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Into this seemingly lighthearted 7" 10" look into people's love affairs with maps and mapmaking, Harmon packs some serious intellectual concepts about the human impulse to locate itself in the cosmos. Under the loose and expandable categories of "Personal Geography," "At Home in the World" and "Realms of Fantasy," Harmon presents 50 four-color and 50 b&w cartographical illustrations, including Professor Eugene Turner's smily and frowny faces placed on a map of Los Angeles convey data on the unemployment rates, urban stress and racial composition of individual neighborhoods, putting substantive research in a down-to-earth guise. Ellsworth Kelly's "Fields on a Map (Meschers, Gironde)" pulls an abstract pastoral out of a real place, while Kisaburo Ohara makes an octopus-like Russia seem vividly frightening in "A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia." Kim Dingle's collection of variously erroneous maps of the United States drawn by American students are equally thought provoking. Harmon has cannily selected a variety of essays, humorous, personal, analytical: e.g., Bridget Booher's chronological "map" of every injustice done to her body, Roger Sheffer's absorbing analysis of the little maps drawn in the registers of shelters along the Appalachian Trail, and Hugh Brogan's professorial elegy for the fantastical maps that used to be printed in Arthur Ransome's children's books. Purists may dislike the way that illustrations of various maps are not linked directly to the texts; others may find it refreshing, much like the kind of map that makes you expect a new and alluring surprise around every corner. Harmon's intricate and thoughtful selections do indeed prove her point that mapmaking is as diverse and extraordinary a human act as any other.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Katharine Harmon is a principal at Tributary Books in Seattle, Washington.