Setting: Buffalo, New York.
Usually, those words instill more than a little skepticism from those of us who call the City of Good Neighbors home.
We've often encountered a work ostensibly set in Buffalo, only to realize that it's no more Buffalo than Boise. It's quickly apparent that some West Coast writer merely filled in the blank (probably threw in some snow reference and dropped a line or two about chicken wings) and picked Buffalo out of the geographical hat. The characters don't talk like us, they don't think like us, the locales don't really look like Buffalo.
Happily, Buffalo natives have been more successful at capturing the real flavor of our city. Tom Dudzick's "Over the Tavern" plays have accurately portrayed Buffalo's blue-collar charm, A.R. Gurney's work our blue-bloodedness.
And then there's "City of Light." In Lauren Belfer's recent best seller, we saw that the real Buffalo can resonate deeply with readers as a setting for historical suspense.
It caused us to wonder. Would Buffalo work as well as the setting for other types of creative writing?
Because Belfer immersed herself in a Buffalo mind-set for the six years it took her to write "City of Light," we asked some local writers (and some with local roots) to do the same -- for a shorter period of time. The assignment? Create for FIRST SUNDAY an original, fictional work in which the setting is an intrinsic part of the plot -- one that wouldn't work if you transplanted it. (As is the case with many of us!) Also, it had to be new work -- no dusting off old manuscripts and plugging in the Anchor Bar or Irv.
Included are seven selections, each a different literary style: "Woodlawn Beach," a Buffalo soap opera; "Men Are From Amherst, Women Are From Buffalo," a manual for Western New Yorkers in love; "Don Carlo," a "Godfather"-like tale of a Buffalo Mafia family; a children's book excerpt featuring the lovable Merl and Jasper; "Como 8 Heights," a Gothic romance based on "Wuthering Heights"; "The Buffalo Workout" exercise manual, and Tom Fontana's excerpt from an imaginary television series. We also dipped into the pool of talented artists we know to give us visual interpretations of the imaginary works.
Let this special edition of FIRST SUNDAY be a reminder: Many others think our Niagara Frontier lives have the drama and substance that inspires exceptional literature. Why should we live any other way?
-- KATHLEEN RIZZO YOUNG