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NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROXYLOVESHISTORY, CC BY-SA 3.0

lacks respect for a place as a place: in its fervor to make a place desirable, it makes it indistinct. There are towns several orders of magnitude more picturesque, more friendly, and more comfortable than Lincolnton, but there’s only one Lincolnton, and any attempt to make it a better place to live must hinge on that understanding. Otherwise, it’s doomed to failure. The common factor in both of these reactions is that it places people who do not fit the ideal of the quaint outside the bounds of people who have a rightful claim to the place, making them, effectively, placeless. They’re either threats, objects of pity, ignored, or misrepresented, not full participants in the collective life of the community. This placelessness is a phenomenon that has happened in every situation where humans have had to live together, and will probably continue to happen until we go extinct. But making someone placeless is all the more potent when it’s combined with the ambition inherent in the quaint project, when those who aren’t on board with the project or who seem, by their very existence, to contradict the message those committed to the project want to send to the world, to prospective property buyers, and to themselves are excluded. The result is that really the only sort of local color tolerated is a bloodless, brochure-ready sort, inoffensive and unrepresentative of reality.

The end result of this idealizing is that some towns start to feel like a sort of Potemkin village or a town-sized boutique. Stores are open for business, old folks walk hand in hand down the street, the sidewalks are well-maintained, but you’re unable to imagine actually dwelling there. Everything is so picturesque that it can be dislocating. There’s an amnesia around these places, the Blowing Rock, North Carolinas of the South, that seems to suggest that the town exists for no one but those who have come to enjoy the restaurants, take in the historic architecture, and fall into a soft hedonism. Even the war memorials and graveyards seem to be marketed in ways than deny the reality of grief, sadness, or loss. You can go see the tombs of Civil War generals on a carA real place and real people can’t be riage tour, marvel at their importance in history, and then be whisked on before reduced to roles in a fantasy, and any you notice the rest attempts to the make them fit will always of the graveyard or leave something crucial about them out. think of war as war and death as death rather than a prelude to fame. You can go on thinking about how lovely it is to live where the people are warm, the scenery is beautiful, pain and loss are distant memories, and, above all, at no point are you forced to confront the complexities of reality. n

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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