Plotted: A Literary Atlas

Good literature and skillful storytelling have ways of leaving readers wistful with desire to join imaginary worlds. This yearning has inspired many stage, film and television adaptations and recently resulted in a collection of maps created and compiled by pop cartographer Andrew Degraff in Plotted, A Literary Atlas. Known for his colorful, engaging maps of famous movies (http://www.andrewdegraff.com/moviemaps/), Degraff decided to apply the same creativity to books. He embarked on the project with several goals. One, he wanted to tackle stories that hadn’t already been mapped, whether literally or through cinematic or television representation. Two, he wanted to portray a diversity of genres and authors from across many centuries. And finally, he wanted the maps to move beyond literary terrain and capture each book’s essence.

 

 

Beginning with The Odyssey and ending with Ursula K. Le Guin’s philosophical short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Degraff succeeds in depicting an impressive variety of literature. Authors represented include Daniel Defoe, Emily Dickinson, Jules Verne, Frederick Douglass, Flannery O’Connor and Madeline L’Engle. Some maps are straight-forward depictions of plot—Degraff dedicates a two-page spread to each of the five acts in Hamlet, using colored lines to trace the movements of the play’s characters. A similar approach is applied to A Christmas Carol through a series of maps that allow readers to follow Scrooge’s journey with each ghost.

 

 

Other maps take more creative liberties. Degraff depicts Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Mrs. Bennet. He gives each family a house and bases the heights on social standing, with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley soaring to the top and the sleazy Mr. Wickham at the bottom. When the characters marry, as they are wont to do in Austen novels, they meet between their houses, connected by driveways. Charmingly, the Bennet’s house has two doors left empty to represent the unmarried Mary and Kitty. Other books receive similarly unique renderings. In the case of Moby Dick, which has been imagined so many times, Degraff opts instead to map the ship on one page and the whale on the following.  

 

Plotted is a joy for the avid reader who will find it easy to pore over each of the 19 set of maps. “These are maps for people who seek to travel beyond the lives and places that they already know,” Degraff explains. “The goal here isn’t to become found, but only to become more lost.”