, California!)
We asked Red Roomers to choose one directions, north, south, east, or west, and write about it last week. As we reviewed the posts, we tallied which directions bloggers wrote about. Maybe it shouldn't have suprised me to learn that more bloggers picked no direction, or more than one. Of those who did choose one direction, north captured the most blog posts (6).
Three post stood out this week:
- On her way to wondering if her tastes make her a true Southerner, Jennifer W. Horne gives and delightful and detailed account of all the cultural ways that go into being one. Enjoy "Is I or is I ain't a Southerner?"
- For her first Red Room blog post, Mercedes A. Villaman shared how she taught her literature students to think outside the four points of the compass when studying poetry. She relates that healthy disorientation to her own journey in "The Four Cardinal Points are Three."
- Family history, which often helps to orient us, can sometimes bewilder us even further, as Jules Jacob demonstrates in "Spinners."
These bloggers will receive books by Red Room authors. Award-winning journalist and essayist Andrew Lam's new book, East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres, explores "the unexpected consequences"-from cuisine and martial arts to sex and self-esteem-of the Vietnamese diaspora. Vera Nazarian's 2002 Nebula Award-nominated book Dreams of the Compass Rose was recently made available for download; her newest, After the Sundial, is her first collection of short science fiction. Christina Sunley's first novel, The Tricking of Freya, was just released in paperback. It tells the story of an American woman who uncovers a family secret as she explores her roots in Canada and Iceland.
Other great post this week include:
- Cheryl Snell shares a rather epic and partially epistolary tale of cross-cultural family misunderstanding. Where will you fall when "East Meets West: Bad Blood"?
- Fran Moreland Johns claims that "(s)torytelling is what the south is about." In "Cartwheels in the Grass," she vividly depicts the extremes that go into that need to make sense through story.
- Comparing her journey as a writer to the flashier success of her fellow "easterner" (in the Asian sense), Li Miao Lovett remembers how lucky she has been in "I Should Have Been a Competitive Speed Writer."
- Blair Kilpatrick makes the best of a situation faced by many if not all California transplants in her very holiday-spirited "Back East. Back Where?"
You can read all the north, south, east, or west blog posts here. I hope you'll find a few favorites and leave a comment on each one letting the writer know you enjoyed it. All of Red Room's past blog topics are here...please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for future topics. We welcome your ideas!
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room