I’m glad to be a self-made man, and I also find it surprisingly useful to have been born into a small-town family. For one thing, the experience of growing up in southeast Missouri made me a cultural realist. (I learned early on that there’s no such thing as a really famous writer.) It has also given me an understanding of Red America not shared by many New Yorkers of my acquaintance. I’ve changed a lot since I left town in 1974, but part of me remains deeply rooted in the place where I grew up. I’m like a walking, talking focus group: I almost always know what will fly in southeast Missouri, and what will flop….
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