Thursday, December 3, 2015

Learning the genius of tasting a place

The Soul of Place : A Creative Writing Workbook: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci
Linda Lappin
June 22, 2015
9781609521035, 160952103X
Publisher: Travelers’ Tales/Solas House
$16.95 USD, $20.99 CAD, £11.99 GBP, €12.99 EUR
256 pages

Visiting a place and posting a pic online is one of the first orders of travel.  The next is writing a blog and the more adventurous write travel books.  How many of us actually capture what is called the genius loci, the soul of the place?
The Soul of Place - A Creative Writing Workbook: Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci is the long title of Linda Lapin’s book.
Essentially, it is a guidebook designed for writers and other creatives as to how to go about capturing the power of a place.  How do you capture the spirit of your hometown or a destination?
That she has boiled down the essence of this challenge, and how to fix it, into 256 pages is remarkable.  Material gathered over many years’ of research into “place consciousness” is used as the basis for the work based on observation and writing exercises.
Lappin asks: If the soul of place had a voice, how would it sound, what stories would it tell? 
She notes how D.H. Lawrence remarked that a view of a place was not only beautiful but it also had meaning.  One of the themes of Lawrence’s fiction was the sacred link between identity and place and the devastation that follows when that link is broken, contaminated or exploited for economic gain.
“Are there places that give you a sense of wholeness and empowerment, or where you feel really you?  Others where you feel depleted, sad, or anonymous?” Lappin asks as part of one of the exercises. 
This is an ambitious book – taking in everything from food writing to writing and the unconscious.  It is also practical, as illustrated in the section headed “A final thought about your writing space”. 
I have been trying to make lemon marmalade, a seemingly simple task but one with hidden nuances that only come known through practice.  The recipe is fine but the art is in the practice.
Anybody reading The Soul of Place in search of a simple recipe for recreating a place will by tested.  The challenge is to be more sensitive. 
Lappin opens the way for writers and other creatives trying to find their way in.  This does require more than merely flicking a switch and boiling up the ingredients.

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