Setting and Atmosphere

Out here in the small towns of southeastern Illinois—these Podunk farming towns where we’re eager to burst out of our teenage years and into our adult lives—the nights belong to the young. It’s 1974, and I’m eighteen. We’re on the cusp of spring—that awkward time in early March in the Midwest when it can be…

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Writing the Familiar Landscape

Target, Walmart, PetSmart, Famous Footwear, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, and on and on and on, this gathering of stores and restaurants that make up the strip malls and shopping centers of our communities. Set me down here or there in our country, and I’ll find myself in familiar environs. What does such homogeneity mean for…

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A Tourist in a Familiar Place: Making Our Settings Distinct

Cathy and I live in a suburban subdivision that was supposed to have Trick or Treat last Thursday, but, because it was cold and rainy, our homeowners’ association took matters into its own hands, and we decided to postpone Trick or Treat until Saturday. So yesterday evening in sunshine and much warmer temperatures we sat…

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Writing the Worlds We Know Best

Many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, I drove from Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I was living at the time, to my native southeastern Illinois for the Christmas holidays. I was in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas at the time, and we were on semester break. The drive took ten hours,…

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