Anne Trubek isn't sure which type of "literary pilgrimage" is worse--the one where you arrive at an author's home to find it filled with useless tchotchkes and picturesque bits of Victoriana not actually owned by the author, or the one where visitors "try to bribe the tour guides at Hemingway's house in Key West to let them type on his typewriter, as if the author's genius had somehow infused his tools." The first is inauthentic schmaltz. The second is "fetishism, pure and simple. Why obsess about these meaningless objects when the full force of any writer's genius is always available, right there, in his actual work?"
Actually, that's Laura Miller at Salon paraphrasing Trubek's point. She agrees--sort of. Responding to Trubek, she contends, however, that there can be value in viewing artists' homes—namely as a way to remember that they were just human:
I, for one, don't visit writers' houses in a religious frame of mind, expecting to encounter objects that have been transfigured into relics by their contact with a divine presence. My motivation is entirely the opposite; I want to be inoculated against any tendency toward idol worship via a reminder that even genius is a product of flesh and blood. For me, it's the mundanity that gives most writers' houses their charm. I don't much care if all the objects are authentic, especially if the originals were pretty generic and undistinguished to begin with. In a way, the humbler, the better -- and nothing is humbler than the interchangeable.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.