July 9, 2004
Editor’s Note: The New York Times included in its July 9, 2004 editions the story, “36 Hours / Iowa City.” It was written by Betsy Rubiner.
SOME of the most talented writers in America have made their way to Iowa City, drawn by the University of Iowa’s renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop. John Cheever, Philip Roth and Robert Lowell dropped by to teach; John Irving, Bharati Mukherjee and Margaret Walker first came to learn. Many come away professing lasting affection for this city of bursting bookstores, leafy old neighborhoods and friendly shopkeepers, set amid rolling Iowa farmland and where nearly half the 63,000 residents are students. Not all the cafe conversation is literary – U.I. turns out the usual mix of professionals from engineers to dentists. And when writer’s block strikes, you can usually find somebody at the next table to talk Big Ten football.
1) Walk the Literary Walk
Words by 49 writers with Iowa ties – including Tennessee Williams, who got his B.A. in English at the university in 1938 – adorn bronze panels set into the sidewalk of the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk between Clinton and Gilbert Streets. Among the other writers represented on the walk, which is in the downtown shopping district east of the campus, are Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Jane Smiley and Kurt Vonnegut, all of whom spent time at the Writers’ Workshop. Among several excerpts that speak of Iowa itself is this quotation from “Shoeless Joe” by W. P. Kinsella: “Three years ago at dusk on a spring evening, when the sky was a robin’s-egg blue and the wind as soft as a day-old chick, I was sitting on the verandah of my farm home in eastern Iowa when a voice very clearly said to me, `If you build it, he will come.’ “
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