My friend Mark Oppenheimer, a religion writer who has been doing great writing of late for the New York Times Magazine, (check out his piece on Scientology acting guru Milton Katselas--which I liked but thought was a little soft on Scientology, a pet peeve) has done a fun little project called The New Haven Review of Books, in which he collects essays and reviews by his neighbors in New Haven, some of whom (Pulitzer-winning historian Debby Applegate, novelist Alice Mattison) are quite well-known. In particular, check out Mark's own piece, "Medium Town," [PDF] an elegy for his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, in which he argues that living living in cities smaller than New York, and far from the D.C. Beltway culture, is actually good for one's writing, not to mention one's soul. His conclusion is especially apt:

The little bit of wisdom inherent in that sense of humility is also, I believe, crucial to my attempts at art. For it releases me from the quest for status, which is destructive. It gives me an excuse not to attend parties, which drain one’s time. And it obviates the need to seek vainlyforever and without satisfactionthat alignment with trends and fashions that may yield some glowing critical notices but which, in the end, dulls the mind and blunts the instrument.

At this point in my life--like many people in their 20's--I simply cannot imagine living anywhere but in a major metropolitan center like New York, Washington or Boston.  The pleasures and the temptations of living in a world-important place are particularly alluring when you're young and newly independent. But Mark's writing of the simple pleasures of medium-sized town/small-city life make me think that perhaps I ought to move back to New Haven...

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