So that’s an awkward title.  How does a book – fiction or non-fiction – change the real place where it’s set?  Here are two examples.

The first is Forks, Washington, where Twilight (I haven’t read it) is set .  This is from a Details piece, “So the Woman You Love Has the Hots for a Vampire. What  Does That Say About You?.”

If the Twilight saga taps into a vein of female fantasy and male failure, then Forks—smack-dab in the part of the country that gave us Kurt Cobain and Twin Peaks—truly is the perfect setting for it. Forks is, in a way, an emasculated town. It used to be a timber hub; right on Main Street there’s a commemorative slab of Sitka spruce nearly 12 feet in diameter and marked by a sign that says: WELCOME TO FORKS: LOGGING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. You can’t miss the phallic symbolism. In the 1970s, thousands of local loggers lost their jobs after environmentalists used the Endangered Species Act to protect the habitat of the spotted owl. In the years that followed, Forks disintegrated into something of a ghost town; if men were lucky, they got jobs as guards at the local prison. With Twilight, though, Stephenie Meyer has miraculously revitalized the place. The motels are full, the restaurants are packed until late at night, and nearly every shop on Main Street makes a killing from Twilight souvenirs. David Cook, 20, who spent last summer working at the town’s chamber of commerce, estimates that the guest book in the tourism center racked up 60,000 signatures during the past year alone. The entire local economy hinges on what you might call Edsploitation.

Galleycat asked Jeff Gordinier, the author of the article, how the residents of Forks felt about their sudden fame and all the crazy people who make the pilgramige to be closer to the story (which, of course, did not happen).  He replied,

“In the course of three full days there, I didn’t encounter a single resident who snickered at the ravenous squealing Twihards. Everyone was thrilled about it! Believe me, the people who live in Forks are grateful,” he replied via email, sharing two photographs of the trip. “Meyer has saved their town. Before the Twilight craze, Forks truly was trapped in the realm of the undead–the logging business had cratered. The vampire phenomenon has turned Forks into a magnet for Twilight pilgrims, which means that the local motels and souvenir shops are perpetually packed, and revenue is pouring in. Nobody in Forks (nor at the Quileute reservation out at La Push beach) seemed even the tiniest bit jaded about that. They’re welcoming the fanatics with open arms.”

In more worthy news, it’s the 50th anniversary of In Cold Blood , and The Guardian considers how Holcomb, Kansas was effected not just by the murders, but by Capote and his book.

In Holcomb, there is River Valley farm that still looks on the exterior largely as he described it. It now belongs to its third set of owners since the Clutters, the Maders; they used to give tours of the property but grew so bothered by the endless stream of In Cold Blood pilgrims that they posted the “stop” sign.

In Garden City, the Wheat Lands motel where Capote and Harper Lee stayed, is still there, though a photo of Capote posing in front of the building has been stolen from the foyer. The courthouse where Smith and Hickock were put on trial still stands as imposing as it was then. In the cemetery there are three neat tombstones, all bearing the date 1959: Herb and Bonnie together in the centre, Kenyon on the right and Nancy to the left. Someone has left a vase of blue cloth flowers; it has tumbled over.

Those signs apart, the local community is barely recognisable 50 years on. The family farm as the prime social unit, of which the Clutters’ was the epitome, has declined and given way to huge mechanised operations producing animal feed. Holcomb, population 270 in 1959, has grown tenfold and is now dominated by one of the world’s largest meat-packing factories. It is the last sad irony of Herb Clutter that just a few years after his own violent death, his way of life died too.

In Holcomb and Garden City, some of the residents welcomed his book. Alvin Dewey, the chief police investigator, championed it to the end. The Hopes too remain fans, cherishing the first-edition copy that Capote autographed for them. But many in the town continue to resent its intrusion, and refuse to talk about it or any of the subsequent films. Cliff Hope puts the ongoing hostility down to Capote’s unblinking portrayal of the killers. “Many people thought he should have written about the Clutter family, rather than the murderers.”

Delores’s theory is that some local people have closed minds. “There will always be people who think it’s none of anybody’s business to come out here and write about their affairs. You will never change their opinions.”


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