What’s up with this site?
We recommends books for places — fiction and non-fiction that explain or evoke a neighborhood, city, or country. You could call it literary tourism.
I’d like to find a book to read to about, say, Florence — what do I do?
There are three different ways to find books for a particular place.
First, you can use the alphabetical list of Categories on the right side of most pages on the site. Clicking on a category will pull up all of the posts under that category, so clicking on “Florence” will pull up all of the books we have categorized under “Florence.” (Or you can click on “Tuscany” or “Italy.”)
Second, you can use the Index page, which the same categories organized geographically in a more intuitive fashion. There is a link to the Index page above the banner at the top of the page.
Third, you can type “Florence” in the window of the search widget on the right side of the main page.
Why do you recommend particular books?
The question we ask is, would we recommend a book to a person traveling to or reading about a given place? When we travel, we like to read books about or set in wherever we’re going. This includes fiction from a local author, or that happens in that locale. It also includes non-fiction like memoir, travel writing, and history. We don’t think we will include guide books, which are easy enough to find somewhere else.
If a book is here, we would recommend it. If we didn’t like a book, we won’t post about it.
If you disagree with a recommendation, please tell us.
Where do you get your recommendations?
Unless otherwise indicated, the author of a post read and recommends the book.
Can I make some recommendations?
Absolutely! What we need are 3-5 sentences describing the book. More is fine. We may edit what you send us. We can find the links for the second paragraph of a post, and an image, but if you’ve got those, send them too.
We want to know who you are, but are happy to publish what you send us under a pseudonym. In such instances, we will take all legal steps to protect your identity.
Where can I find these books?
Most of the recommendations come from our bookshelves. The specific edition of a book cited in a post may be out of print — that’s just the one we read. We provide links to buy books through Amazon as a convenience, and because Amazon promises to give us a tiny cut. This will help defray our massive research & development budget. We are contractually required to say, Shop at Amazon.com! That said, competition is good, and if your independent bookstore has a similar program, let us know.
How can I contact you?
Please send e-mail to: thehieroglyphicstreets (at) gmail (dot) com.
How did you come up with the blog’s name?
From the following passage toward the end of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49:
If San Narciso and the estate were really no different from any other town, any other estate, then by that continuity she might have found The Tristero anywhere in her Republic, through any of a hundred lightly-concealed entranceways, a hundred alienations, if only she’d looked. She stopped a minute between the steel rails, raising her head as if to sniff the air. Becoming conscious of the hard, strung presence she stood on knowing as if maps had been flashed for her on the sky how these tracks ran on into others, others, knowing they laced, deepened, authenticated the great night around her. If only she’d looked. She remembered now old Pullman cars, left where the money’d run out or the customers vanished, amid green farm flatnesses where clothes hung, smoke lazed out of jointed pipes.
Were the squatters there in touch with others, through Tristero; were they helping carry forward that 300 years of the house’s disinheritance? Surely they’d forgotten by now what it was the Tristero were to have inherited; as perhaps Oedipa one day might have. What was left to inherit? That America coded in Inverarity’s testament, whose was that? She thought of other, immobilized freight cars, where the kids sat on the floor planking and sang back, happy as fat, whatever came over the mother’s pocket radio; of other squatters who stretched canvas for lean-tos behind smiling billboards along all the highways, or slept in junkyards in the stripped shells of wrecked Plymouths, or even, daring, spent the night up some pole in a lineman’s tent like caterpillars, swung among a web of telephone wires, living in the very copper rigging and secular miracle of communication, untroubled by the dumb voltages flickering their miles, the night long, in the thousands of unheard messages. She remembered drifters she had listened to, Americans speaking their language carefully, scholarly, as if they were in exile from somewhere else invisible yet congruent with the cheered land she lived in; and walkers along the roads at night, zooming in and out of your headlights without looking up, too far from any town to have a real destination. And the voices before and after the dead man’s that had phoned at random during the darkest, slowest hours, searching ceaseless among the dial’s ten million possibilities for that magical Other who would reveal herself out of the roar of relays, monotone litanies of insult, filth, fantasy, love whose brute repetition must someday call into being the trigger for the unnamable act, the recognition, the Word. How many shared Tristero’s secret, as well as its exile? What would the probate judge have to say about spreading some kind of a legacy among them all, all those nameless, maybe as a. first installment? Oboy. He’d be on her ass in a microsecond, revoke her letters testamentary, they’d call her names, proclaim her through all Orange County as a redistributionist and pinko, slip the old man from Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus in as administrator de bonis non and so much baby for code, constellations, shadow-legatees. Who knew? Perhaps she’d be hounded someday as far as joining Tristero itself, if it existed, in its twilight, its aloofness, its waiting. The waiting above all; if not for another set of possibilities to replace those that had conditioned the land to accept any San Narciso among its most tender flesh without a reflex or a cry, then at least, at the very least, waiting for a symmetry of choices to break down, to go skew. She had heard all about excluded middles; they were bad shit, to be avoided; and how had it ever happened here, with the chances once so good for diversity? For it was now like walking among matrices of a great digital computer, the zeroes and ones twinned above, hanging like balanced mobiles right and left, ahead, thick, maybe endless. Behind the hieroglyphic streets there would either be a transcendent meaning, or only the earth.
We’re on that search for transcendent meaning.