A sense of place in a place that looks like no place?
A few days later, I heard an interviewer on the excellent Out of the Past podcast series tell Phillips, a native of Wichita, that: "One of the things that really worked for me in the novel was the Wichita setting."
So, what is The Ice Harvest's setting? It's nocturnal, wind-swept, snow-covered and dyed pale orange by streetlights. It's strip clubs and restaurants set in unprepossessing shopping malls. It's the protagonist, Charlie Arglist, banging in frustration on the door of of a fast-food chain restaurant that's shiny, bright and closed. It's largely anonymous, in other words.
But here's Phillips in the same interview, asked if he had ever considered writing about a more typical noir setting than Wichita:
Perhaps, then, the story's sleazy anonymity reflects the city's history and therefore its setting. It is Wichita, though perhaps a Wichita the local Chamber of Commerce might not be eager to promote.
"No, because the only town I wanted to write about Wichita. I wasn't going to name it as Wichita, but ... Dennis [McMillan] said no, you have to call it Wichita because that's what it is ...
"The aircraft plants drew thousands and thousands of single men into town ... You get a lot of single guys in a place without a corresponding number of single women, you get a certain type of vice."
And now, readers, your question: What other novels, stories or movies create a sense of place through their very anonymity? What other odd, unexpected ways do writers use to create vivid settings?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008