Dec 14, 2014

The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey

I don't think my eyes have rolled so much while reading since I read "Shantaram." Ostensibly about Gilbert Bland, the man who stole hundreds of antiquarian maps from libraries across the U.S. during the 1990s, "The Island of Lost Maps" is overburdened with Harvey's navel-gazing. I wanted this book to be like "The Billionaire's Vinegar" or "The Orchid Thief," but instead it devolves into psychobabble about how maps are an allegory of the human fear of the unknown, both internal and external (duh); how Harvey's search for answers to why Bland would do such a thing parallels Bland's crimes themselves (eh...maybe); and how Harvey's attempt to understand Bland, as well as Harvey's understanding of himself, is exactly like Bland in key ways (quite a stretch, if you ask me). The crimes are fascinating, as is the history of maps (which we do get a lot of), but I barely found those parts worth wading through Harvey's ridiculous analogies and unfounded psychological theories. It's a silly book that could have been a really interesting book; such a shame.

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