Visitors and residents of Scotland are to be envied by book lovers worldwide: a creative collaboration there has come up with a fantastic application for smartphones and tablets that marries, on the one hand, authors and books with, on the other, locations and themes. So, wherever you are in the country, you can call up, via GPS, places of literary interest near to you.
The app is based on information from 3,500 books – fiction, non-fiction and children’s – whose details pertain to Scottish locations, collating by character, place, setting, author, date and theme.It also provides details of the closest independent bookshop, some quizzes and writing-related walking tours. The aim of the app, rolled out by Publishing Scotland, is:
… to get people discovering and reading great Scottish books. The developers also hope to promote wider access to literature, find new audiences for Scottish writers, celebrate Scotland’s unique literary heritage, update the image of Scotland’s vibrant publishing industry and support cultural tourism around all regions.
Such a fantastic idea, don’t you think? No doubt you can anticipate the question at the forefront of my mind: Why doesn’t every country have this?
Physical connections to literature are so deeply affecting. I first came to realise this when, as a young woman, I visited Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. To stand on one spot and be surrounded by so many great names: Chaucer, Spenser, Byron, Shakespeare, the Brownings, Dickens, Hardy, Kipling, Tennyson, Auden, Austen, Blake, the Brontes, Burns, Coleridge, Eliot, Lawrence, Lewis, Wordsworth, Wilde – and more, so many more! Inspiring is too pale a word to capture the sentiment I felt there. But beyond the overwhelming collection of greats there are so many places in a country that are touched by a writer: he wrote there; she published here; he was born there; she died here; his character died here; her character fell in love there. Tag it all, I say, and input the data into an app. Make the entire world one enormous celebration of literature; make it all one vast Poets’ Corner.
What do you think? Would you love to be out for a walk in the English countryside one day and discover you’re but a hop, skip and a jump from Heathcliff’s home? To be nursing a coffee in Paris and realise Victor Hugo was a former patron of the cafe? Think of the cultural tourism that would ensue – of the educative potential – of the inspiration for readers and writers alike. This, surely, is a project that someone with the knowhow must embrace. It would make explorers and pilgrims of us all.