X.J. Kennedy’s Emily Dickinson in Southern California, a witty and gripping blend of homage and satire, performs with the concept of plopping Dickinson down into a way of life of indulgence and extra. The frontispiece is a woodcut through Michael McCurdy offering a grim Dickinson trying to examine by using candlelight amidst lodges, freeways, surfboards, and throngs in thongs. Similarly, I frequently marvel what Dickinson, who returns again and again in her poetry to the idea of an unattainable Paradise, would have manufactured from Florida, this land of literal Souvenirdom. Would it have strengthened her idea that “Earth is Heaven—/Whether Heaven is Heaven or now not”? Or could she have asked, “What difference, in the end, Thou mak’st/Thou supercilious Sun?”
When my training ended, a beautiful younger woman desired to marry me, luggage and all. And I had to plot a manner to pay the payments even as I wrote the unconventional that might shop the world. Because I couldn’t forestall for network university, it kindly stopped for me.
I stay and teach in Gainesville, a college metropolis in North Central Florida. Soon this area might be every other Anywhere. In the remaining 5 years, dozens of impartial organizations have disappeared, and corporate-franchise encroachment and sprawl are madcap—a Hooters/Starbucks/Burger King apartment-plex just opened in the middle of downtown. The relaxation of town abounds with plastic-pastoral subdivisions and that architectural neurosis, the Apartment Complex. These logo-name biospheres are quickly colonized when the khaki onslaught of college college students arrives each yr, treating the city like transient workplace space. If one chooses to live a existence of greater spontaneous stimulation, you could stay inside the neighborhoods that provoked Newsweek to describe Gainesville as “hard-scrabble.” I don’t understand that is much less deserving of romanticism. In the prefab groups, you suffer the tedium of monoculture and the parade of competitive dog-walkers. In the hood, you suffer, nicely, the hood. Just the stretch from my residence to the nearest mini-grocery is a gauntlet of anarchist graffiti, heartbreaking litter, and identical-possibility savagery. I’ve been robbed two times (once at some stage in the writing of this article and as soon as via a crackhead named, of all things, Bill Gates), and my neighbors (themselves all drug-addled) had been robbed and overwhelmed. My bikes, stereos, and porch fixtures are pilfered with seasonal regularity. The haggard prostitutes on my strolling route often flash me. The streets vibrate with indignant mechanical song that roars from cars recommended with one clenched hand.
Despite Gainesville’s contributions to the sector—Tom Petty and Joaquin Phoenix are from right here, Bo Diddley is inside and outside—the city’s two great locations for impartial concerts have closed up. The impartial bookstores have both disappeared or are hurting. Strangely, the fifty-8 thousand college students—this number includes the forty-five thousand or so who attend the state university—don’t cry out for a university radio station. The ultimate “lifestyle” of sports activities bars and booty clubs reputedly meets the community’s needs. Still, there is a superb old, skanky clean-marketplace, some lovable united states roads, and lots of leafy territory. Many oldsters control to stay lovely, bookish lives right here. Gainesville is home to the anything-to-get away-the-sadness glory of Harry Crews in addition to the sensible, dodgy swagger of Padgett Powell, who penned the very Dickinsonian line, “Life is lacking matters, now not getting them.” One even hears Dickinson within the rural mythmaking of the poet Lola Haskins, whose “window appears about to speak” on the evenings she thinks she “shall go mad.” Jon Loomis, any other poet, lived right here awhile; his book features an account of a hospital affected person groaning “Emmmily Diiickinsonnnn” via the night. The modern-day poet laureate, Billy Collins, gave a reading right here recently; I held the door for him at the nearby overpriced Italian restaurant, nonetheless forgiving him for his fetishistic “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes.” Little of this highfalutin’ lit-cult reaches my college students.