Author Scott McClanahan – he of the astonishing Crapalachia and Hill William – is from Rainelle, West Virginia and now lives and writes in my hometown of Beckley.
In a recent interview he was asked about whether he ever wants to leave. And while he acknowledges that, yes, he will likely one day live elsewhere, he bristled at the assumption that people who are from places like Beckley are always expected to wish desperately to escape and see and experience other parts of the world. Meanwhile, no one ever asks people who spend their whole lives in New York if they need to escape:
New York is one of the most provincial and isolated places I know. They never get asked questions about escape, or if they are it’s always about the price-of-rent bullshit. I mean, there are still 60-year-old men in that city running around telling anecdotes about how they knew the fucking Ramones. There are people running around with the same tattoos and uniform on and reading the same shitty books. They’re the ones who need to escape. Their fashion is the spiritual equivalent of bell bottoms, but nobody asks them questions about escaping. You can be a shitty artist anywhere.
I do place value on seeing other places. When I left West Virginia a pretty big reason for it was simply to get out of West Virginia.
But McLanahan is absolutely right about it being possible to be provincial and insular anywhere. I see those qualities among people in the bigger, allegedly more worldly cities more than I see it in my friends from Ohio and West Virginia, actually.