Stories about visionary leaders, effective institutions, the toll of struggles.
So glad to read, among other things, that you've had the chance lately to spend time plugged in and more time in the company of your son and grandkids.
I found your WM piece on Gannon and Colby informative and heartening. But—and I hate to begin this sentence with a “but”—many colleges—public colleges, in particular—have been suffering enrollment declines that jeopardize their health and that of their communities. I’d love to see you devote some attention to how such schools—e.g., the Youngstown State Universities of the world—are coping, and what the outlook is for them and the communities for which they are such a vital presence.
Warm thanks for the richness of your personal insights that have expanded exponentially since your Washington Monthly start. You provide personalized insights into the ‘undersides’ of our country. That you and Deb continue your travels to the byways of American and share your observations is most welcome counterpoint to those media jockeys who sit smugly in NY or DC.
“Intellectual curiosity, moreover, was not the same as talent, and he gradually came to understand that his own particular aptitude was for fixing things. From an early age he’d possessed an intuitive grasp of how and why things went off the rails, as well as how to get them back on again. He enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together.”
“A breeze with September in it blew in off the water. Teddy inhaled deeply. Autumn, even in his childhood, had always been his favorite season. When you’re a kid and your parents are teachers, it’s September, not January, that marks the beginning of a year. He’d always been the first one back to Minerva and loved having the campus all to himself for a day or two before the other students and faculty began trickling back in. Lincoln always arrived next, and then Mickey, since his band usually played somewhere in town the first weekend before classes started. Jacy was always last, coming as late as the middle of the first week of classes. Things couldn’t really begin until then. “You know who I was thinking about on the ferry?” Teddy ventured. “Yep,” Lincoln said. “I do.” And they left it at that.”
“What made the contest between fate and free will so lopsided was that human beings invariably mistook one for the other, hurling themselves furiously against that which is fixed and immutable while ignoring the very things over which they actually had some control.”'
“Was this how wars happened, the seeds of conflict, large and small, growing in the gap between what people wanted to believe and what they feared must be true?”
“People for whom summer wasn’t a verb.”
Richard Russo, Chances Are
RICHARD RUSSO is the author of seven previous novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries.
Best wishes for family happiness and safety! We all are so sad about the environmental destruction in Cali.
Thank you for the fun/informative article!
You left out the best part of Colby, Waterville, Bucksport, Eastport, et al: the energy of Mainers.
Speaking as a native Maniac, the brilliant 1960's term from the Angus King time period,* it is the unique rural energy of Mainers that does the trick. We have such a tiny population that there are 2 Maines, as you know. (all the pop. is in the south)
Richard Russo writes so well about the work ethic, the rural type poverty north of portland even in the smaller "cities" of Maine, the gritty mill towns with their problems, the French Canadians that fled Acadia as refugees, and so much more.
His series about Waterville (Empire Falls) is wonderful, a counterpoint to Stephen King's Maine insights gained from growing up in Durham, near Lewiston. Maine's Poe is the best selling author in the world.
Our Stephen, and Maine authors like Richard Russo have a unique view of the geographical and cultural forces that make native Maniacs.
It is high energy, high fun, always looking after neighbors in the harsh winters. It is endless snow from October to May which may now be ancient history in climate change.
It is living in Easport, Maine during the winter, and making the Maine joke about, "in Maine, we have ten months of winter and two months of damn poor sledding."
Our Towns is really about neighborhoods that are in town and country. Looking after each other and renewing in each season.
Sure, in every generation, everyone discovers Maine anew. So special ! But, that comes from living in a neighborhood that is like a big family with all the attending family issues. From looking after each other.
That might be mostly lost in the cities, and that is why there is always a look of wonder on visitors' faces when they come to Maine, to Bucksport, Eastport, Waterville. How do you do this they want to know. But, it can be done anywhere, even in cities. Join American renewal, then export it around the world ;)
Love, love, love
There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
Nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
- John Lennon
* Angus King was the owner of Maine Times, a popular insider local newspaper about all of Maine.
- DB, LHS, Lewiston
I spend some time most months of the year in a tiny town about 30 miles from Waterville; it's the closest "big town," slightly more near than Bangor. It's delightful, and Colby bears a lot of the responsibility for that. It's very clear, visiting, that the college is committed to being entwined with its city. The results — the Lockwood, the downtown residences, the restaurants that are obviously intended to court and support faculty and donors, the spiffing-up of the streets and sidewalks as a follow-on — are remarkable. I brought a friend who's an art professor further down the East Coast and he was sincerely surprised, which feels like an endorsement.