Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good manners...and a sprawling literary tradition

Michigan pulls in four spots on Anna Clark's list of thirteen high-profile books whose Midwest influence is often overlooked. Her article in the Book Beast wonders: why do we have Southern Gothic novels, Westerns, New York stories, etc., but no talk of the literature coming from this "overlooked, but nonetheless mythic, landscape"?

First thing, Anna, it's the Midwest, not the mystical Land of Oz. Second, yeah! Yeah! Let's talk about how awesome and literary the Midwest is!

Here are the Michiganders she mentions:
  • American Salvage takes place in rural southwest Michigan, written by Bonnie Jo Campbell, who lives in Kalamazoo;
  • Middlesex is set in Detroit and in this writer's hometown of Grosse Pointe (the street Middlesex is about half a mile from my childhood home), written by Jeffrey Eugenides, who was born in Detroit;
  • Eden Springs takes place in Benton Harbor and was written by Lauren Kasischke, who lives in Chelsea; and, perhaps most notably,
  • them, written by former Wayne State University professor Joyce Carol Oates, is set in Detroit.
I would have added Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver, the pen name of Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, and Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard (though that novel is set in Miami).

Anything else?


  1. Freshwater Boys by Adam Schuitema, True North by Jim Harrison, and Please Don't Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakopoulos.

  2. The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

  3. Dennis Johnson isn't from the Midwest, but Jesus' Son takes place in Iowa (among other Midwest-ish states).

    One of my all-time favorite sentences:

    "Under midwestern clouds like great gray brains we left the superhighway with a drifting sensation and entered Kansas City's rush hour with a sensation of running aground"

    — “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” from Jesus’ Son