Literary Locales: The Literary Tourist Trap

October 20, 2010 at 2:21 am 5 comments

As I’ve been traveling around thinking about which literary landmarks of London to visit, the inevitable literary tourist trap locales keep popping up as possibilities. I’m talking about places like the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street.

I’m torn about these pseudo-landmarks. I love that they are inspired by fiction, but I’m also wary. It seems almost Disneylandish to go to a place that has no real association with anything beyond print and see the words on the page made somewhat real.

(“Real” being a debatable term here since obviously nothing in the Holmes Museum could possibly have any association with Sherlock Holmes. But the objects could ostensibly be from the appropriate time period and thus be somewhat “real” even if they were not actually Holmes’ or Watson’s. And introducing objects owned by Doyle could get quite interesting and wormhole-ish!)

That being said, I do love Disneyland, so perhaps I would love these literary tourist traps, too, if I gave them a shot. But then Disneyland is not pretending to be anything other than “the Happiest Place on Earth,” an amalgamation of admittedly fake bits of theme parkery designed solely to lift the spirits and make sure visitors are never too hungry, too cold, too bored, or too overwhelmed. Literary tourist traps are the opposite: they are inherently trying to be something they’re not (i.e. something out of a novel which never really existed). Perhaps it is that disingenuous that creates my gut wariness of them.

What do you all think? Are these places worth going just for the fun of it or should I run screaming for the hills? And should this post be filed under “overthinking it”?



Entry filed under: Literary Locales, Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Em  |  October 20, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Hmmm…. Interesting considerations.
    Atwood’s words in “The Bog Man” come to mind: “an artefact from a vanished civilization”.
    I must say I’ve never visited any such tourist trap, so I don’t know…

    • 2. Corey  |  October 26, 2010 at 8:25 am

      Glad to hear it’s not completely in the overthinking it realm!

  • 3. SilverSeason  |  October 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I usually avoid those tourist traps but once in a while we should do it — if it looks like fun. It shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

    The single best literary site I visited in London was when I was admitted for a few minutes to a sitting of Parliament. I had read so many stories — in Trollope, especially — set there. I enjoyed seeing it in action.

    • 4. Corey  |  October 26, 2010 at 8:26 am

      I definitely agree on the fun part. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, what’s the harm in playing the tourist?

  • 5. Shannon  |  October 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve been to “Juliet’s balcony” in Verona. I think it was made of some sort of Disney-esque material. There is a statue there of Juliet and everyone (well, lots of people) rubs her breast for good luck. The best part of this place is the arched entryway where thousands of people have written graffiti messages saying they were there, or sharing thoughts on love or whatever. That part was more authentic than the actual balcony.

    But it seemed to make a lot of my traveling companions happy. So I tried not to snark on it too loudly.


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