Besides childcare duties and general summer fun, I've been spending the past couple of days gathering and reading the responses to my first post on the map-essay as form. Unsurprisingly, I was remarkably naive in thinking I was discovering territory many people hadn't already mined.

Also unsurprisingly, one of the first people to point this out to me was Patrick Madden, who somehow managed to find time while hiking through the UK this week to write this brief summary of the form's development after fellow essayist Liz Blood mentioned Dinty W. Moore's "Mr. Plimpton's Revenge" as a prime example: 

Joey Franklin invented the Google Maps essay, which Dinty then borrowed. Joey had a version of his essay in The Normal School later. Joey may direct you to his original. Amy Schuff Roper published a map essay called "A Catalog of Childhood Games" in The Iron Horse Literary Review last year.

He later followed up with this, exemplifying the idea of independent redundancy that he's currently developing in a forthcoming essay:

The idea of a Google Maps essay might arise independently from different people, but The Joey Franklin to Dinty W Moore trajectory is documented, as Joey was Dinty's student when Joey's car was stolen, giving rise to the idea. When I read Joey's, I thought "I gotta steal that idea!" but I haven't yet done it.

 Steven Church, whose The Normal School published "Mr Plimpton's Revenge" with full art layout and design in 2009 (available for $5 on TNS's website), took the idea and ran with it. In a wonderful fit of inspiration in response to my original post about map-essays and my earlier review of his "On Loitering," converted it to a map-essay:

And quite a few other friends gave me other references for unintended uses for Google Maps: 

  • My cousin Sky Light added a "Collection of the Coolest Uses of the Google Maps API"
  • Jeff Rosedale, the head librarian at Manhattanville College, contributed a Mashable search on "maps"
  • The greatest wealth of links came from Pat Armstrong, whom I don't know but is a Facebook friend of my compatriot Sam Twyford-Moore, Director of the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne. All of the links use Google Street Views to create pieces which are by turns beautiful, horrific, and haunting: "Address Is Approximate," a video in which an office toy uses Google Maps Street Level to view the world outside its master's office; "Hyperlapse," found animations concocted from Google Street View photos; a map-essay in the Atlantic which includes 26 photos lifted from Google Maps' Street-View images taken from the edge of its capabilities (ends of the road, edges of water, etc);, which includes "The 9 Eyes of Google Street Views, an essay, and "16 Google Street Views," a pdf book, both composed of photos taken from Google Street View photos; and something called "Monster Milktruck!" that I couldn't get to work because my Mac wouldn't install the Google Earth plugin.


Patrick Madden just let me know about Barbara Hui's wonderful map-critique of W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn , saying:

It's "criticism" of a non-map book, but it gets at the overlap, and Sebald's a wonderful example of a wanderer whose work lends itself to mapping...
I used the Hui map in planning a hike along the Sussex coast tracing Sebald's steps with this study abroad group.

You can find Hui's map-essay here, and read a NYTimes article about it here.


AuthorJohn Proctor