Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Small Town Opinions

For no particular reason, I find myself vigorously disagreeing with what people say about small towns.

It began when Adam Graber sent me a link to this review. I objected to several of the reviewer's notions: that small town culture is in decline (like any living culture, it's changing, not dying), that "when you want to write an epic, you set it in a city" (not sure what we're talking about--what's an example of a contemporary epic?), and that people in the Chicago suburbs call their metropolis "downtown," not "Chicago" or "the city" (here in Carol Stream, I mostly hear "the city").

None of these notions are at the heart of Crispin's review, but I'm always one to latch on to the incidental. If I come out with my small-town epic in 15 years, I'll have her to thank for getting me going. Here are some of the elements that an epic in a contemporary small town would have:

The rivalry with the small town down the road
One major employer that dominates the economy
Everyone goes to the (single) high school's sporting events
People go off to the military
The community college
The town you go to with the stores you don't have
The yearly town festival (parade, flea market, some wacky theme)
The radio station
Chautauqua/band shell
Layers of immigrant communities--anglo-saxons, scandinavians/germans, a few greek/jewish/asian merchants, latino laborers, african/asian refugees
You always know someone in the paper's obits, wedding announcements, and/or police blotter

What would you add to my list?


Jonathan said...

Small-town epics I can think of:

It's a Wonderful Life
The Odyssey (kind of a small-town epic, or at least an epic whose destination and various stops are, for the most part, small towns)
The Brothers Karamazov
The Lord of the Rings (very little of the action takes place in the "key" places or by "key" people)

Jonathan said...

P.S. If you like small-town life, watch Cranford. It's fantastic.