Here is a partial list of resources for further investigation into themes of narrative and place-making. This fragmented offering, however, probably says more about the limitations of my education than it may be useful for your purposes. So, feel free to contribute your own insightful recommendations for books, periodicals, websites, films, etc.
BOOKS & PERIODICALS
- Little Lives by John Howland Spyker (1978): Is it a measure of anything at all to be the only person admitting on “Goodreads.com” that I have read this book and to have reviewed it? “Spyker’s cast of characters in an imagined upstate New York setting are each treated as a brief biographical sketch, a miniature masterpiece of concision. I read this long ago, but its form and intent took root and formed the basis for The Agincourt Project, my own exploration of the intense relationship between narrative and place. / Spyker is a pseudonym for author Richard Elman (1934-1997).”
- Charles Mulford Robinson (1869–19170) was a journalist-turned-city-planner who became the public face of the “City Beautiful” movement in the 1910s. Two of Robinson’s books have been useful: The Improvement of Towns and Cities. Or the Practical Basic of Civic Aesthetics (1901) and Modern Civic Art, or the City Made Beautiful (1903). Robinson produced innovative plans for renewing several regional communities like Stillwater, Minnesota and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- Lydia Davis writes short stories, often incredibly short, of astounding insight and nuance.
- Jan Morris [born 1926] is one of the finest writers of my experience. Favorites include Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (2001) and Hav (2006), the first about a real place infrequently visited and the second about an imagined place that will seem all too familiar. Any claim on my part to influence from Ms Morris is wishful thinking.
- Almost in a class by itself is the Republic of San Serriffe, off the east coast of Africa. Created by printer-typographer-bibliophile Henry Morris (proprietor of the Bird & Bull Press), San Serriffe was the subject of several books about its origins, the history of its coinage, and even of its local booksellers. Morris’s books were published in limited edition, and for First Fine Silver Coinage Republic of San Serriffe (1988) he actually had coins struck in aluminum, bronze, silver, and gold.
T.V. & FILM
- “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby” are two episodes from Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone”, each of which explores the notion of escape from mid-20th century complexity to a simpler time. The central character in each episode is harried by work and family responsibilities, and each retreats to either an idyllic youth or the fantasy world of the small town.
- “The Truman Show” sets its entire story line in the real life “New Urbanist” community of Seaside, Florida. I am no fan of New Urbanism (its economics are offensive balderdash) but can appreciate it as a kit of parts with origins in small town American. The notion that the soda jerk at the corner “Malt Shoppe,” flipping burgers and blending milk shakes, actually lives in the apartment upstairs is fatuous. At even minimum wage, the best they can afford is the trailer park ten miles down the road, next to the sanitary landfill. That “apartment” is actually a condo worth a cool quarter million.
- POSTCARDS: Is it obvious that I collect postcards? The period of their greatest popularity—1880 through the 1920s—just happens to be the period of my greatest architectural interest.
- ART: The “Community Collection” grew from the memorial gallery that was part of the 1915 public library commission. And its actual character grew from listings on eBay.
- ARTIFACTS: You’d be surprised (then again, maybe you wouldn’t) how many “things” have entered the narrative and played their part in shaping the community.
- CONFERENCE: On 27-28 February 2016, Anglia Ruskin College will host the first “First Interdisciplinary Historical Fictions Research Network Conference” to explore the very ideas we hope are inherent in the Agincourt Project. I’m happy to say that Agincourt will be represented there.