I've been reading Ian Frazier's writing in the New Yorker for years and although I've never met the man I've always felt a certain degree of secret simpatico with him. First of all, this is a man who grew up in suburban Ohio, moved to New York right out of school and spent years living in, appreciatively observing, and writing about Manhattan (and then later Brooklyn).
As another suburbanite who enthusiatically embraced New York after college (also with stints in both Manhattan and Brooklyn), I always enjoyed his writing about the city. I somehow felt like he somehow "got it" about the city and particularly its more peculiar charms.
But then when he left New York it was to travel to (and live in and write about) a place about which I had always been enormously curious – the Great Plains of the US. So I snapped up those writings with enthusiasm as well.
Then, upon Frazier's return to the East, he settled in Montclair, NJ – the town next door to my own hometown. My greatest pleasure at that time was when he wrote an essay about walking on Route 3. You probably have to have a history with northern New Jersey for this to mean anything to you but suffice it to say that Route 3 is a stark necessity all NJ commuters are familiar with, and the idea of navigating it by foot is audacious, original, and downright fascinating.
But what I especially like about Frazier is what he once wrote about his own hometown of Hudson, Ohio. Growing up there "was completely, even unfairly, sweet," he tells us. "I would never be even a tenth as at home anywhere again." Substitute so many other small town names – there are so many of us who would say the same.
Frazier's latest book is a collection of humorous essays called Lamentations of the Father.