Migratory Journeys through Laura Miller’s “Literary Wonderlands”

Myra here.

I originally intended to share this title for our #Metareading theme, but I realized that with just a stretch of the imagination, tucking in a corner of fantasy world here, and a nip in one’s flights of fancy there, I can just about claim that this will still fit our current reading theme on “Writing Home” – because aren’t we all just trying to get back to the fictional worlds of our existence? Or so I claim.


Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through The Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created

General Editor: Laura Miller
Published by: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2016
ISBN-10: 0316316385 (ISBN13: 9780316316385)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is a fairly ambitious book-about-books project that endeavoured to gather together the supposedly iconic fantastical works created across much of Western literature from 1700 BCE to the present time. It is no wonder that it took me weeks to finish this 320-paged tome of a book (admittedly I was able to finish a few other novels during the time that I was reading this, but I digress).

The book is divided across five major ages or timeline: (1) Ancient Myth and Legend which traces stories up until the 1700s, (2) Science and Romanticism: 1701-1900, (3) Golden Age of Fantasy: 1901-1945, (4) New World Order: 1946-1980, (5) The Computer Age: 1981 to the present time. The first few parts of this book was a struggle for me. I also thought that it was not as tightly edited as it should have been (caught a few typos and a few lines repeated from one section to another), and I was impatient to get to the present time so that I can begin adding to my already bursting-at-the-seams TBR stack.

While I enjoyed this work thoroughly (I could just imagine the amount of work that must have been invested to map out such a massive literary landscape), I don’t think it should be regarded as the definitive work on literary wonderlands. There are clear attempts to sample from so many countries, but realistically, one could only include so many in this compendium, and there would be so much that will be left out. It was not clear as well what criteria Miller used as she put together what she considers to be landmark fantastical worlds, but I do applaud her efforts to put together as much as she possibly could. I would have added Nick Joaquin’s surreal works to the mix:

and a few other fantastical realms that I enjoyed over the years, and one that I hope to sink my teeth into soon enough:

Nevertheless, this still introduced me to so many new books that I am hoping to find, stat! Here are just a few that caught my eye and which I immediately added to my Goodreads TBR stack:

More than anything, this book makes me want to lose myself in these literary wonderlands, because the “real world” is just way too much with us. This, right here, is my escape.

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