On the Dial | The Midwest
As we (Americans) approach the November election, the Midwest gets the spotlight once again. Only to shine again when they test the Triple Stacked Cheeto Big Mac before hitting markets world-wide. The Midwest is so uniquely forgettable and necessary. I recently read an essay at Vol. 1 Brooklyn by Anne Valente which highlights her decision to write and not write about the Midwest. When beginning her MFA program, Valente says:
I steered clear of writing about my hometown—or really about the Midwest at all. I wrote magic and surrealism. I wrote Alaska and Maine, and only one story about Ohio, where I ended up living for six years, the closest I ever came to writing about home. I didn’t want my work to be autobiographical, especially as a woman.
It wasn't until Valente lived in Utah for several years that she was able to write and re-visit the "cicada-choked summer nights" of her hometown (St. Louis):
I understand the beauty of writing the Midwest, what I avoided for so many years. The Midwest is not solely a conglomerate of flyover states. I never thought it was, but I also never thought to write a landscape I knew so well into my fiction. Doing so has hopefully suffused my creative work with a richness beyond autobiography, a sense of region that–like all regions–is worth delving into, exploring, and setting down on the page.
Anne Valente's debut novel, Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down, just dropped this month by William Morrow/HarperCollins.
Someone I have written about previously, and someone who so eloquently represents the region, is Ohio's own Hanif Willis-Abdurraq. His essay for MTV News on Lydia Loveless explores not only music, but place. In particular, Loveless's Midwestern influence. A current resident of Connecticut, Hanif explains how East Coast "bluntness is the edge of the cliff with nothing below." In talking about Midwestern bluntness, he so poignantly states:
Loveless operates in a brand of bluntness that serves the Midwestern art of storytelling: Some edges are sharp and some lines are clipped, but there is the promise of an entire experience on the other side.