Allison's Book Bag

Plotted by Andrew DeGraff

Posted on: June 2, 2016

Plotted by Andrew DeGraff combines maps and essays for nineteen publications to create a literary experience. While all but one of the publications referenced are fictional, their mode varies, ranging from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, and Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. In addition, while the majority are classics, the intended audience of the publications references isn’t just limited to adults. Plotted is a unique concept, and one that appeals to me as a book nerd. Unfortunately, although I enjoyed the essays, the actual design of Plotted is of mixed quality.

The essays were actually a surprise. From the advertising, I simply expected a collection of maps. Instead each map is prefaced with a page of literary thoughts by Daniel Harmon. The essays aren’t critiques that evaluate the plot, character, and setting of the selected work. Instead Harmon focuses on the central theme of a publication, sharing his thoughts on the relevance of the writing to its time and to our modern society. Despite how the small print detracts from readability, I did highly enjoy all nineteen essays. That said, none of them of themselves are so memorable that I would purchase Plotted simply on their merits.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

The maps remain the driving force behind Plotted. At times, the maps remind of why certain classics have endured or, better yet, inspire me to seek out books with which I’m not familiar. My favorite maps are those which accompanied stories about characters who ventured behind the confines of their home and/or town. For example, I appreciated the visuals for Around the World in 80 Days and Watership Down, which brought these travel stories alive in unique ways. I also enjoyed maps which felt more traditional such as the ones for Invisible Man and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. The first depicted the various buildings wherein the story took place and numbered them. The second contained more lavish illustrations, but essentially took the form of an intricate timeline.

Map for Narrow Fellow in the Grass

Map for Narrow Fellow in the Grass

At other times, DeGraff focuses so intently on taking a creative approach to his maps that I feel more confused than engaged. For example, the ten-page map for Hamlet consists simply of five different drawings of the castle, each with bright squiggly lines that represent “the extent to which Hamlet’s madness effects the rest of the castle”. The same goes for A Christmas Carol, except it’s length has been limited to five pages. Yet at least those did hold a momentary fascination in trying to figure out all the paths, and how they interconnected, and so felt reminiscent of puzzles. My least favorite maps are that of one for Emily Dickinson’s poem A Narrow Fellow in the Grass and Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. The latter contains only an abstract drawing of the characters Lucky and Posso and made no sense to me.

Although a one-time perusal of Plotted will no doubt suffice me, I applaud DeGraff as an artist. He undertook the challenge of interpreting favorite publications through the unique medium of maps. May all of us as readers and visionaries always elect to explore the literary world in new and unusual ways.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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2 Responses to "Plotted by Andrew DeGraff"

It appears you enjoyed his interpretations too. What a unique way to to do so.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Some of his interpretations connected with me; others did. I do now feel inspired to be more creative about my own book explorations. 🙂

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