Saturday, May 17, 2008

Georgia Books--A Literary Travel Guide for Georgia?

Earlier this week, I read an article in the Atlanta Jounral-Constitution about the success that the Georgia Department of Economic Development was having in using Georgia's literary heritage to attract international tourism to Georgia.

The piece appears in the AJC 5/13/08 edition (see 'Georgia entices British travelers with big dose of the South, Gone With the Wind piques interest abroad').

This got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be great to have a Literary Travel Guide for the entire State of Georgia?

So, I sent the following letter to an official at the Department of Economic Development who was named in the AJC article:

Kevin Langston
Assistant Commissioner for Tourism
Georgia Department of Economic Development
75 Fifth Street, NW Suite 1200
Atlanta, Georgia 30308

Dear Commissioner Langston,

I recently read an article in the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution that discussed your agency’s efforts to attract international (and, I assume, domestic) tourists to Georgia using our state’s rich literary history (‘Georgia entices British travelers with big dose of South, Gone With the Wind piques interest abroad’, AJC, 5/13/08). Having spent the past decade in the Georgia book trade—and having spent time as a teacher and director of a small Georgia chamber of commerce—I applaud your efforts to promote our state in this way.

Reading the article, I wondered what the total economic contribution to our state has been from the works of authors Margaret Mitchell, Pat Conroy, James Dickey, Alfred Uhry, Alice Walker, John Berendt, and Tom Wolfe alone. Does your agency maintain such statistics?

When one adds up the total economic contribution of Georgia’s entire literary community over the decades—and centuries—I expect that it would be quite a figure. Georgia’s literary resources (Georgia writers, books by Georgians or about Georgia) are certainly worth shouting about, not just in terms of the works themselves, but also including the personal stories of the authors, the State geography and history associated with their works, the national attention that their collective works have drawn to the State, the film adaptations of their works, and the range of subject matter about which they have written and continue to write.

I am curious to know if the Georgia Department of Economic Development has ever considered—or is perhaps currently considering—the creation of a guide to Georgia’s literary people and places? Some wonderful publications do already exist. One of the best examples must certainly be
The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature by Hugh Ruppersburg and John Inscoe, and published in 2007 by the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press.

However, the example that most readily comes to mind is
The Best of Georgia Farms Cookbook and Tour Book by Fred Brown and Sherri Smith, and published in 1998 by CI Publishing and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The book is a wonderful collection of recipes, and combines Georgia history, contributions by notable Georgians, illustrations, and relevant and interesting travel recommendations.

Regretfully, and to the best of my knowledge,
The Best of Georgia Farms is no longer in print. This is too bad, as I know from personal experience that it was hugely popular and a regular local interest bestseller. Please let your counterparts at the Department of Agriculture know that the State’s booksellers sorely miss the book. Perhaps the Department of Agriculture would consider a new, updated edition—one that would also take into account the increasing interest in locally produced agricultural products, organic farming, and the drought?

I can assure you that a similar title, devoted to Georgia’s rich literary history, would be hugely popular with Georgia’s booksellers and educators, not to mention Georgia’s writers and publishers. Perhaps it could include writings by some of our State’s notable authors, or information pertaining to important literary sites and venues? The only trouble you would likely encounter would be trying to decide who and what to include in it.


Some recommended reads:

The Pat Conroy Cookbook by Pat Conroy

Literary Savannah by Patrick Allen

No comments: