Borges’ Travel, Hemingway’s Garage

Excerpt

from Borges’ Travel, Hemingway’s Garage

According to this tongue-in-cheek travel guide, Toulouse-Lautrec, with the aid of one M. Menottes, a benefactor and fellow brothel-goer, opened a little shop in Brussels called Lautrec Handbags. Virginia Woolf, in an effort to find a place for her feminist squad to convene, established a cafe called A Room of One’s Own—after her not-yet-published book—which, after her death, was renamed Virginia Woolf’s Restaurant and went from specializing in vegetarian foods for the literati to pushing burger specials to tourists. And the proof? Axelrod, a professor of English and comparative literature at Chapman University and the author of The Poetics of Novels, includes black-and-white photographs of each business named for these celebrities of Western civilization, plus an array of footnotes and a general air of breezy certainty. “After the initial publishing of Don Quixote, Cervantes fell into a kind of post-partum depression,” he writes, and goes on to explain how Cervantes opened an eponymous institute in Orange, Califonia, specializing in “psychological problems associated with male mid-life crisis.” Some 40-odd other little tales, none over two pages—concerning businesses established by Hemingway (the titular garage), Camus (cognac), Racine (Danish Kringles™), Joyce (pub), Van Gogh (potatoes), Bukowski (jewelry) and Shakespeare (monofilaments)—make up the rest of the volume. It’s a sly, original idea carried, perhaps, a bit too far: the volume offers good browsable bits rather than an absorbing narrative. But it amuses—and may even momentarily confuse the credulous looking for signs of La Comédie humaine outside Balzac’s Balls in Newport Beach, Calif. (Apr.)