It’s hard to resist an encounter with the toilet that could have inspired an unrivaled knack for word choice.
How else do you explain our interest in touring writers’ houses?
As a child of bookworm parents, I often experienced such tours during family vacations.
I remember most of them in the context of too-talkative guides and odd smells.
I’ve forgotten the furniture’s intricacies, not to mention which homes were on my parents’ “must see” list.
Now, however, I’ve developed my own set of voyeuristic tendencies — and fortunately, there’s a bookworm-oriented website to feed my addiction.
Writers’ Houses is an online database designed as a one-stop shop for information about — you guessed it — deceased writers’ houses.
The recently unveiled website tells readers, “Writers’ Houses seeks, in time (and crossing fingers), to document all writers’ houses open to the public in the world.”
It’s a pretty large undertaking, since the site notes that apparently nearly 300 writers’ houses exist in France alone.
Writers’ Houses relies on contributing writers and editors. You can browse the directory by author or by place.
Visit the site now and you’ll find frequent updates about featured residences.
For example, John Steinbeck’s house in Salinas, Calif., includes a gourmet restaurant that serves lunch.
Posts range from essays to trivia. Check out the item about J.D. Salinger’s toilet being up sale on eBay.
What drives the site’s appeal?
Naturally, there’s the basic fascination with entering a public figure’s private sphere.
Entertainment Weekly’s book blog accurately calls Writers’ Houses a more sophisticated version of MTV’s “Cribs,” a TV show that takes viewers inside celebrities’ homes.
I’d argue the fascination is even deeper when it comes to writers’ lives, which are often overshadowed by the characters they create.
What’s more, readers often need to attribute a writers’ creativity to a concrete source — say, a bedroom window with a unique view or a spacious backyard isolated from childhood playmates.
Writers’ Houses points to a common literary connection between work and place.
Since novels in particular often leave room for varied interpretations, seeing an author’s backdrop to genius might bolster an analysis of his or her texts.
And under that belief, you’re free to over-analyze the bathrooms.
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.