January 8, 2014
I’m about to head off to Chicago, also about to teach my freshman seminar: “Cities.” Chicago again, New York, San Francisco. The books are the usual suspects, but not all of them (for San Francisco I’m doing neither Allen Ginsberg nor Michael Chabon, but The Maltese Falcon, also Vikram Seth’s verse novel, The Golden Gate). I might switch to LA for one year, or New Orleans, but the choices are actually pretty limited.
Could this class ever be taught the other way, based on cities associated only with one author? Oxford, Mississippi, of course, but also a strange trio of New Jersey towns: Whitman’s Camden, Williams’ Patterson, Junot Diaz’s Edison. Maybe a class called, “Not New York”?
And now there’ s this: Bethel, Maine, with a population of 2607. Richard Blanco and his partner Mark Neveu are here. Blanco was (as he said) made in Cuba, assembled in Madrid, raised in Miami; the couple had also lived in Guatemala and Washington DC. Now they’re in a house so far off the grid that even the Garmin GPS can’t find it, though close enough to town that it isn’t a strenuous hike every day to go get the mail.
I don’t actually spend a lot of time thinking about where authors live, but I’d like to think of Bethel. Blanco could never have lived there by himself (as Merrill might have — in Stonington, CT — without his partner David Jackson). So that’s what the town is: where Richard and Mark live.
I find that strangely satisfying.