A Place of sense: essays in search of the Midwest by Michael Martone, David Plowden

By Michael Martone, David Plowden

Essays describe lifestyles in small cities, farming groups, and suburbs in states from Ohio to North Dakota.

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More extenuated longings in Columbus founded multiple-business establishments. Our city preserved the idea of ''both," as though a midwestern career choice meant heads and tails, and even multiples of each. We frequently passed Kennedy's, a single facade labeled in huge block letters: Marine Accessories, Fishing Supplies, Hunting Gear, Cake Decorating. Another neighborhood enjoyed the convenience of the Glorious Corner, an ex-gas-station offering its services as a Revival-Hall/Soft-Serve-Ice-Cream-Stand/Thrift Shop/Dry Cleaners.

Mrs. Gardner intended its return but, from that day forward, our room had no movie screen, no solar system, no topography to show America's ocher rocky parts or the deep-violet swirls of her oceans. Nonetheless each of us had our own country, assigned to us like our own undiscovered heritage. Our explorations had to include export products and natural resources, but a will toward extra credit supplemented cold facts with warm, almost authentic baked goods the room-mothers heated in the teachers' lounge, hotel brochures with pictures of people swimming outdoors among snow-covered mountains, and multi-colored salt maps.

Page 29 The Flatness Michael Martone They are thinking about northern Ohio, about Indiana, about the long stretch through Illinois and on into Iowa. It is flat. The geometry of the fields suggests a map as large as the thing it represents. The squared township roads score the axes of coordinates. The cusp of trees on the horizon, the water tower, the elevator are tokens slid there representing ground taken and held. The only dimension marked by Z is the state of dreaming as they drive on the interstates meandering in tangents that seek what the railroads, who were here with rulers first, called a water-level route.

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