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what is and what should never be

April 14, 2010

This past weekend I went to Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, where I went to college.  I hadn’t been back in nearly 3 years, this being the first time I’d ever been in Iowa City when I didn’t have friends who lived in town.  I know you’re thinking – it’s what everyone thinks when I mention Iowa City – how boring that town must be.  But it’s not, and it’s that overlooked status that gives part of Iowa City its charm.  Iowa City actually has the most cultural events per capita of any city in the country, and is home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the most prestigious graduate writing program in the country.  I happened to be in town for a conference; as a senior I completed a year-long thesis on EL Doctorow’s Ragtime, and the professor I worked with is retiring.

This was the first time I’d ever returned to a place I had lived a long time and left.  It wasn’t like returning to my parents’ house after college, to which I had returned every break and summer and which therefore changed as a place in front of my eyes.  Returning to Iowa City felt like skipping through time, and I myself felt like my father when he drives through the streets of Chicago that he used to live in – I was constantly pointing out what had changed and what used to be.  There’s a real melancholy to returning to a place you used to know, a stark realization that the past has escaped you and that you’ll never again be in that place, with those people, dreaming about what’s to come.  It’s even more wistful to see the new students that have come through, taking your place in your apartment, your classrooms, your favorite bars and cafes.  Enough sappiness, though, as returning back to a place can remind you of all that you hoped to accomplish when you were leaving; reflecting on what you’ve done since then can bring a satisfaction as promising as the memories of what once was.

No. 264: 4/14/2010

Don’t go back to the old front.

– Ernest Hemingway, in coversation

No. 265: 4/13/2010

No. 266: 4/12/2010

The writer isn’t made in a vacuum. Writers are witnesses. The reason
we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.

– E.L. Doctorow

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