17 December 2004

Peter Turchi on maps

Peter Turchi’s Maps of the Imagination: The Writer As Cartographer is the latest text about how to write, how writing works, from the folks in the Warren Wilson MFA program, and for me, the most surprising, since it stems at least as strongly from what must be Turchi’s long love of maps and mapmakers as from a desire to teach would-be writers how to write. The illustrations are marvelous, maps in all forms from all times, my only complaint that many reproductions are too small for me to read the inscriptions. I must buy a new loupe.

Turchi discourses thoughtfully about form, silence and blankness, expectation and surprise, imagination and realism, writers and readers. Early on I thought, “please, more about writing, Peter,” but my niggling ceased when time and again I rushed to my latest fiction endeavor to add, subtract, alter. Along with maps and Turchi’s dissertations on their creation, purpose, and use, are quotes from authors of all stripes: Anne Carson and Robert Louis Stevenson; Italo Calvino and Vladimir Nabokov. I make reading lists while working my way through a text like this one, mapping the read that never ends.

This book is a confidence builder: maps are not accurate, Turchi says, maps are belief systems, maps are the way “we chart ourselves,” writing equates to “painfully designing the map to suit the data,” data that changes, destinations that shift. Turchi’s book offers concentrated fuel to sustain the writer’s journey.

Other books on writing by Warren Wilson faculty:


  1. This book sounds fascinating, Carol--and not just from a writing perspective, but from a life one.

  2. Anonymous00:08

    Sorry about the small print--thanks for being patient with it.