There are places, that you live in, or even visit, maybe frequently and get on very intimate terms with, and then you read stories set in those places. And you’re like “yes, exactly, I know that crossing/coffee-shop that he’s talking about, he’s got it so exactly right, the atmosphere, my god!” The book winds its way through the nooks and crannies of those places, the alleys, the shops, and you’ve seen them all, you know them all. Even though the author might not have stuck to the exact same names, you can’t ever be tricked by that, you know the spaces there better than the back of your hand, who looks at backs of their own hands anyway?
And then there are stories that you read set in remote places which you’ve never been to, no-one in your family or even immediate circle has travelled there. Read long years ago, and the details of the plots, the drama and the heartbreak, and the happiness of the endings even, have all escaped your memory. The only things that are still crystal clear are the features of the setting. The feelings that the alleyways evoked as you read about them, or the creeks, or a certain way the sunlight fell on the incoming tide or between tree trunks one afternoon. And nah, you don’t really expect to be able to visit and check it out yourself, how absurd is that? But at the same time you can’t wait to get there and see for yourself without really even articulating that thought.
However, you land up there finally. Somehow. After a little while or a lifetime. Of waiting or not thinking about it at all. And the stories aren’t there but the feelings are exactly the same and it’s like you’ve come home already. Though it’s your first time. Maybe the only time. But that’s not really important, what is paramount is that the sunlight is draping the tide in the exact same way, and the baobab or the weeping willow or daffodil or whatever looks uncannily like the one described in that book, what was its name again? Maybe the author was sitting somewhere here when he got the whole idea of writing the stuff?
Finding unvisited places in the books you’ve read come alive in front of your eyes, and finding the places you’ve lived in and loved beautifully captured within the books you read. Both so neat, such a rare thrill. Seriously lucky if you've had both those fit into your one lifetime.