DISPATCHES FROM THE MUCKDOG GAZETTE: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town's Fight to Survive

Bill Kauffman, Author . Holt $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6854-2

Kauffman's memoir of moving back to his hometown of Batavia, N.Y., after a bumpy ride on the Washington, D.C., fast track is a sort of Our Town with attitude. " 'Placeism' might be described in the criminal code as the unreasoned love of a particular place, be it a neighborhood, village, city, or even state," Kauffman writes. "[Placeists] believe that one town is not pretty much like the next.... The differences between my Batavia, New York, and your town go well beyond the last names of the night-shift managers at Taco Bell and the Auto Zone." Unlike Garrison Keillor's folksy Lake Wobegon, Kauffman's Batavia is a real town with real problems. Hundreds of miles of its farmland were churned up to accommodate the sprawling New York State Thruway in the 1950s, and the charming five-block downtown was replaced with a shopping mall now "used in urban-planning texts as a case study in disaster." But this witty author of With Good Intentions?: Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America finds what little charm still exists between J.C. Penney and multiple Wendy's outposts and describes it here with terrific humor. Readers will laugh out loud at descriptions of Kauffman's 20th high school reunion and prickly, proud townies. Whether he's delving into upstate history or dipping into his personal palette of local color, Kauffman always stays true to one basic mantra: "Batavia will always let you down, you can never depend on it, but it's home, and that has to be enough." (Mar. 4)

Reviewed on: 11/11/2002
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-312-42316-2
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