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In the Memory of the Map: A Cartographic Memoir (Sightline Books: The Iowa Series in Literary Nonfiction)by Christopher Norment
Synopses & Reviews
Throughout his life, maps have been a source of imagination and wonder for Christopher Norment. Mesmerized by them since the age of eight or nine, he found himself courted and seduced by maps, which served functional and allegorical roles in showing him worlds that he might come to know and helping him understand worlds that he had already explored.
Maps may have been the stuff of his dreams, but they sometimes drew him away from places where he should have remained firmly rooted. In the Memory of the Map explores the complex relationship among maps, memory, and experience—what might be called a “cartographical psychology” or “cartographical history.” Interweaving a personal narrative structured around a variety of maps, with stories about maps as told by scholars, poets, and fiction writers, this book provides a dazzlingly rich personal and intellectual account of what many of us take for granted.
A dialog between desire and the maps of his life, an exploration of the pleasures, utilitarian purposes, benefits, and character of maps, this rich and powerful personal narrative is the matrix in which Norment embeds an exploration of how maps function in all our lives. Page by page, readers will confront the aesthetics, mystery, function, power, and shortcomings of maps, causing them to reconsider the role that maps play in their lives.
"'Relational correspondence' is how a map translates to the real world, and environmental scientist and lifelong outdoorsman Norment (Return to Warden's Grove) has built a warm, sentimental memoir around the role maps have played in his own life — from being 'seduced' by them as a young child in Saratoga, CA, to his last-ditch experiment to backpack Washington's vast Pasayten Wilderness for two weeks without them. What started out as an escape from sexual abuse and family tension turned into an obsession with cartography and nature; Norment has driven across country 33 times, taught navigation for Outward Bound, spent multiple summers in a lookout tower in Wyoming, and 'traveled deep into the Sierra, Utah, and Himalaya.' As the narrative ranges across the contour lines of his past, he draws from poets, philosophers, fiction writers, and postmodernists, often meandering into detailed explanations about such disparate trivia as the decibels produced by a steam engine and the number of acres in a 'pedestrian shed.' While some tangents — like the full chapter about tracking feral burros in Death Valley — stray too far from maps themselves, Norment never fails to be an authoritative storyteller, a nature writer who can wax about grace, 'love and longing,' and the world's 'multi-dimensional dovetail of sense and emotion' with sincerity and charming self-deprecation. Maps. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the Memory of the Map explores the complex relationship among maps, memory, and experience—what might be called a “cartographical psychology” or “cartographical history.” Interweaving a personal narrative structured around a variety of maps, with stories about maps as told by scholars, poets, and fiction writers, this book provides a dazzlingly rich personal and intellectual account of what many of us take for granted.
About the Author
Christopher Norment is a professor of environmental science and biology at SUNY College at Brockport, where he specializes in the breeding biology and ecology of migratory birds. In addition to numerous scientific articles, he is the author of Return to Warden’s Grove: Science, Desire, and the Lives of Sparrows (Iowa, 2008) and In the North of Our Lives: A Year in the Wilderness of Northern Canada. He lives with his wife and children in Brockport, New York.
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