Would it be wise to say I am not going to do 25 installments? Perhaps not. I like these bite-sized posts, and since I’ve moved to the Midwest I’ve kind of had a thing for “exploring the country” or something (says the girl who has never been west of O’Hare—yes, seriously).
As I mentioned, last week I visited Wisconsin for the very first time. Admittedly, I only got as far in as Kenosha, but it was still pretty much what I expected, and pretty much what Daphne Beal describes in her essay. She comes from a fairly prominent industrial family in Racine, and her story of Wisconsin is one of growing up in the southeast and vacationing in the northwest. Her family’s story is a good proxy for Wisconsin history, or at least Racine history, and Lake Owen in the northwest seems to be a sort of Wisconsin version of Saratoga Springs. Nice enough, but I wasn’t floored. That’s not to say anything against the state; I should note that people in Wisconsin seemed extremely nice even by Midwestern standards. A little scary, almost.
I was much more taken, though, with Susan Choi’s contribution on Indiana. For a non-New England state, I’ve spent comparatively a lot of time in Indiana. In college I dated someone from Muncie, northeast of Indianapolis, and went there several times, and when the consumption partner and I go away (as we are again this afternoon) it is to the Indiana Dunes in the northwest of the state. I kind of like Indiana a lot in a weird, totally counterintuitive way. Choi is returning to the state she grew up in to take a literary driving tour with her father, and her essay is a fascinating portrait of him and their relationship. He reminds me in some ways of my own father, and I can only hope that someday we could have a trip like that together. I mean, I kind of doubt it, but it seems like a really nice weekend. They visit a lot of places in the south, where I’ve never been and where I understand the countryside is quite different, and surprisingly no mention is made of Kurt Vonnegut. (But who knew that William Gass lived in Indiana? And that Ezra Pound did too? Probably people better informed than myself.) I especially enjoyed her descriptions of enormous insectlike farming machinery. When I drove out here I encountered these huge beasts for the first time, and was completely confused and intrigued by them. I think they may have been some sort of irrigation machine, but I swear they looked like a Chinese dragon. I was a little tired; I’d been driving a long way. Choi also notes plenty of good conservative bumper stickers, which I like to keep my eye out for in Indiana as well.
Gayle at Everyday I Write the Book Blog has collected some more info and reviews of State by State in a nice convenient post.
As I said, I’ve been having this exploring the country jones, and until I get a raise and a more reliable car, I will probably not get to make the road trip all over the west I’d really like to do. So this is my substitute. Next up (at some point): Wyoming.