(Review) Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas by Denis Wood
Originally published June 3, 2013
This revised and expanded edition of Wood’s (The Power of Maps) 2010 atlas and essay collection [“Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas“] further emphasizes the poetic possibilities often dormant in the world of cartography and geography. It’s an idiosyncratic, loving take on his neighborhood of Boylan Heights in Raleigh, North Carolina. Stripped of their practical or navigational information, Wood’s maps document information such as the locations of Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, newspaper delivery routes, and the frequency of 911 calls. The accumulated information and obsessively essayistic maps intimately portray Wood’s neighborhood while bringing to the forefront the constantly changing cultural and historical forces that shape it. These maps—which Wood smartly frames as “narrative atlas”—have earned the original text a devoted fan base in literary, geographical, and art communities. The new edition productively mines the questions raised by the atlas, with Wood celebrating and challenging both the history of mapmaking and the history of the neighborhood itself; his understanding of each to be firmly interrelated. Writers Blake Butler, Ander Monson, Albert Mobilio, and Ira Glass contribute their own queries into mapmaking’s radical potential. The enthusiasm catches, and “the cosmos as seen through the knot-hole of a neighborhood” offers an arresting chance to reconsider our own transformative relationships to place and landscape.