LiteratEye #17: Travel Guide for a Dream Vacation

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Here’s the seventeenth installment of LiteratEye, a series found only on The Art of the Prank Blog, by W.J. Elvin III, editor and publisher of FIONA: Mysteries & Curiosities of Literary Fraud & Folly and the LitFraud blog.

[Editor’s note: This piece brings to mind ComaCocoon. In 1990, Dr. Joseph Schlafer (aka Joey Skaggs) offered the world’s first comprehensive dream vacation package. Its purpose being to combat the ever increasing risk involved in traveling away from home, as well as the negative effects of tourism on native environments.

Utilizing the revolutionary and totally safe pioneering BioImpression(tm) computer system, the company would, at its New York City facility, provide a state of total suspended animation and intensive, concentrated regeneration through anesthesiology and subliminal programming. The resulting subpoenas added a layer of reality to this dream vacation. Read more about it here.]

LiteratEye #17: Travel Guide for a Dream Vacation
By W.J. Elvin III
June 12, 2009

the-wizard-of-oz-200Don’t know about you, but I figure to be spending summer vacation in my head. It’s not just a matter of economy. There are lots of advantages to head travel. Like, you get back home without neat souvenirs like swine flu, STDs or bomb-fragment tattoos.

Of course, unless you’re relying on private visions, you’d probably need a guidebook. The best guidebook I’ve found, far and away, is The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (Expanded Edition) by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi. This is a big, hefty book, rich in text, illustrations and maps.

The editors put some boundaries on the scope of their work. After all, fiction is chocked full of imaginary places. They do not, for example, include realms from the future. They left out real locations in disguise, like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha. But they also put fun ahead of rigid rules, so some locations are in there just because the editors found them fascinating.

As with a conventional travel guide, from time to time there’s helpful advice to the traveler. You get tipped off if you might run into pirates or cannibals. And, just so you don’t lose your head in some far off corner of the dream-world, it’s advised in one locale to show respect for royalty by rubbing your nose on the ground.

As we saw in last week’s column on Poyais, a couple of hundred years ago it wasn’t easy to verify reports of distant lands. So, often an imaginary location was first believed to actually exist and only later exposed as fabrication or unfounded fable.

Some locations are described in a brief paragraph, others in extensive detail. Considerable ink is devoted to settings concocted by J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin. Many of the destinations are likely familiar to most readers. Places like Atlantis, Camelot, and Oz. But others filling out the 1,000 or so entries are more than a tad obscure.

Among those I’d never heard of:

  • Agzceaziguls, in the far north of Chile, whose inhabitants practice human sacrifice and various unspeakable religious rites “¦
  • Capillaria, populated by gigantic blonde women who devour the small, defenseless ‘bullpops,’ creatures in the shape of male sexual organs “¦
  • London-on-Thames, inhabited by an old gorilla who believes he is Henry the Eighth, and his ape-wives “¦
  • Pauk, an empty room inhabited only by a giant spider “¦
  • Nimpatan, repository of such treasures of the human spirit as the complete works of Jaqueline Susann and the wardrobe of Pierre Cardin “¦
  • Malacovia, home of ferocious Tartars mounted on bicycles “¦
  • The imagined realm as often as not is a vehicle for political or moral satire. In one land, only the officially recognized opinion on any given subject is tolerated. In another, all inhabitants wear identical masks. I invented two places myself while reading the book: Repressia and Libidinia. That came from reading about lands where sexual activity is rigorously regulated, and others where the fires of passion are stoked en masse, in communal frolics.

    But back to the book. In the land of Entelechy, we learn, the Queen performs all her natural functions by proxy.

    In another fun country, giants hit each other over the head with hammers when angry, but there’s no damage because of their thick skulls.

    The Garamanti of the Afghan mountain region appear to be a practical bunch. They have six laws. Anyone proposing an additional law is put to death.

    My informal survey shows banishment of men as an all too popular theme. Or males are kept as slaves or prisoners. They are usually required to perform routine procreative chores and then, often enough, dispensed with brutally.

    However, on Neopie Island in the south Atlantic, the Gynomactidians are likely to kill foreign women. The editors thoughtfully warn: “Female travelers are therefore advised to keep away from this island.”

    The revised edition concludes with entries submitted by readers since the book was first published. Among these is Fluorescente, chronicled by a French author in the 1930s, where it is forbidden to dream of accosting women in the streets.

    In trying to decide my itinerary, I was drawn to Grand Duchy. Its inhabitants spend their days imitating each other.


    (Copyright 2009 WJE, exclusive to The Art of the Prank, for reprint rights contact

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