Cover image for Somewhere in America : under the radar with chicken warriors, left-wing patriots, angry nudists, and others
Title:
Somewhere in America : under the radar with chicken warriors, left-wing patriots, angry nudists, and others
Author:
Singer, Mark.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
ix, 255 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780618197248
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Mark Singer has a dream job: he travels the country in search of under-the-radar stories, unusual but emblematic tales of American lives, and writes about them in the New Yorker column "U.S. Journal." The results, now for the first time collected in one volume, are vivid, humorous portraits of life in the big cities and small towns of contemporary America.
Singer meets the teenage reporters of a Texas town's only newspaper, explores the life of a western Massachusetts diner and the community that needs it, attends a meeting of obituary writers, and offers a pit-side view of the battle over cockfighting. From righteous, middle-aged nudists in Vermont to righteous, middle-aged Civil War reenactors in Louisiana, Singer brings a poignant and humane spirit to his snapshots of people and their trials. Each piece, illuminating in its attention to the telling detail, is delicious on its own terms. But in constellation with one another, these essays reveal a broad portrait of America at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Somewhere in America offers a rare glimpse of the cultural kaleidoscope of our country and reveals a broad portrait of who we are--as individuals, as communities, as Americans.


Author Notes

Mark Singer has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1974.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

What do game fowl breeders, worm farmers, obituary writers, and skinny-dipping aficionados have in common? All have dropped below the radar screen of the nation's consciousness, only to be captured by Singer's discerning eye. Picking up the New Yorker magazine's U.S. Journal column-writing mantle from its originator, Calvin Trillin, Singer travels around the country, ferreting out the funky, funny, and familiar stories that usually go unnoticed. There are, indeed, two sides to every story, and Singer has a knack for presenting them both. Whether it's a community divided over an amendment enforcing the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance or a family united in its quest for justice for a 30-year-old murder, Singer manages to reveal the essential crux of a story in an illuminating aha! moment of clarity. By the time one reaches the end of a Singer essay, the reader knows as much as anyone can possibly know about institutions and individuals who could be, and undoubtedly are, our neighbors, our friends, ourselves. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2004 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

As the New Yorker's "U.S. Journal" columnist, Singer begins this collection of his essays with a deep bow to Calvin Trillin, who originated the magazine's section. Indeed, some of Singer's jaunts through our country's back roads and urban centers seem like journeys Trillin would make, complete with commentary on hidden towns and eccentric folk. But Singer distinguishes himself from his predecessor and mentor with a style that's distinctive and, best of all, addictive. His tales take their time without wandering, and enchant without a trace of nostalgia. He's most adept at balancing reportage with a human-interest angle, as when he writes about a car accident that resulted in a young woman's death. Although the town weeps for the victim's husband and daughter, a cloud of suspicion about the husband lingers for the woman's family, and Singer's details about the case make it immediate and compelling. In other essays, he takes on a wide range of stories; nothing seems beneath his curiosity. A standout is the outrage of a Connecticut community when a citizen wants to build an abomination: "Oddly, for a place with a long history of devotion to genteel leisure, the perceived lethal weapon aimed at Norfolk's soul is a luxury golf course." From there, the wrangling over a stretch of land achieves absurd, fascinating proportions. Singer's travelogue, which also includes cockfighting, school prayer, potluck picnics and motorcycle clubs, is a journey definitely worth taking. Agents, Andrew Wylie and Jeff Posternak. (June 17) Forecast: Ads in the New Yorker will lure Singer's fans, who may also want to pick up the simultaneously published paperback edition of Singer's Funny Money (Mariner, $13 ISBN 0-618-19727-3), which will feature a new afterword. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

INTRODUCTIONGrowing up, I made a lot of trips along the turnpike between Oklahomas two largest cities (by my demographic reckoning, its only two cities)-Tulsa, where I was born and raised, and Oklahoma City. My grandparents, both sets, lived in Oklahoma City, as did an abundance of cousins, with plenty more scattered about the state. Except for my maternal grandparents, this bumper crop of relatives all came from my fathers side. His parents happened to be first cousins, and in their generation and the next there were, oddly, a few other instances of intramarriage. Never mind the genetic consequences; how did this tricky-todiagram extended family fit together? I wasnt interested in genealogy but in something more textured: How were we connected? What was our common story? And given that each of us, individually, possessed a story, what were the fine points? My mothers mother had a particular talent for keeping the players and the details straight, a skill she honed during her frequent exposure to her son-in-laws large clan. Neither shy nor gregarious, Grandma Rose would obligingly meet you halfway; if you wanted to talk she would listen, and vice versa. As to why people seemed so willing to open up to her - not just near and distant relations, but strangers who abruptly ceased being strangers - she was pleasantly mystified: "I dont know what it is. I say hello, and they start telling me about themselves." Im confident it never crossed Grandma Roses mind that she had the makings of a terrific reporter, though I believe she did. My father liked to say that on a trip to the ladies room she could collect enough information to write a biography. For a number of reasons, I enjoy ruminating about her DNA and mine. Early on I grasped that by local standards my people were somewhat exotic, and I felt ambivalent about that. By and large, Tulsa was a forward-looking little metropolis. But it was also home to a lot of reactionary ideologues and noisy evangelists who made it their business to define the narrow limits of what was politically and culturally tolerable. I recall riding in a car with a school chum and his mother around the time that Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the table and feeling constrained to clarify that my grandparents, all Jewish immigrants, had started out in Russia "back before it was Communist." Part of me was in a rush for our family to assimilate. At the same time, I couldnt help loving the harmonies of my grandparents conversations in Yiddish or the inflections of their contemporaries who had also made the unlikely journey from Eastern Europe to the middle of America, to the purlieu that not long before had been Indian Territory. I was equally enamored of the twangy rhythms and idioms of my other kinsmen, my fellow native Oklahomans. Tulsa was surrounded by poetically named rural communities (Bixby, Jenks, Turley, Skiatook) where the elders, deep-dyed Okie folk, tended to be Depression survivors whose Excerpted from Somewhere in America: Under the Radar with Chicken Warriors, Left-Wing Patriots, Angry Nudists, and Others by Mark Singer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
The Chicken Warriors: Kingston, Oklahoma, January 2001p. 8
God and Football: Asheville, North Carolina, September 2000p. 22
The Widower's Tale: Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey, January 2001p. 34
The High Mark: Cooke City, Montana, March 2002p. 48
Never Surrender: Shreveport, Louisiana, May 2001p. 61
Last Night at the Diner: Lee, Massachusetts, February 2001p. 73
Time to Kill: Terre Haute, Indiana, May 2001p. 84
Home Is Here: Dearborn, Michigan, October 2001p. 99
I Pledge Allegiance: Madison, Wisconsin, November 2001p. 112
Who Killed Carol Jenkins?: Martinsville, Indiana, January 2002p. 126
The Haves and the Haves: Norfolk, Connecticut, August 2003p. 140
True North: Bismarck, North Dakota, February 2002p. 155
So Long, Read About You Tomorrow: Las Vegas, New Mexico, July 2002p. 166
Day Strippers: Wilmington, Vermont, October 2002p. 179
A Year of Trouble: Cincinnati, Ohio, May 2002p. 192
The Radon Cure: Boulder, Montana, July 2001p. 205
Just a Little Too Sweet: Weleetka, Oklahoma, June 2003p. 214
Teen Beat: Itasca, Texas, January 2003p. 228
On the Road Again: Hollister, California, August 2002p. 241
Acknowledgmentsp. 256