Monday, July 05, 2004

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime - by Miles Harvey

In which the blogger suggests the author get counseling

I guess I should start out by saying that this is not my book. I "borrowed" it from Pastor Matt Segebartt in Lincoln, NE about a month ago when I was staying at his house. I saw it sitting on his shelf, and I appropriated it because it looked so interesting. I did ask before I removed it from his house, however. So I suppose I owe Pastor Matt a debt of gratitude for letting me run off with his book.

And what an interesting read! Maybe you've heard that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Island of Lost Maps proves the point. It is really a great story about a specific cartographic crime spree that hit the whole United States (and some of Canada (and maybe Britain)) in the 1990s. But as it tells its tale, it drags in the entire history of cartographic crime throughout the centuries.
And then it drags in the history of map-making.
And then it drags in every great piece of literature ever written about travel.
And then it drags in the jobs and failures of librarians . . . and map collectors and dealers.
AND THEN it drags in the neurotic compulsions of the author as he stalks the perpetrator of this crime spree.

The book seemed to be a very well planned-out piece of stream-of-consciousness writing. (Yes, I know they are supposed to be mutually exclusive.) But you end up getting caught up in the author's quest and have to keep reading the book. Even if it is pretty scattered.

Basically, for my tastes, the book seemed a little too self-serving on the part of the author. And I think the self-revelation and self-discovery belonged in a psychologist's office instead of the pages of this interesting crime documentary. But the net effect of the book is mesmerizing, in the way voyeurism might be mesmerizing.

So my ego and my id still give it two thumbs up.

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