Hitting Rather Close to Home . . .
Shan's novel isn't autobiographical, but there are some parts that strike very close to home, as when the main character's landlord proves to know rather a lot about his tenant's humble origins:
"Fulton County, Arkansas. Located in the Midsouth in what's known as the Ozark foothills. County seat is Salem, a thriving metropolis of some 1,500 souls. Industry is limited to subsistence level farming, small businesses, health care, and a regional utility. The only person approaching celebrity status from your neck of the woods is Tess Harper, a character actress best known for her co-starring role opposite Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies. Your other claim to fame is Mammoth Springs. It was once advertised as the world's largest spring, though that isn't even close to the truth. Per capita income in the county is among the lowest in the state, in a state which is among the poorest nationwide. How am I doing so far?" (Shannon Hodges, City of Shadows, page 395)That's a very accurate description of our boyhood home, so far as the poverty is concerned -- and having slept on an old iron bed above a dirt floor in a basement for the first ten years of my life, I can claim to have literally been 'dirt' poor -- but a couple of celebrities got left out, the country music songwriter and performer David Lynn Jones and the former Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe, though Roe gets his paragraph a few pages later, when the tenant -- who's also the protagonist -- informs his landlord of another local celebrity:
"Preacher Roe. He was also from Fulton County. Star pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950's. Five time all star and led the national league in strikeouts for a couple of seasons." (Shannon Hodges, City of Shadows, page 397)Hmmm . . . shouldn't "National League" be capitalized? Surely, the protagonist doesn't intend to disparage the National League, and I guess one can't talk in capital letters anyway, so I'll have to take this question up with Shan. But back to Roe. He's said to have had a good spitball, so some purists might put an asterisk beside his records, I suppose, but his famous spitball makes him even more of a character, and thus even more of a celebrity. Anyway, Roe is a homeboy. Our Fulton County homeboy. But not everything that hits close to home in the novel has to do with Fulton County. There's also this, a remark by a friend of the protagonist, even less autobiographical for Shan, but striking still closer to home for me:
"You know, I wrote a short op-ed piece for the Chronicle [of Higher Education] a couple of years back. It was on Gypsy scholars . . . you know, like me, without a tenure-track spot. I was pretty critical about humanities programs that pump out graduates with no chance of getting hired and elderly faculty who refuse to retire . . ." (Shannon Hodges, City of Shadows, pages 289-290)Gypsy scholars! I do believe my younger, but more successful academic brother was thinking of me! Reckon I was one of them there 'gradual' students "with no chance of getting hired." I ought to have read Shan's novel 32 years ago! But time travel hadn't been invented yet back then . . . not that the years should matter for time travelers like me.
After all, I'm constantly traveling into the future, as time goes by, and repeatedly visiting the past, in my memories . . .