Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nijmegen. And why is Maine afraid of modernism?

I am glad to be back in The Netherlands this week. After six months at NIAS in the fall and winter, this  feels a bit like coming home. I'm at Nijmegen to speak at the 1st Global Legacies of the Irish Famine conference. (My first novel, The Law of Dreams, was set during the Famine period. But it's fiction, and most of the people at the conference are historians, anthropologists, and literary and cultural theorists. May be a tough audience...we shall see. Meanwhile it's fun to be in NL with a bunch of Irish people. The crack is good.)
       Never have been in this part of the NL before. Coming from Zuid-Holland, it seems shockingly...hilly. By Dutch standards, anyway. Bikes everywhere nonetheless. The city is on the Rhine: I've been watching the barge traffic, which is intense. This is the Catholic zone of the NL, culturally quite different than the north of the country. It is a beautiful city. One of the things that struck me today is how unafraid the Dutch are of modernism.  
      In Maine, we are often so timid about the new. Our banks are built to look like swollen versions of "traditional"summer houses. Macdonald's restaurants go all faux-colonial. Every commercial interior within a mile of LL Bean at Freeport seems hung with old snowshoes, old boots, and other Maine-cliché paraphernalia. 
      Perhaps the Dutch have a solid enough grasp on their history that they don't need to be ceaselessly reconstructing it in lamer & lamer versions. 
        Much of Nijmegan was pulverized duirng WWII but the architecture I've been looking at this morning, in the city 'centrum', seems to date from the last 15 years or so. I expect some earlier post-war rebuilding was taken out by the new stuff. (A lot of war-damaged areas in NL were rather hastily and poorly rebuilt in the 1950s, and much of that has been replaced with more interesting work done the last couple of decades.)  

The NL were held captive by the Spanish Habsburg empire until the 17th c.,  and the influence probably hung on longer in the Catholic regions. I thought I detected Spanish/Moorish influence in bits and pieces of Nijmegen.

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