A different kind of guide book

by Yule Heibel on October 20, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I purchased Rebecca Kennel‘s new guidebook, Victoria Bench by Bench. This is a really great “little” book – not so little when you start unpacking it! From the backcover (and website):

In Victoria—Bench by Bench, Rebecca Kennel takes you on her journey of discovery in and around spectacular Victoria, British Columbia. Visit historic sites and gardens; cemeteries and viewpoints; shipyards and restored creeks. Using pieces of local history and personal reflections, she introduces you to over 60 benches and inspires curiosity and creativity.

What you discover when you dive in is a different kind of guidebook. Yes, there are maps and historical facts and descriptions: all the traditional guidebook trappings. But Rebecca also added journal entries – thoughts on what she observed and thought as she used the benches she describes. Sitting in Market Square, she observed a feather falling down from overhead, and a sparrow snatching it in midair:

A treasure to line her nest. I have to keep my eyes open all the time to see the treasures. Maybe I’ll just sit here and wait for my treasure to fall from heaven. A gift to me that I will only receive if my eyes are wide open. Sitting. Waiting. Seeing.

In other words, this guidebook gives you the “outer” (description, locale, historical facts), but also an “inner” (one particular person’s). There’s no attempt to fuse the two – they are simply juxtaposed. But in the juxtaposition, both gain impact. Really a lovely way to structure guidance…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

maria October 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

Sounds like a good book, and an interesting technique for bringing place alive. Cities are all about movement and crowds and density (at least in theory), so the idea of exploring place from the point of view of a bench and with a bench as the focus of each small destination, reminds me of psychoanalysis as applied to space and place.

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