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Friday, 11 October 2013

PHL Lit'ry Salon

PHL Exhibit 'Philadelphia's Literary Legacy'
Photo: Richard Carreño/WritersClearinghouse News Service


What do Rosella Brown, Teri Woods, Gardner Dozois, Lorene Cary, and Ben Bova have in common? Yeah, I know, you probably never heard of these authors, all with Philadelphia and Pennsylvania regional connections. Millions of passengers passing through Philadelphia International Airport are also scratching their heads. Yet they're among twenty-five Philadelphia-related authors, poets, and playwrights that PHL officials (you know, that lit'ry smart set) have designated as representing 'Philadelphia's Literary Legacy' in an exhibit recently mounted between Terminal A East and the old B connector. Nice try, PHL! And in 'partnership' with the Philadelphia Free Library, no less.
In fact, many of the Philly authors celebrated in the exhibited have a dubious claim to fame. Some are minor writers; some, niche writers; some, no-name writers. Half are women, and 'one' is actually a team, the well-known children's authors 'The Berenstain's' Yes, they actually spelled it that way!

Despite near misses, the exhibit does get it right most of the time, with such historic notables as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Owen Wister, Louisa May Alcott, and Alain Locke and more recent ones like I.F. Stone (like Franklin, pamphleteer), Pearl S. Buck, Noam Chomsky, Joe Queenan, and Anna Quindlen.
It's a good start. And the PHL should be commended for trying.
Still, next time, they might actually get a literary scholar to help. Blatantly missing are John Updike and John O'Hara. You know, among the two best short story writers and novelists of the 20th century. Both PA born, with Philly connections.