A Strange Country

* This text is a sample of writing from my postgraduate thesis project. My project was a reader in which I selected five original essays from the post-war American travel magazine, Holiday, introducing and contextualizing writing from the 1940s – 1960s. In this instance, an excerpt of my introduction to an essay about memories and Michigan by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bruce Catton entitled ‘The Real Michigan,’ from Holiday’s August 1957 issue. 

CATTON

 

In his introductory text to the anthology, Ten Years of Holiday (1956), Clifton Fadiman wrote: “… see how in the hands of a skillful writer seemingly familiar material can be transformed into something rich and strange.” [1] For those who know the state well, Bruce Catton’s evocation of Michigan is just that – rich, strange, replete with the beauty of nature and solitude. Charles Bruce Catton was born at the peak of the lower peninsula of Michigan, in a town called Petoskey, at the turn of the century. Much like Catton wonders in “The Real Michigan,” his essay from the August 1957 issue of Holiday: “This part of the state must have been quite a sight, a hundred years ago […] there was a magnificent forest – great pines, mostly, with a healthy sprinkling of hardwoods like maples and beeches – like nothing you can find in America today. From lake to lake […] there was an eternal green twilight, with open spaces where the lakes and rivers were: twilight, with the wind forever making an unobtrusive noise in the branches overhead, brown matted needles and leaves underfoot,” [2] I, too, wonder what the Petoskey of his day might have looked like.

 

[1] Fadiman, C. (1956). Introduction. In Ten Years of Holiday. New York: Simon and Schuster. [2] Catton, B. (1957). The Real Michigan. Holiday, Vol. 21 No. 8, Pg. 26