Cover image for Across an inland sea : writing in place from Buffalo to Berlin
Across an inland sea : writing in place from Buffalo to Berlin
Howe, Nicholas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
207 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PE64.H69 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PE64.H69 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PE64.H69 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Buffalo Collection Non-Circ

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How do the places we live in and visit shape our lives and memories? What does it mean to reside in different locations across the span of a life? In richly textured portraits of places seen from within, Nicholas Howe contemplates how places create and gather their stories and how, in turn, a sense of place locates the stories of our own lives.

Howe begins with one of the finest descriptions ever written of Buffalo, that city on an inland sea where he grew up. He gives us a fresh Paris, viewed from the river below. And he depicts Oklahoma as a site of open lands and dislocation--a place of coming and going. Howe then turns to Chartres, a traditional location of pilgrimage, to ask what other sites might still be capable of compelling visitors in secular time. He portrays Berlin as a scene of twentieth-century history--and a city that helped him make sense of his American life. Finally, he writes about Columbus, Ohio, as home. Vividly rendering the places he has known, Howe meditates on the weight of home, the temptations of the metropolis, the fact of dislocation, the unraveling of history, the desire to remake ourselves through voyage, and the wonder of the familiar.

In ways that too often elude travel writers, it is place that holds our imagination, that inspires much of our art and literature. Across an Inland Sea evokes the various senses of place that can fill and haunt a life--and ultimately give life its form and meaning.

Author Notes

Nicholas Howe is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His writings on place and travel have appeared widely in such periodicals as Southwest Review, Yale Review, Dissent, and The New Republic . In addition to publishing various works on medieval literature, he has edited Iriving Howe's A Critic's Notebook.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though Howe takes readers from Buffalo, N.Y., to Paris and from Oklahoma to Chartres, Berlin and Columbus, Ohio, in these elegant essays, his is not a travelogue in the traditional sense, but rather a deeply felt, meditative exploration of the "power that places have over us." A medievalist and professor of English at UC Berkeley, Howe reveals a gift for capturing the modern-day pilgrimage. "Journey, story and metaphor alike," he writes, "draw from the same need: to move from point to point in the hope of discovery." Howe's discoveries take the form of little epiphanies-about the way to see a city with fresh eyes, about the writing about place and memory-and are the stops along the way that he meticulously relates to his readers, so that, in the end, his journey becomes his reward. Howe's references are often literary-Kafka, Roland Barthes, Flaubert-but his accounts are clear and thoughtful, and his wit helps make his narrative work accessible. His opening chapter about his family's-and his own-history in and relationship to Buffalo during its recent decline is stunning in its breadth of understanding and melancholy, while his elegy to Columbus's High Street reveals a striking depth of feeling for a main drag marked by fast food chains and ethnic restaurants, student hang-outs and underused parks. This graceful volume will be especially meaningful to writers, but it should appeal to anyone who muses about authenticity in a place or people. 6 halftones. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Inland Sea: Buffalo and Beyondp. 1
Chapter 2 The View from the River: Parisp. 41
Chapter 3 Openlands: Oklahomap. 73
Chapter 4 Pilgrimage Sites: Starting from Chartresp. 109
Chapter 5 The Place of History: Berlinp. 141
Chapter 6 Writing Home: High Streetp. 167
Afterword: Writing in Placep. 193
Acknowledgmentsp. 199
Notesp. 203