What is it like to read a literary work in the place where it is set? To read John Steinbeck‘s The Grapes of Wrath in the Oklahoma panhandle? Or Bruce Chatwin‘s In Patagonia in Patagonia? Robert Macfarlane recently asked followers on Twitter for their personal experiences of what he calls “in situ reading”, and has managed to collect all kinds of examples:

“So the thread grew and spread into a glorious scatter of micro-geographies, a many-sited memory map of located readings. I only joined Twitter in March, after a lifetime in social media purdah. I don’t know why I waited so long. The small region of Twitter-terrain into which I’ve wandered is, so far, a place of community spirit, exchange, kindness, good humour and hope.”

— Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian

In an inspired move, Penguin Modern Classics have repackaged John Steinbeck‘s epic accounts of American life with Polaroids by early-twentieth-century photographer, Walker Evans:

“For the covers, Penguin Picture Editor Sam Johnson turned to the work of Walker Evans and, in particular, his striking series of 2,650 Polaroid pictures that he took in 1973, two years before his death.

Some of Evans’ most famous photographs, shot during the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), connected his work intimately to the struggles of American farming families in the 1930s – a time when Steinbeck was also writing some of his most celebrated works and addressing similar themes. In Dubious Battle, the the first of his ‘Dustbowl trilogy’, was published in 1936 and was followed by Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Having previously dismissed colour photography, it seems that Evans embraced the Polaroid SX-70 and looked anew at the America he had depicted throughout his life. For Johnson the connection with Steinbeck was obvious – but she was keen to come at the depiction of America from a different angle.”

— Mark Sinclair, Creative Review

Source: The New York Times.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath gave Route 66 its nickname. The iconic two-lane road that connects Chicago to Los Angeles was first dubbed the “Mother Road” by Steinbeck. “66 is the mother road, the road of flight,” he wrote, capturing the sense of hope and redemption families felt as they escaped the Dust Bowl states. [Source]