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This report is taken from PN Review 117, Volume 24 Number 1, September - October 1997.

Letter from Columbus, Ohio Penny McCarthy

The 'Letters from...' pieces in PNR, it occurred to me, risk giving readers a distorted view of Life Abroad, because they are always from some great metropolis, rich in culture, where life is fizzing. What is needed is a few reports from the back of beyond, or the backs of various beyonds, for true education. A chance to redress the balance was presented to me when I decided to attend a conference on Shakespeare organised by Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio, in May.

What did I find? - a place rich in culture and fizzing with life, of course, but life, and culture, with a difference.

'Lazarus - Last Countdown', proclaimed posters in the riverside windows of the large department store downtown. That implied a pretty definitive ending, I thought, beyond the hope of resurrection, and indeed business did not seem to be booming anywhere much on a Friday morning where High Street met Broad Street, which I had been assured was downtown Ohio. The front of the store still managed to carry an air of 'Business as Usual', but to one who had approached from the river to take in a view of the civic buildings, with their rousing inscription 'A Commonwealth Conceived and Nurtured by Strong Men', that air was deceptive. Columbus himself looked on from in front of the City Hall, no longer sure whether he had discovered something, or intruded on something. But children and families of various ethnicities seemed ...

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