Event marks the November publication of 'A Certain Somewhere: Writers on the Places They Remember'Chestertown, MD, November 5, 2002 — Beyond the strip-malling of our national landscape, beyond the sprawl of fast-food restaurants and identical outlet stores from coast to coast, is there any place left where you can still escape into a different, quirky, unexplored America?
On November 18, an exceptional group of American writers will gather at Washington College to champion the notion that there is.
“SOMEWHERE OFF THE INTERSTATE: THE LAST GREAT AMERICAN PLACES” will be a kind of literary roadtrip, in which five nationally celebrated authors—Ann Beattie, James Conaway, Wayne Curtis, Michael Dirda, and Thomas Mallon—take their audience into mysterious, meaningful, and exotic corners of our country. The event will celebrate the November publication of A Certain Somewhere: Writers on the Places they Remember (Random House), an anthology in which writers reflect on the qualities that make a place unique—and how those qualities, in many parts of America, are now under threat.
The forum, hosted by Washington College's C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will fittingly be held in Chestertown—Maryland's historic colonial Chesapeake seaport—which has been a rallying point for the small-town historic-preservation movement in America. For more than 10 years, the town has been fighting the nation's longest-running battle against Wal-Mart, which has been trying to build a 107,000-square-foot store near Chestertown's colonial center. (Just last week, an appeals court upheld the town's preliminary victory against the retail giant.)
But the discussion on November 18 will range far beyond the Eastern Shore: from novelist Thomas Mallon's tribute to a hidden corner of New York, to Washington Post columnist Michael Dirda's memories of the gritty Ohio town where he grew up, to Ann Beattie's celebration of the acid-green-and-pink garishness of her adoptive home, Key West. These authors' essays, like the others in the collection A Certain Somewhere, originally appeared in Preservation, the award-winning magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“SOMEWHERE OFF THE INTERSTATE,” moderated by Robert Wilson, editor of A Certain Somewhere, will be held Monday, November 18, 2002, at 7:30 p.m. in Washington College's Hynson Lounge. The public is invited to this free event. A book signing will follow. The forum is co-sponsored by the College's O'Neill Literary House, Sophie Kerr Committee, and Preservation magazine.
The five participating authors were selected because of their special gift for writing about places:
Ann Beattie—“one of the most talked-about writers of the past two decades,” according to the Associated Press—is the author of more than a dozen books, including such novels as Picturing Will, Another You, and Chilly Scenes of Winter, as well as the recent short-story collection Perfect Recall: New Stories (Simon & Schuster, 2002). Beattie has been a frequent contributor to The New Yorker since selling the magazine her first short story at the age of 25 in 1974. She lives in Maine, Charlottesville, VA, and Key West.
James Conaway, an essayist, travel writer and editor, is the author of 10 books. The latest, The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land and the Battle for Napa Valley, was published in October by Houghton Mifflin. Conaway, the former Washington editor of Harper's, was recently appointed editor-in-chief of Preservation. He lives in Washington, DC.
Wayne Curtis, an accomplished travel writer and essayist, is a contributing editor of Preservation, as well as a frequent contributor to The Atlantic Monthly. His offbeat and engaging essays have covered topics from the architectural flourishes on Las Vegas casinos, to the harvesting of icebergs, to the last surviving tiki bars. He has written for Frommer's travel guides and for the Discovery Channel, and lives in Peaks Island, ME.
Michael Dirda, winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, has been an editor and columnist for the Washington Post Book World for more than 20 years. The New York Observer has called him “the best book critic in America.” A past Fulbright fellow with a Ph.D. from Cornell University, Dirda is the author of the collection Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments. He lives in Washington, DC.
Thomas Mallon is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Dewey Defeats Truman, Henry and Clara, and Two Moons, as well as nonfiction books that include Stolen Words and, most recently, Mrs. Paine's Garage: And the Murder of John F. Kennedy. As a critic, he has contributed to many publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and GQ, where he served as literary editor. John Updike has called him “one of the most interesting American novelists at work.” He lives in Westport, CT.
Moderator Robert Wilson, editor of the anthology A Certain Somewhere: Writers on the Places They Remember, was the editor of Preservation magazine from 1996 to 2002. Under his stewardship, the magazine won many awards, including the prestigious National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He is the former literary editor of Civilization magazine and has contributed essays and reviews to many publications, including The Atlantic Monthly and The American Scholar. He lives in Manassas, VA. “SOMEWHERE OFF THE INTERSTATE” is a program of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, an innovative forum for new scholarship about American history. Drawing on the special historical strengths of Washington College, the Center explores the early republic, the rise of democracy, and the manifold ways in which the founding era continues to shape the fabric of American culture. The Center is interdisciplinary, encouraging the study of traditional history alongside new approaches, and seeking to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. The Center pursues excellence in the writing and teaching of American history at all levels, and will also develop a leading role in the study of the Eastern Shore and Chesapeake Bay. For more information about C. V. Starr Center events and programs, visit the Center online http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu or call 410-810-7156.