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Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town

Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town

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Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town

3/5 (7 evaluări)
95 pages
Aug 1, 2009


Broadway, the main street that runs through Robert Pinsky’s home town of Long Branch, New Jersey, was once like thousands of other main streets in small towns across the country. But for Pinsky, one of America’s most admired poets and its former Poet Laureate, this Broadway is the point of departure for a lively journey through the small towns of the American imagination. Thousands of Broadways explores the dreams and nightmares of such small towns—their welcoming yet suffocating, warm yet prejudicial character during their heyday, from the early nineteenth century through World War II.

The citizens of quintessential small towns know one another extensively and even intimately, but fail to recognize the geniuses and criminal minds in their midst. Bringing the works of such figures as Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Alfred Hitchcock, Thornton Wilder, Willa Cather, and Preston Sturges to bear on this paradox, as well as reflections on his own time growing up in a small town, Pinsky explores how such imperfect knowledge shields communities from the anonymity and alienation of modern life. Along the way, he also considers how small towns can be small minded—in some cases viciously judgmental and oppressively provincial. Ultimately, Pinsky examines the uneasy regard that creative talents like him often have toward the small towns that either nurtured or thwarted their artistic impulses.

Of living in a small town, Sherwood Anderson once wrote that "the sensation is one never to be forgotten. On all sides are ghosts, not of the dead, but of living people." Passionate, lyrical, and intensely moving, Thousands of Broadways is a rich exploration of this crucial theme in American literature by one of its most distinguished figures.

Aug 1, 2009

Despre autor

Robert Pinsky was the nation’s Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. An acclaimed poet and scholar of poetry, he is also an internationally renowned man of letters. His Selected Poems was published in paperback in March 2012. His other books include The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide and his bestselling translation The Inferno of Dante, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He teaches at Boston University and is the poetry editor at Slate.

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  • (4/5)
    This is a collection of lectures Robert Pinsky delivered at Rice University in 2009, discussing the ways in which American small towns, symbolized by their main streets named Main Street or Broadway, have been represented in literature and the movies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mark Twain, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, and movie directors Preston Sturges and Alfred Hitchcock are discussed.

    Pinsky gives us a clear and thoughtful exposition of the ways in which the authors' perspectives on and attitude to the small towns where most of them grew up differs, as well as the perhaps surprising complexities of those small towns and life within them. It's often a surprisingly dark view that's found in their stories, showcasing the ability of American small towns to be stiflingly repressive of anything even mildly outside the mainstream, insular, conformist, banal, upholding the status quo simply because it is the status quo. Yet alongside those tendencies resides a sense of fair play, and protectiveness towards "their own." Willa Cather's Thea Kronberg can't fulfill her musical ambitions in her hometown of Moonstone, but it's in Moonstone that, child and young woman, she gets the education and training that enables her to take her first steps along that path.

    It's an interesting and multi-layered look at the American small town in American literature, both the good and the bad.


    I received this book free as part of the University of Chicago's "one free ebook a month" program.
  • (2/5)
    A series of lectures about small-town America, turned into book. A very dry, academic book. It might have helped my comprehension of the text if I'd actually read or seen any of the books, plays and films that Pinsky mentions. As it was, my overwhelming feeling was that this topic could have been much more interesting than it ended up being.