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3

Dispatch from Flyover Country

3
terms
5
notes

O'Gieblyn, M. (2018). Dispatch from Flyover Country. In O'Gieblyn, M. Interior States: Essays. Anchor Books, pp. 3-10

6

It’s difficult to live here without developing an existential dizziness, a sense that the rest of the world is moving while you remain still. I spent most of my twenties in South Chicago, in an apartment across from a hellscape of coal-burning plants that ran on grandfather clauses and churned out smoke blacker than the night sky. To live there during the digital revolution was like existing in an anachronism. When I opened my windows in summer, soot blew in with the breeze; I swept piles of it off my floor, which left my hands blackened like a scullery maid’s. [...]

—p.6 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

It’s difficult to live here without developing an existential dizziness, a sense that the rest of the world is moving while you remain still. I spent most of my twenties in South Chicago, in an apartment across from a hellscape of coal-burning plants that ran on grandfather clauses and churned out smoke blacker than the night sky. To live there during the digital revolution was like existing in an anachronism. When I opened my windows in summer, soot blew in with the breeze; I swept piles of it off my floor, which left my hands blackened like a scullery maid’s. [...]

—p.6 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago
9

On Saturday nights, the camp hosts a concert, and my husband and I occasionally walk down to the Tabernacle to listen to whatever band has been bused in from Nashville. Neither of us are believers, but we enjoy the music. The bands favor gospel standards, a blend of highlands ballads and Gaither-style revivalism. The older generation here includes a contingent of retired missionaries. Many of them are widows, women who spent their youth carrying the gospel to the Philippines or the interior of Ecuador, and after the service, they smile faintly at me as they pass by our pew, perhaps sensing a family resemblance. Occasionally, one of them will grip my forearm and say, “Tell me who you are.” The response to this question is “I’m Colleen’s daughter.” Or, if that fails to register: “I’m Paul and Marilyn’s granddaughter.” It is unnerving to identify oneself in this way. My husband once noted that it harkens back to the origins of surnames, to the clans of feudal times who identified villagers by patronymic epithets. John’s son became Johnson, et cetera. To do so now is to see all the things that constitute a modern identity—all your quirks and accomplishments—rendered obsolete.

—p.9 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

On Saturday nights, the camp hosts a concert, and my husband and I occasionally walk down to the Tabernacle to listen to whatever band has been bused in from Nashville. Neither of us are believers, but we enjoy the music. The bands favor gospel standards, a blend of highlands ballads and Gaither-style revivalism. The older generation here includes a contingent of retired missionaries. Many of them are widows, women who spent their youth carrying the gospel to the Philippines or the interior of Ecuador, and after the service, they smile faintly at me as they pass by our pew, perhaps sensing a family resemblance. Occasionally, one of them will grip my forearm and say, “Tell me who you are.” The response to this question is “I’m Colleen’s daughter.” Or, if that fails to register: “I’m Paul and Marilyn’s granddaughter.” It is unnerving to identify oneself in this way. My husband once noted that it harkens back to the origins of surnames, to the clans of feudal times who identified villagers by patronymic epithets. John’s son became Johnson, et cetera. To do so now is to see all the things that constitute a modern identity—all your quirks and accomplishments—rendered obsolete.

—p.9 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago
10

Many of our friends who grew up here now live in Brooklyn, where they are at work on “book-length narratives.” Another contingent has moved to the Bay Area and made a fortune there. Every year or so, these West Coasters travel back to Michigan and call us up for dinner or drinks, occasions they use to educate us on the inner workings of the tech industry. They refer to the companies they work for in the first person plural, a habit of the rest of the country I have yet to acculturate to. Occasionally, they lapse into the utopian, speaking of robotics ordinances and brain-computer interfaces and the mystical, labyrinthine channels of capital, conveying it all with the fervency of pioneers on a civilizing mission. Being lectured quickly becomes dull, and so my husband and I, to amuse ourselves, will sometimes play the rube: “So what, exactly, is a venture capitalist?” we’ll say. Or “Gosh, it sounds like science fiction.” I suppose we could tell them the truth—that nothing they’re proclaiming is news; that the boom and bustle of the coastal cities, like the smoke from those California wildfires, liberally wafts over the rest of the country. But that seems a bit rude. We are, after all, midwesterners.

—p.10 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

Many of our friends who grew up here now live in Brooklyn, where they are at work on “book-length narratives.” Another contingent has moved to the Bay Area and made a fortune there. Every year or so, these West Coasters travel back to Michigan and call us up for dinner or drinks, occasions they use to educate us on the inner workings of the tech industry. They refer to the companies they work for in the first person plural, a habit of the rest of the country I have yet to acculturate to. Occasionally, they lapse into the utopian, speaking of robotics ordinances and brain-computer interfaces and the mystical, labyrinthine channels of capital, conveying it all with the fervency of pioneers on a civilizing mission. Being lectured quickly becomes dull, and so my husband and I, to amuse ourselves, will sometimes play the rube: “So what, exactly, is a venture capitalist?” we’ll say. Or “Gosh, it sounds like science fiction.” I suppose we could tell them the truth—that nothing they’re proclaiming is news; that the boom and bustle of the coastal cities, like the smoke from those California wildfires, liberally wafts over the rest of the country. But that seems a bit rude. We are, after all, midwesterners.

—p.10 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

songs of praise or triumph; things that expresses enthusiastic praise

14

It was strange, all these paeans to the pastoral

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

It was strange, all these paeans to the pastoral

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

(adjective) requiring immediate aid or action / (adjective) requiring or calling for much; demanding

14

a romantic reaction against the sterile exigencies of urban life

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

a romantic reaction against the sterile exigencies of urban life

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
notable
1 year, 10 months ago

(adjective) dazzlingly bright; radiant (effulgent is a synonym)

14

spring arrived with the effulgent bloom of the farmers market

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
strange
1 year, 10 months ago

spring arrived with the effulgent bloom of the farmers market

—p.14 by Meghan O'Gieblyn
strange
1 year, 10 months ago
15

Madison was utopia for a certain kind of midwesterner: the Baptist boy who grew up reading Wittgenstein, the farm lass who secretly dreamed about the girl next door. It should have been such a place for me as well. Instead, I came to find the live bluegrass outside the co-op insufferable. I developed a physical allergy to NPR. [...]

Over time, I came to dread the parties and potlucks. Most of the people we knew had spent time on the coasts, or had come from there, or were frequently traveling from one to the other, and the conversation was always about what was happening elsewhere: what people were listening to in Williamsburg, or what everyone was wearing at Coachella. A sizeable portion of the evening was devoted to the plots of premium TV dramas. Occasionally, there were long arguments about actual ideas, but they always crumbled into semantics. “What do you mean by duty?” someone would say. Or: “It all depends on your definition of morality”. At the end of these nights, I would get into the car with the first throb of a migraine, saying that we didn’t have any business discussing anything until we could, all of us, articulate a coherent ideology. It seemed to me then that we suffered from the fundamental delusion that we had elevated ourselves above the rubble of hinterland ignorance—that fair trade coffee and Orange You Glad It’s Vegan? cake had somehow redeemed us of our sins. All of us had, like the man in the parable, built our houses on sand.

—p.15 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

Madison was utopia for a certain kind of midwesterner: the Baptist boy who grew up reading Wittgenstein, the farm lass who secretly dreamed about the girl next door. It should have been such a place for me as well. Instead, I came to find the live bluegrass outside the co-op insufferable. I developed a physical allergy to NPR. [...]

Over time, I came to dread the parties and potlucks. Most of the people we knew had spent time on the coasts, or had come from there, or were frequently traveling from one to the other, and the conversation was always about what was happening elsewhere: what people were listening to in Williamsburg, or what everyone was wearing at Coachella. A sizeable portion of the evening was devoted to the plots of premium TV dramas. Occasionally, there were long arguments about actual ideas, but they always crumbled into semantics. “What do you mean by duty?” someone would say. Or: “It all depends on your definition of morality”. At the end of these nights, I would get into the car with the first throb of a migraine, saying that we didn’t have any business discussing anything until we could, all of us, articulate a coherent ideology. It seemed to me then that we suffered from the fundamental delusion that we had elevated ourselves above the rubble of hinterland ignorance—that fair trade coffee and Orange You Glad It’s Vegan? cake had somehow redeemed us of our sins. All of us had, like the man in the parable, built our houses on sand.

—p.15 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago
17

[...] There was something beautiful in how the pastor laid his hands over the congregant’s face, covering her hand with his own, something beautiful in the bewildered look on the congregant’s face when she emerged from the water. Although I no longer espouse this faith, it’s hard to deny the mark it has left on me. It is a conviction that lies beneath the doctrine and theology, a kind of bone-marrow knowledge that the Lord is coming; that he has always been coming, which is the same as saying that he will never come; that each of us must find a way to live with this absence and our own, earthly limitations.

—p.17 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago

[...] There was something beautiful in how the pastor laid his hands over the congregant’s face, covering her hand with his own, something beautiful in the bewildered look on the congregant’s face when she emerged from the water. Although I no longer espouse this faith, it’s hard to deny the mark it has left on me. It is a conviction that lies beneath the doctrine and theology, a kind of bone-marrow knowledge that the Lord is coming; that he has always been coming, which is the same as saying that he will never come; that each of us must find a way to live with this absence and our own, earthly limitations.

—p.17 by Meghan O'Gieblyn 1 year, 10 months ago