alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

Teenage Landscape


I recently read Chris Barzak’s debut novel, One for Sorrow

I enjoyed it immensely. It was an old-fashioned ghost story, in the sense that it was about a haunting. And in the sense that parts of that haunting were downright oogy. 

The part that really captured me was the landscape that felt exactly like when I was fifteen. It often seems to me that books (and movies) are set in one of 3 places: the city, where everyone is hip and hard and fast and now now now; the suburbs, where everyone is rich and white and label-proud; or the country (aka Rural America), a quiet land of deer hunting, corn fields, overalls and poverty.

But there’s a great in-between, and it’s called rural suburbia. Ranches, split levels, and faux cape-cods set down in the middle of cow fields. The kids who live there are probably white, but they aren’t rich. They aren’t farmers. They don’t know the names of all the trees, of the kinds of rock, or when to plant a watermelon. They know much more about how to get the high score, and which creepy old dude makes a few bucks selling ciggies and booze to 13-year-olds. But–

And here’s the but–the trees are all around. There’s only so much cable you can watch at 2am in July. And then you’re out in the woods behind your house with a cigarette lighter and a pointy stick, and it’s you and the trees and the bugs and the dark. You’re dreaming of the city, of when you can get away to somewhere real, but right now the natural world has you in its arms, and it’s not letting go.

Author: Alisa Alering

I write stories. I read stories.

3 thoughts on “Teenage Landscape

  1. right on sister.

    I’ve never really read anything that sounds like our homeland besides _The Perks of Being a Wallflower_ which read *exactly* like the boro.

    No one in my current life understands how misty I get when I’m in my real home, out with the low mountains and the woods. How crazy I get about trees, especially, the concentric halation of the light through the bare winter branches, the way they have chosen to fill the space. Everything.

    Same as it ever was I had no idea what it would be about that place that I missed the most.

  2. ‘Perks’ has been on my low-priority reading list for a long time, but it has now been moved up. I had no idea.

    ‘One for Sorrow’ is set near Youngstown, OH, which has more of that dying-rust-belt-urban-decay-thing than we did (well, the boro had it a bit more than my side of the mountain) but otherwise it’s the same.

    You’re the perfect confirmation of what I was saying – I grew up in the trees, all the mountain and empty logging roads stretching out behind the barn for hundreds of acres, of course they’re in my psyche. But you lived in town. And the trees still got you.

  3. you are right in saying so, of course, but it is so funny to think that I lived in town. the relative city boy in the country looking out a window now at lower manhattan.

    my strongest reactions to the country are aesthetically connected to driving through the woods, which is a strange one… it is being in love with something that you usually only look at through lacerations in it: the trees from the road are beautiful like a wound. A francis bacon landscape painting.

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