Customer Reviews: Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on November 24, 2004
It's hard to know how to categorize this book: is it an art book or a book about writing? It's both, of course, and the text is very well-written, it's worth mulling over. But the genius of the book is its beautiful design and its inclusion of hundreds of illustrations. This is the kind of idiosyncratic book that drives bookstore staff mad - they never can figure out where to shelve it. The making of a map of the imagination is more than a metaphor, though thinking about "discovery and exploration" as metaphors for creativity is not exactly new. Beyond the metaphor, though, a writer's mapmaking is both necessary and practical - the mapping out of a work of fiction or of a poem, the actual exploration and plotting of a narrative arc, the sense that the writer is both guided by the mapmaking and providing a guide to his readers. Fascinating stuff, and truly beautiful and full of SO MANY extraordinary illustrations. It's one-of-a-kind, and worth purchasing. Pick it up and be seduced.
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on April 6, 2006
This book defies genre. It is an examination of the correlation between writers and map-makers. If you love maps, and want to incorporate some of that passion into your writing, this is the book for you. I find myself coming back to it frequently, like a reference book on how to write the sort of story I'd like to read.

Especially interesting is the portion of the book devoted to the empty spaces on maps.

I can't resist Turchi's wonderful phrases, such as:

"...a blank on a map becomes a symbol of rigorous standards; the presence of absences lent authority to all on the map that was unblank."


It will take you on a journey. And the book is lovely to look at and hold.
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on December 5, 2006
What a terrific book! I read this around the same time I undertook Cowan's Mapmaker's Dream (which I have also reviewed on Amazon), and the two books -- ostensibly on similar subjects -- could not be more different!

Turchi's book is a genuine treasure! His prose is wonderful, full of rich images and musical language throughout. It could easily serve (and probably has done) as the text for a creative writing course, and there are thought-provoking passages on just about every page. The illustrations, too, as a prior reviewer has noted, are beautiful and fascinating. Turchi has unearthed kinds of maps I'd never conceived of before, placing them alongside medieval mappaemundi, early political maps, upside-down maps, maps drawn by children, maps drawn from memory -- you name it! Throughout the book, Turchi reinforces the point that cartography is an excellent metaphor for the way writers think, write, and revise. And as obvious a metaphor as you might be tempted to think that is, Turchi continues to surprise and delight with his imaginative insights, page after page.

The book, too, is an absolute jewel (I'm speaking of the first edition hardcover here). The perfect weight, with heavy boards bound in cloth and a sewn binding; the perfect paper weight, highly readable type, and excellent use of color throughout. This is how all books should be made.

I can't rave enough about it. Check it out for yourself, and I don't see how you could be disappointed. The only real disappointment comes when you turn the last page and find no others to follow it.
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VINE VOICEon January 23, 2008
I'm not a writer, not in any meaningful sense. I am a reader, and I deeply admire writers who can immerse me in their story.

I received this book as a gift from someone who I respect. It seemed an odd gift, but now I understand it. This is one of the best non-fiction books that I've read in quite a long time. In this book, Turchi gives us a fascinating and engaging extended essay about writing. He compares it to the art and science of cartography, pointing out the myriad and unexpected ways in which cartography and writing are similar.

While the idea is an interesting one, Turchi makes it all the more approachable through the examples and quotes that he sprinkles liberally throughout the book. This is possibly the only book that references both the storytelling of "Lolita" as well as that found within the Road Runner cartoons that I grew up with. I found myself constantly writing down more books, stories, and poems that I needed to read, based on how they were discussed herein. Many of them are books that I've been meaning to read, such as "Treasure Island", others are authors that I've heard discussed before but never in a way that made me want to rush out and read them.

The book is full of maps, ranging from early maps of the world to a map drawn by the author's son showing locations in town for street luge. These maps serve as a reminder of one of the central points of the book: cartography and writing both choose what to illuminate and what to ignore. I remember annotating a map with landmarks that I found useful, which tells you just as much about what I found useful at the time as it tells you about what I didn't find useful at the time.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I feel like I need to send a copy of it to every writer I know.
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on August 25, 2008
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes to get lost in the thick forest of words, beautifully arranged by the author, to take you through uncharted territories. You'll be introduced to a magic world where maps, stories, life and time are blended into a mind galaxy. Peter Turchi is a gifted writer, full of wit, imagination and knowledge. More than a book, it's a journey into text and its endless possibilities. Don't miss it!
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on November 5, 2009
The book is very useful and inspiring for thinkers and designers. It involves as well in organization of our knowledge and ideas as in ordering our experience and task. It help in visualization of some data as well as in orientation who and where we are. The book could support teaching in information design, making meaning and dynamic graphic design.
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on March 8, 2012
Interesting book. I'll admit I picked it up because of the cover. I also thought it was just about maps. Then when I began to read it I thought, "Oh, maps as a metaphor." But no,not quite; the book is evenly divided between maps and writing. In the end, I learned a great deal about maps and his device: maps equivalent to writing,illuminated some obscure areas in the writing process. Overall, a worthwhile read. It held my interest and that is a daunting task.
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on October 28, 2013
Love having this out on the coffee table picking it up whenever just to get the creative thought process going. After which it seldom stops. Always had a fascination with maps and loved to romanticize travel to exotic or unknown places whether in real life or only imagined.
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on April 13, 2008
Be warned. This book compares the craft of writing, particularly fiction writing, to mapmaking and other forms of graphic representation. It is not a book about imaginary maps that do or could appear in fiction. This book does refer briefly to a few books containing such maps: Absalom, Absalom!; Watership Down; Lord of the Rings; Treasure Island; etc. But imaginary maps in fiction are not this book's subject.

The book tries to be for fiction writers and poets what Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information might be for a statistician. For fiction writers and some readers, this book is probably helpful and interesting. It is well-written, contains many illustrations, and makes some valuable points about perspective, metaphor, and details. But the illustrations often don't match up to the text. And one won't learn much about mapmaking or visual representation here. For that sort of thing, time with books by Edward Tufte or Mark Monmonier would be time better spent.

I'd still like to see the book I thought I was buying. What might a map of Combray (In Search of Lost Time) look like? How about the map that Le Grand Meaulnes made? Turchi lives in Asheville, North Carolina. What might a map of Altamont (Look Homeward, Angel) depict? The list could go on.
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on May 30, 2011
"Analogy" is the motor on this quest to the unknown. An immediate association between a writer and his "mind maps" conveys you to a safe journey of discovery. So be prepared to pick up different souvenirs on your ride. Thanks to the author for such a piece of work !
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