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In the Memory of the Map

A Cartographic Memoir (Sightline Books)

Christopher Norment


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Throughout his life, maps have been a source of imagination and wonder for Christopher Norment. Mesmerized by them since the age of eight or nine, he found himself courted and seduced by maps, which served functional and allegorical roles in showing him worlds that he might come to know and helping him understand worlds that he had already explored.

Maps may have been the stuff of his dreams, but they sometimes drew him away from places where he should have remained firmly rooted. In the Memory of the Map explores the complex relationship among maps, memory, and experience—what might be called a “cartographical psychology” or “cartographical history.” Interweaving a personal narrative structured around a variety of maps, with stories about maps as told by scholars, poets, and fiction writers, this book provides a dazzlingly rich personal and intellectual account of what many of us take for granted.

A dialog between desire and the maps of his life, an exploration of the pleasures, utilitarian purposes, benefits, and character of maps, this rich and powerful personal narrative is the matrix in which Norment embeds an exploration of how maps function in all our lives. Page by page, readers will confront the aesthetics, mystery, function, power, and shortcomings of maps, causing them to reconsider the role that maps play in their lives.

Praise For In the Memory of the Map: A Cartographic Memoir (Sightline Books)

“Anyone who has ever been moved by the lure and fascination of maps—the wilder coastlines, the farther mountains, the road to somewhere—will find this book a bracing excursion. How the hard facts of the hills meet the map-lover’s boots, on the ground or in the imagination, is the seductive territory of this deeply felt and richly lived book.”—Robert Michael Pyle, author, Mariposa Road

“Throughout Christopher Norment’s life, maps have shown paths through physical and metaphorical terrains—from youth through adulthood and from home territories into wildernesses of harsh and stunning beauty. Most important, the author’s cartographic fascination has led him to experience those rare transcendent moments in which he could relish maps’ opposite: the gape of the infinite. Norment’s ranging intelligence makes In the Memory of the Map a lovely, well-charted journey.”—Katharine Harmon, author, The Map as Art

“A sensuously lucid memoir built from a lifelong and loving relation with cartography, In the Memory of the Map brings forward a writer revising and coming to terms with life through the practice and spirit of location. A stunning meditation for readers wishing to explore how maps and personal experience are interwoven.”—Tom Conley, author, The Self-Made Map

“Christopher Norment has produced a wonderful book blending a memoir of personal challenges and growth with a nonfiction account of maps he has encountered over his lifetime. Norment’s writing style doesn’t simply tell a story—it evokes the sights, smells, and feelings of the places. I am constantly conjuring my own history as I read his.”—Fred Swanson, USDA Forest Service

University Of Iowa Press, 9781609380779, 262pp.

Publication Date: March 15, 2012

About the Author

Christopher Norment is a professor of environmental science and biology at SUNY College at Brockport, where he specializes in the breeding biology and ecology of migratory birds. In addition to numerous scientific articles, he is the author of Return to Warden’s Grove: Science, Desire, and the Lives of Sparrows (Iowa, 2008) and In the North of Our Lives: A Year in the Wilderness of Northern Canada. He lives with his wife and children in Brockport, New York.