The Place You Go To Get Somewhere Else

(The Midwest)

Photo: Eric Richardson/Flickr

“The Midwest is a somewhat slippery notion. It is a region whose existence — whose very name — has always been contingent upon the more fixed and concrete notion of the West. Historically, these interior states were less a destination than a corridor, a gateway that funneled travelers from the east into the vast expanse of the frontier. The great industrial cities of this region — Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis — were built as ‘hubs,’ places where the rivers and the railroads met, where all the goods of the prairie accumulated before being shipped to the exterior states. Today, coastal residents stop here only to change planes, a fact that has solidified our identity as a place to be passed over. To be fair, people who live here seem to prefer it this way.”

— Meghan O’Gieblyn, who recently wrote about the “Pure Michigan” ad campaign, looks at the “existential dizziness” of the Midwest. (NB: The current issue of The Threepenny Review, in which this piece appears, is worth picking up.)