Where She Was From
This thing about pilgrimages to the former homes and haunts of revered artists and writers: what is it? I’m hardly unique in my interest. Geoff Dyer has written about tracing the footsteps of a number of people, including DH Lawrence and the German philosopher Theodor Adorno. I have a biography of the great Raymond Chandler that takes as its method a tour of each of the two dozen Los Angeles apartments and houses he lived in over a couple of decades. There’s even a New York Times book, Footsteps, which collects essayed tours of various cities through the lens of writers that lived or visited them (subjects include Hemingway's Madrid, Tennessee Williams's Rome and Elena Ferrante's Naples).
All of which leads me to an article I read in the most recent issue of The Atlantic, in which Caitlin Flanigan attempts to unlock the mystery of why Joan Didion holds such sway over her, and does so by looking for Didion in the various homes she grew-up in and passed through in California. Suffice it to say, she finds that she’s not there.
In an unrelated side-note, I’ve been wondering why, as we get older, many of us turn to reading non-fiction with far more frequency than fiction? I wonder if our mental libraries can only hold so many fictional worlds? Perhaps there’s still room for a few carefully selected additions, but the shelves are not as empty as they once were. It seems to be a recurring discovery that older readers invest less in contemporary fiction, and instead are drawn to non-fiction (or else revisit old novels and story collections). What’s with that, also?