Temperamentally and vocationally, I was in the wrong place. Yet I don’t regret a single day I spent there—not only because I met my wife, but because I learned to relish a simple, quiet way of living that many around us seem anxious to exceed.
We might not use the word “genius” in all these contexts, but the mystery is the same. Where did this exceptional ability come from? Is it just another trait like brown eyes or curly hair? We know only that this aptitude defies our disciplines and formulas and couldn’t have been foreseen. Bestowed upon otherwise ordinary people, genius singles them out in one salient regard. It’s a gift that the wise don’t take for granted, a revelation that might beckon each time we visit a gallery, see a movie, attend a concert, open a book.
Here are three novels about three places in the world. Each conveys not just a perfunctory setting but a web of topography, livelihoods, pastimes, and lore. And in each the experience of arriving at that place endures in memory and self-understanding.