My husband alerted me to an article printed in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (scroll down the page to get to the story) that was a little uncomfortably familiar.
It contains an interview/memoir from Bret Anthony Johnston. Before I read the article, I only knew who Johnston was because he wrote a book of short stories called “Corpus Christi.” I also knew, from reading the press coverage of the book, that he and I had the same creative writing teacher in high school, Mr. Joe Wilson, who is still my favorite teacher, as he is the favorite of many a King High School graduate.
But, apparently since the publication of his short stories, Johnston has moved up the literature ladder quite a bit — he’s now director of creative writing at Harvard University. Wow. (And, while I enjoyed reading the book, mostly because I am from Corpus, I didn’t think “you know what, this guy should be director of a writing program somewhere important sounding and expensive.”)
Yes, I’m a teensy bit seething with jealousy, but I still enjoyed the NYT article, in which Johnston discussed his prolonged adolescence as he tries to find himself while attending Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, a place with a student body that skews middle-aged and blue-collar. I too attended TAMU-CC, and I too took random classes and generally had no idea what to do post-college.
Eventually, after two years at TAMU-CC, I left to attend NMSU — an equally impoverished school, but one that at least has a young student body and student housing. At the time, I thought of New Mexico as some distant, foreign land, which was the main reason I chose to attend there. Ah, the naiveté of youth. (Thankfully, employers don’t really care where you attend college — just that you have a degree and have managed to get newer and better jobs every few years.)
Anyway, as my friends already know, it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I realized Corpus Christi is the perfect setting for a novel, as this paragraph from the NYT hints at:
“This was in Corpus Christi, a small city on the Gulf Coast of Texas, where fishing and quail hunting carry the weight of religion. (Remember when Cheney shot that lawyer in the face? Right outside Corpus.) The heat is glomming; the land is as wide open as the bottle-green bay. There’s a pickup truck in pretty much every driveway. In ours, it was my father’s, a Dodge he had to jump-start on cold mornings.”
To me, that’s far more fascinating than any setting in New York City.