In response to Casey Pycior's book review and writing discussions blog, "The Story is the Cure," I wrote a little something about writing that is deemed "midwestern." Never having considered this, though I've lived in "the midwest" for over twenty years (eighteen in Ohio and two in Iowa), I thought it was time. If I consider myself a southern writer, having been raised in the Gulf Coast region, then what comprises a midwestern writer?
Here's what I told Casey:
To me, midwestern writing is broad and expansive. It offers a view without boundaries, train rides that go on and on, cornfields and flights of geese that extend beyond the horizon. Midwestern writing is Willa Cather and Louise Erdrich, Sherwood Anderson and Mark Twain, Jane Smiley, Jonathan Franzen, Marilynne Robinson, and Lee Martin. Midwestern writing doesn't seek out shade and something cool to drink the way southern writing does; it roams and meanders without the need to rush headlong down subway stairs, the way east coast stories do; it doesn’t have to be coastal and effervescent in the manner of the west coast. It is sure-footed and sure-minded and keeps the company of truth and prairie grass and Norwegian farmers.
I might say that My Ántonia, or Winesberg, Ohio, or A Thousand Acres, or even The Corrections wins the “most midwestern” writing prize. That’s a tough one. I might throw the favorites into the air and watch as Gilead and The Bright Forever land among the corn tassels. It’s too difficult, though, and I despise decisions. So instead, I gather them, happy for the armload of novels and story collections – a few slim, most weighted and thick with pages, all of them Midwestern – amazed that summer is wide open and as welcoming as these books.
If you'd like to respond yourself, with the plus of possibly winning Lee Martin's upcoming novel, Break the Skin, here's the link: