The strange alchemy of California’s literary shrines
Author, poet, counterculture journalist, and friend of the Beat Museum, Jonah Raskin‘s article, “Genius Loci,” appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Boom: A Journal of California, discussing institutions honoring the state’s rich literary legacy, and how we can and should do more:
“We need literary shrines as much as, if not more than, any other place,” [chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, California poet and essayist Dana Gioia] told me. “They can provide tangible evidence of the literary past that’s eroding and serve as institutional storehouses for the collective national memory of our writers, their lives, and their work. Tourist bureaus in California underestimate the power of the imagination. They don’t do all they could do to preserve our cultural heritage.”
The best literary shrines do more than honor literary heroes of previous generations. They’re also places where their work can find new life, new relevance, and new readers. They can speak to the present and even the future as much as the past. They can also work a strange sort of magic when the spirit of a book and readers from around the world come together in a place once enlivened by an author. In the process, readers, books, and places rejuvenate one another and combine to form new wholes.
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