Sunday, October 04, 2009

An American Dream Fades in the Suburbs

The Soviet leader Josef Stalin famously observed that "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." In today's Plain Dealer, my friend Maria Shine Stewart manages to put a human face on the convergence of twin American crises, the healthcare and foreclosure problems. She does so by writing a haunting essay on her cousin's tenuous attempts to cling to the American dream. I hope you'll click through and read it all. I've been privileged to know Maria, a writer and English teacher, for more than 20 years. Last year, she wrote this wonderful guest report on her experience attending the Neiman Conference on Narrative Journalism, and she regularly contributes fine essays to the excellent online-only pub Inside Higher Ed. May your writing fingers continue to find their way to these essential stories for many more decades, Maria.

14 Comments:

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Hi, John.

Thought provoking stuff. I just wrote about how lucky I felt to be in the suburbs (on my daily bread blog), but now I wonder.

Do you know anyone who writes about time machines? and would we go forward or back in time?

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The suburbs are simply a giant catch-all full of everything America has to offer. They're hardly a refuge from economic or any other kind of trouble. One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Time Tunnel (which was only on for two years in the mid-'60s). It may have involved travel forward in time, but I only recall the time travel to the past.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Britta said...

I know many families who are on the edge in the way described in this essay. It's heartbreaking and frustrating all at once.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It's nearly impossible not to be somehow touched by all these converging tragedies these days. It reminds me of how basically every family is somehow touched by cancer. Only this form of economic cancer is more insidious.

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

I live on the edge, too. But I still have a warm house, food, and clothes. And hope (usually).

By the way, if I had a choice about time machines, I'd go back in time, as I believe it would make me more grateful for the bounty and conveniences of today. I think going too far into the future might just freak me out.

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger Maria said...

Thank you for your kind words about my writing, John, and for caring about this situation. As well as being an energetic writer, you are a generous reader.

 
At 10:59 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You've got lots of company these days, Pat. Not that that's really much comfort, I know. But I'm glad to hear you also have hope. Nothing much happens without that. And Maria, always nice when the subject of our enthusiasms stops by for a visit.

 
At 2:19 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

H.G. Wells, "The Time Machine" was the original time travel novel; in it, the protagonist travels into the future, then the far future.

Gosh, time machines are such a regular trope in science fiction, the list of stories is incredibly long.

The TV series, The Time Tunnel, focused pretty much exclusively on the past. I think they made it a limitation of the concept for the series: their machine could not go into the future, only the past. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

 
At 2:22 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I forgot to mention:

Robert A. Heinlein, "The Door Into Summer."

It's one of the best time machine novels I've ever read. The time machine itself is capable of projecting forward or backwards. The protagonist has several adventures, and the major event is that he loops back into his own past to fix a world that's gone awry.

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for lending us your sci fi expertise, Art. And that short-lived '60s series I mentioned was classic TV schlock, developed by a true schlockmeister, Irwin Allen. But it was still fun at the time.

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Oh, Irwin Allen pretty much did nothing but schlock, I agree, but sometimes it rose to the level of camp, and/or transcended itself. It was always fun to watch the same monster costumes appear on different shows coming out of his studio. Great fun. It did fire my imagination when I was a kid, at least.

verification word: folagi
(perhaps to the tune of Volare?)

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Camp is precisely the right word about his stuff. To me (and perhaps many others of my era) his masterpiece of camp was Lost in Space, with the high king of camp, Dr. Smith. Now there's a transcendent figure in pop culture.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Danger, danger, Will Robinson. I've always loved campy TV. It makes it easier to suspend reality for the moments we gaze at that electronic box. But now I have the internet.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Along with the show "Johnny Quest," "Lost in Space" was an icon of my childhood. That was true appointment TV back in the day.

 

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