Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home

Bobbie Ann Mason, a wonderful short story writer from Kentucky, is probably the most famous literary personality in her state. (If you're looking for a great summer read, try In Country, a beautiful novel about a 17 year old girl trying to understand her father who fought in the Vietnam War). Because of her celebrity, she was asked to write a series of pieces in the New York Times on the current state of Kentucky. Read her short opinion piece -- by clicking on the highlighted links -- and see if you find any connections with the play we're reading, with other current issues in the news, or with anything we've studied this year.

3 comments:

Caroline C said...

One thing that really struck me in Mason's "Pick Your Poison" piece is when she stated, "You might not remember that, because Kentucky seems out of sight, out of mind — a good place to toss trash". I thought it was a really honest thing to say, especially about her own hometown. Usually people take pride in the place they live, but it seems she may be dissing Kentucky. This reminded me of a line that Mary Anne says in scene 3 of "Tall Tales". (Talking about Kentucky), "It's borin'. It's always the same" (161). Here, Mary Anne is also dissing Kentucky. She does not see Kentucky in a good light, she only sees the negatives.

Anna.S said...

Her comment about "you might not remember" that came just before what Caroline mentioned struck me as very bitter, but rightfully so. I feel as though Kentucky has always been thought of as where hillbillies live, and that no one really takes it seriously except concerning coal mining or trash-dumping.

Throughout the whole piece, Mason seems very sarcastic and upset. She seems to be speaking casually, as if to give off the image that she's "just a Kentucky woman, can't take her seriously", when she's actually saying relevant and important things about the nation's treatment of Kentucky soil. Mason is certainly harshly ridiculing the government ("As part of the Bush initiative to recycle nuclear waste, the contaminated byproducts would come (by flatcar? 18-wheeler? FedEx?) into our state. Importing deadly radioactive stuff would be a boon for the community, creating up to 6,000 jobs, so you can’t argue"), but almost hiding behind the facade of being just a small town, know-nothing hick.

Obviously, Mason is satirizing the environmental situation in Kentucky, but I feel as though her diction is so vitriolic that it's hard to get past her biting sarcasm.

nathans said...

I'm seeing the same connection that I did to the last post, the distortion of truth. The passage that caught my eye was:
In 2000, 300 million gallons of sludge spilled from a coal slurry pond in Martin County, a greater toxic accident than the Exxon Valdez oil disaster. You might not remember that, because Kentucky seems out of sight, out of mind — a good place to toss trash."
In reality this spill was of massive proportion but people were not made aware because Kentucky is just "a good place to toss trash, and so consequently people's perceptions about the truth is skewed because they do not learn of things such as this. On pg. 165 JT tells Mary Anne about the reality of the contract he and Jed Rowen had agreed to and the fact that their land would be torn apart by Rockefeller and the coal companies, "the story that he's a hero, that'll survive... and the one that he's just a thief, that'll fade away. Thats your truth.
So here we see the distortion of truth, where the wealthy control the outcome. Because Rockefeller desired it, he will make it seem that he is a good somaritan but in reality he just wants to find "a good place to toss trash".