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

By Michael Martone, David Plowden

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

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He and Mother kept to themselves the fact that he had caught first the fishes we caught, that he had reeled them in, secured their hooks, and slid each one back into the water, so that the bobber's second dance appeared to his children like a vision of Man and Nature in bounteous harmony. We didn't need to learn to fish. My father had learned to fish and we had taught him that it was relatively futile to think we could learn anything about lures or the science of flycasting or the virtue of patience.

That mindset spawned Town and Country, the nation's first shopping center, a stretch of individual businesses that offered, more than windows decorated with the latest goods, a vision of the future. And that heady will- Page 21 to-patronize established Columbus as an official All-American City, which meant that in the minds of corporate and commercial ventures, we were the ideal headquarters, test market, and trial base. Fast-food chains like White Castle, Wendy's, and Rax began their successes with people I knew, perhaps even with my own mother, who would meet me outside the school cafeteria with an enviable hot lunch from Wendy's.

Would Americans buy film from a shed-size ladybug settled in a pizza parlor's parking lot? Would families use a toilet paper roll that released a rose fragrance when a sheet was torn free? Would mothers prefer Coca-Cola in a family-size jug? Would husbands buy more Stroh's beer if the can was white instead of gold? If a corporation wanted to know the answers, people just like my family, living in Columbus, Ohio, could tell them. Our size, our age, ethnic and income distribution represented the nation as a wholewe were the All-American City.

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