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Friday, August 24, 2007

87 Hawthorne Street

When I lived in Washington, I often had the slightly odd experience of reading books set in my city, knowing the intersections being discussed, being able to pick out the discrepancies, which ranged from artistic license to outright error.

In the last three years here, the only pop culture-meets-town moment has been in a movie theatre while watching Thank You for Smoking. As soon as the name Winston-Salem fell out of a character's mouth, the audience started whooping loudly with joy, a reaction that startled me, so used to the sensation of "Hey! That's my city!" was I.

This past week, I ran across Winston-Salem again, this time in print. Brooklyn author Paul Auster sets a bit of the storyline here in his book, The Brooklyn Follies. Unfortunately, the smidge set here involves a "church" that's closer to a cult, spousal imprisonment, and assault in the name of religion. Oh, and it takes place in a rundown house with a dirt driveway.

Still, Auster tries. He uses the name Hawthorne but makes it a Street rather than a Road. He calls the local shopping venue Camelback Mall. He gets the airport right, flying into Greensboro rather than placing that here in town.

But still, I'm sad. I'm sad that as rarely as this city snags a mention from authors from other cities, this time it's for something tawdry, repugnant, and completely fictional. Not that aspects of DC never got raked over the coals, but there were a lot of good references, often in the same work, to balance out the coverage. (I'm sorry to be the one to disclose though, that goverment agents running down streets shooting at each other doesn't happen nearly as often as you might think.)
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