Review — Plotted: A Literary Atlas

Posted on November 16, 2015

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The perfect holiday gift for your favorite bookworm!

Plotted: A Literary Atlas
By Andrew DeGraff and Daniel Harmon
Pulp/Zest Books
October 2015
128 pages

A great story inspires the imagination of the reader. In the mind of artist Andrew DeGraff, a great story inspires mapmaking. DeGraff’s conceptualization of story via mapmaking – as in the mythic structure of story as the hero’s journey – was what initially piqued my interest in this book. Plotted: A Literary Atlas contains maps of 19 classical works of literature that seemed to be chosen for what each reveals about humankind during the era in which it was written.

Like the literature these maps are based on, each map is a work of art full of brilliant colors, stark contrasts, and unforgettable images. The maps trace the characters’ journeys, be they Odysseus’ long way home to Ithaca or Hamlet’s descent into madness behind the castle walls of Elsinore. Not all of these are maps in the true sense of the word. Melville’s Moby Dick is illustrated with diagrams of the Pequod and the whale, while Beckett’s Waiting for Godot comically depicts Vladimir and Estragon as empty conversation bubbles huddled in a reddish-orange void.

Because of the uniqueness of each map, it is impossible to pick favorites. But readers will likely discover an emotional connection to those maps created from their favorite stories. For me the cosmic map of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time comes eerily close to how I imagine the power of the tesseract enabled the Murry children to leap from one dimension to the next without the aid of a joystick.

Plotted wrinkle time map

A Wrinkle in Time [Andrew DeGraff/Courtesy of Zest Books]

And Borges’ The Library of Babel map of exponentially expanding hexagons filled with bookshelves recalled my own fascination with libraries as a child.

“The Library of Babel” (Andrew DeGraff/Courtesy of Zest Books)

The Library of Babel [Andrew DeGraff/Courtesy of Zest Books]

What is most striking about these maps is how they not only portray the main elements of story — setting, plot, characters, conflict and theme – but also the tone and mood, all of which is in keeping with DeGraff’s objective to depict the essence of what each story is about. And just as imagination draws readers into a good story, DeGraff’s maps, assisted by editor Daniel Harmon’s essays, lure readers into another literary dimension that is as challenging as it is satisfying. Plotted: A Literary Atlas opens an intriguing portal for readers to get lost in a good book.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Peggy Tibbetts

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