I enrolled in a fiction-writing workshop, just so that I'd be able to balance some of the professional "review" work that I do with the artistic "writing" that I so enjoy, whether I ever publish or not. (Read: I need an agent.) But that's given me cause to start reading a lot of short stories and, along with David Foster Wallace's final syllabus (cribbed from the Internet), I wound up reading William H. Gass's In The Heart of the Heart of the Country:
Sports, politics, and religion are the three passions of the badly educated. They are the Midwest's open sores. Ugly to see, a source of constant discontent, they sap the body's strength. Appalling quantities of money, time, and energy are wasted on them. The rural mind is narrow, passionate, and reckless on these matters. Greed, however shortsighted and direct, will not alone account for it. I have known men, for instance, who for years have voted squarely against their interests. Nor have I ever noticed that their surly Christian views prevented them from urging forward the smithereening, say, of Russia, China, Cuba, or Korea. And they tend to back their country like they back their local team: they have a fanatical desire to win; yelling is their forte; and if things go badly, they are inclined to sack the coach.That's from 1968. If I were a magazine editor (read: somebody, hire me), I would contact the alive-and-kicking Gass (or his agent) and try to pull him away from the novel he's working on (Middle C), long enough to write a non-fiction essay on the current political climate: "A Return to the Heart of the Heart of the Country." Because while the above may have been fiction, it sure doesn't read that way forty years later.