Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joyce Carol Oates and Home

Joyce Carol Oates, a National Book Award winner, returns to her hometown of Lockport, New York and recounts the places and faces that haunt her memory from childhood for an article in the Smithsonian. This piece is quite good and as I read it I was right with her, also knowing in my own way of the romance she had with the city from hours of wandering around it, getting to know its deepest crevices.  I also connect deeply with her descriptions of the Lockport Public Library, and how she remembers always taking time out to go and read. 

"The consequence of so much unsupervised freedom was that I seem to have become precociously independent." ...Joyce, are we the same person?

Joyce Carol Oates Goes Home Again

Here began my “romance” with Lockport, which I experienced as a solitary individual mostly walking—walking and walking—along the streets of downtown, and along residential streets; over the wide windswept bridge above the canal at Cottage Street, and over the narrower bridge, at Pine Street; on paths above the towpath, winding through vacant overgrown lots in the vicinity of Niagara Street; and on the shaky pedestrian bridge that ran unnervingly close beside the railroad tracks crossing the canal. Many days, after school I went to my grandmother Woodside’s house on Harvey Avenue, and later on Grand Street, across town; after visiting Grandma, I took a city bus downtown, or walked; to this day, I have a proclivity for walking—I love to be in motion, and I am very curious about everything and everyone I see, as I’d learned to be as a young child; and so I have felt invisible also, as a child feels herself invisible, beneath the radar of adult attention, or so it seemed to me at the time. For Lockport, which I’d previously experienced only in the company of my mother, my father or my grandmother, seemed very different to me, when I was alone. The small city—26,000 residents in the 1950s, now 22,000—became an adventure, or a series of adventures, culminating with the Greyhound bus to take me back home to Millersport.
Do you feel this kind of connection with your hometown?

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