Friday, April 11, 2008

Mining your territory

People own the territory that they are born into. That's the richest ore writers can mine.... Get in touch with where you're from. No matter where you're from, even if it's a subdivision in Kenner, Louisiana, that is your literary heritage. If you look at it closely enough, you'll see that it is as exotic and unique as some Central or South American culture in the mountains.

I can't understand these people who say that anybody can write about anything and any time if they do enough research because they cut themselves off from the speech of those they grew up with.

--Tim Gautreaux, Novel Voices, ed. Lavasseur and Rabalais
Gautreaux writes about southern Louisiana and its "priests, drunks, train conductors, unemployed workers, and card-playing grandmothers with sharp-tongued wit." All very well. But what if one's heritage is rust-belt suburbia? (OK, it does sound kind of exotic when I put it that way.)

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