Monday, June 3, 2013

staking my claim

Phase Two of The Pitch is here! We've convened around our newsroom table, bounced ideas off fellow intrepid reporters like Kirsten over at the drama desk, and we're up against deadlines set by our tough, but fair editor, Mr. Burton.

"I want to see your story ideas, and I want to see them yesterday!"

Just add glasses.

All right, all right, here are my five Stegnerian claims. (Thanks to my cubicle-mate Dawn for giving me a good template to draw from: though I may be a prodigious note-taker, I rely primarily on my great memory, whether that's at trivia night, to impress first dates, or recall obscure rhetorical terms. My favorite scene in Earnest was Algernon taking one look at the bills and ripping them up. I've been known to do the same. I sometimes want to do it with my stacks of notebooks.)

1. Policy

Salt Lake City, my beloved hometown, should erect a statue in the U District in honor of arguably our finest native son, Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner. A thriving literary culture necessitates the recognition of quality writers: look at Buenos Aires's relationship with Borges. As it's the 70th anniversary of The Big Rock Candy Mountain, no time like the present. 

2. Definition

  • Overcome (a difficulty or obstacle).
  • Stand or be placed on top of.

Stegner stated that to really understand a city, one has to be able to get up above it. This very Western idea of surveying all that lays before you has deep implications not just from a geographical perspective, but a psychosocial one as well.
Walking distance from my house. #nobigdeal

3. Comparison

Wallace Stegner, widely recognized as a first-tier Western writer, can best be understood using the framework proposed by Philipe Hamon: "Is there a specifically 'literary' vision of the city, different from that of the architect, the painter, the public health officer, the photogrpaher, the politician?" The answer is a resounding yes.

4. Evaluation

"Something drastic had happened to Main Street." This line from Recapitulation is not only prescient, but infinitely more relevant in light of the City Creek project. Salt Lake City's history is unique as a foundational myth of a people: by its very nature, it is a dynamic, even idealistic city, and any attempt to freeze it in time will inherently fail. Nevertheless, we as Salt Lakers are uniquely poised to step back and ask ourselves, "what is the city we want to build?"

Drastic changes on Main Street, circa November 2012.

5. Cause + Effect

Great authors rewrite our experience of real spaces. (Just as Hugovians eagerly tour Notre Dame de Paris, Shakespeare lovers descend on the Globe Theater, or Forks, Washington only has an economy due to our favorite sparkly vampire ...), Wallace Stegner invented plausible, but false locations in Salt Lake City for his very verisimilitudinous Recapitualtion. This can be understood as a metaphor for the very act of authorship itself.

I'm glad Burton asked us to mock these up: framing one's thoughts as a claim is not only stronger persuasively, it's actually really fun!

Now it's time for you to vote in the comments. I actually am pumped for all of these ideas, and I'm sure they'll all make their way in one way or another. However, please weigh in on what angle you find most promising.


  1. I am personally drawn to the concept of surveying all that lies before you, and I think that this one could have a broader impact than the advocacy of recognition a local writer locally. I'm teased by your concept in the last claim about the rewriting of our experiences of real spaces. And I don't know how you mean that Stegner's fictitious places are a metaphor for the act of authorship -- but these are intriguing enough for me to ask for more clarification. I hope you will give it.

    1. Yeah, I'm stuck on that, too. What you mean by "a metaphor for the very act of authorship..."

      Maybe because I'm in the policy frame of mind, I think it's the most interesting, but. I think whichever one you're most passionate about...would be your best bet. It's easier to persuade with genuine curiosity.

  2. All hold great possibilities. I like that you said they will all find their way into your paper. Not having seen the comments I too was struck with all that lies before you. That is so cool! It holds a wealth of promise. I'd go with that. Stegner would go for it as well. I know he would.

  3. I know that this actual comment is (too) late, but the parts that I like most are the concepts of surveying all before you (that very Western idea), especially as not just a geographic concept but a psychosocial one.

    The other big one that I love is how what we read affects how we view a place. The thing that comes instantly to my mind was how I wanted to see some things in Chicago from a book series I enjoy, but then when I started looking them up I found they were entirely made up by the author. That goes into a whole other world as I had to redefine so much when it came to both the series and the city itself.