Book Club: Our life experiences shape how we see the world, and what we read, apparently
Editor’s note: This monthly-ish column by the Vail Daily’s entertainment editor will discuss what she’s reading currently and how it affects her life.
I moved to Colorado without knowing a single soul. I had never been here. I hadn’t skied in about 12 years. I graduated from Syracuse University about two weeks earlier after spending my whole life on the East Coast. I had been farther west than Florida three times before moving: twice to California and once to Austin for Spring Break at SXSW.
Don’t get me wrong: I love it out here. It’s one of the first things I mention when I meet new people. The hiking is incredible, the beer is pretty dank, and everyone’s friendly. But there’s a part of me that misses the East Coast. And that’s hitting me harder now that it’s fall.
In the Northeast, especially in the U.S.’s geographical embodiment of fall — New England — people get excited about fall the way people get excited about winter here. We don’t “pray for snow” on the East Coast. I pray for temperatures warm enough for just a light jacket and cold enough to justify constant ingestion of hot beverages.
I spent my autumns picking apples at one of the three orchards within the borders of my small hometown, which is so New England that Greta Gerwig shot a few scenes for her upcoming “Little Women” film with Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Meryl Streep in my town. (Also, fun fact: the author of the book “Little Women,” Louisa May Alcott, grew up in a transcendentalist commune in my hometown.)
I punctuated my after-school field hockey practices with trips to the Lions Club’s Fall Festival and Flea Market. And when I was younger, I’d assemble with the whole town to trick-or-treat at the center of town, where nearly all the buildings aren’t from this century and the barren oak trees give the whole place a surreal, spooky feeling that can’t be fabricated by the people who make haunted houses and hayrides.
I’ve also been reading a lot of East Coast literature in my slight homesickness. The New Yorker’s annual technology issue came out recently, with a great piece by millennial journalist icon Jia Tolentino on TikTok, the successor to Gen Z-skewing social media apps Musical.ly and Vine (rest in peace). When I slid the issue out of my box at the Avon post office, I wondered how many others the postal workers had distributed earlier that day. I wondered how many of those issues belonged to other transplants trying to hold onto the things that shaped them.
As I trudge through “Tender is the Night” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the poster child for the East Coast elite in literature and for the entire 20th century, I’m reminded even further of how much our experiences growing up shape who we are today. I love Fitzgerald — and yes, I’ve read work besides “Gatsby” — his writing can be a pain in the ass to read. But when he says something great, it hits you. That’s how I feel about growing up on the East Coast.
There are a lot of pretentious people, a lot of people who think being smarter than other people is a personality trait that should be flaunted at every possible chance. Some would probably put me in that category: a white girl who grew up in a town with a lot of well-off people and who had the opportunity to attend a private university where tuition is on par with the Ivy Leagues. But when we forget about being the best and just be ourselves, that’s where the real wisdom comes out.
Of course, I’m aiming to provide readers with the best, highest-quality journalism each day. But on a personal life level, I’m learning how to let go of the need to be the best and the constant competition that infects the East Coast, especially in education. And since education has been a main pillar in my life up to this point, it’s not easy. But it’s a journey that must be taken.
Casey Russell is the arts and entertainment editor at the Vail Daily, and yes, she does drive like a Masshole. You can reach her at 970-748-2904.