Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Midwest as the Leading Cradle of Writers

'A few years ago, sitting on a panel at the Midwestern Modern Language Association conference in Cleveland, I asserted that there have been more great American writers from the Midwest than from the rest of the country put together. At a literary gathering in New York, you could call New York the literary capital of America and people will stroke their chins and nod, irked only that you felt the need to say something so self-evident. Brag up Southern writers here in the south--at a literary gathering, a barbeque joint, a gas station, anywhere, and you can expect bourbon glasses raised in assent, and at least one hoot of "hell, yeah!" But I started riffing on the preeminence of the midwestern writer in the Midwest, in front of people who taught English at a university somewhere in the Midwest (everyone but me, and I used to), and the audience actually gasped. What about the South, you moron? What about New England? Ever hear of New York? Nice places, I said. But from Missourian Mark Twain on (as Chicagoan Ernest Hemingway said, "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn"), the Midwest has been the largest supplier of high-test American literature.'
--From former John Carroll University English prof Mark Winegardner's afterword in the new book Good Roots--Writers Reflect on Growing Up in Ohio, published by Ohio University Press. "Wino," who grew up in tiny Bryan, Ohio, home of Dum Dum suckers and the Etch-a-Sketch, now teaches at Florida State University. A couple of years ago, he was selected from among thousands of writers to write a sequel to The Godfather. Sometime soon I'll post a Q&A I did with him some years ago, published in the Cleveland Edition.


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