Continuing our marathon coverage of The Paris Review ‘s summer 2011 issue –there was also an interview with Samuel Delany. (Remember, it’s always news to somebody.)
Delany begins with an anecdote about his Dad moving to Brooklyn in 1923:
Because Dad wanted to see the skyscrapers, someone told him he should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Back then, of course, Brooklyn was nowhere near as built-up as it is today, and as he got to the other side, he saw a big cornfield—where Borough Hall is now—an immense cornfield stretching off into the distance. His first thought was, They told me Brooklyn was supposed to be part of New York City. But coming off the bridge here is like walking right back into North Carolina!
In 1993, when Dad was dead and I started to write my story, I realized that was the same time—year and season—that Hart Crane had moved into his new home at 110 Columbia Heights, in Brooklyn. The first thing Crane did was start writing the poem “Atlantis,” which became the final section of his poetic sequence The Bridge. There’s a reference in it to corn and another to fields. It struck me, That’s got to be the same cornfield my dad saw. It’s got to be!
When Crane looked from his window, he must have seen the same corn my dad saw when he crossed the bridge. So that’s what gave me the idea—and the title. Why, I thought, don’t I write a story about the two of them meeting each other on the bridge?
Warning: Gary Farber may have reported this on Facebook months ago. Verification coming in five, four, three, two…
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]