A Pulitzer Prize-winning critic details his personal odyssey through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C, discovering his roots and observing life in the Mid-Atlantic states.
Alone among the principal regions of the United States, the Mid-Atlantic suffers from an identity problem. Think of the South and you think at once of grits, the Civil War, and magnolias. The same applies to the Northeast (Boston baked beans, town meetings), the Midwest (the Mississippi River, corn as high as an elephant's eye), and West (John Wayne, hot tubs). But think of the Mid-Atlantic and you're likely to draw a blank.Is that fair? Does the Mid-Atlantic really possess no singular qualities? After all, it's the site of the nation's capital and of seven substantial states, each of which has its own history, geography, and culture. Doesn't this region have its own characteristics and quirks, ones that are distinctly and uniquely Mid-Atlantic in flavor?That's the question Jonathan Yardley, Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, columnist, and native of the Mid-Atlantic, sets out to answer. In States of Mind he paints a new and surprising portrait of this previously unrecognized region, bringing out the true colors of these states in the middle, revealing their charms, their flaws, and their personalities.Starting in his adopted hometown of Baltimore, Yardley drives his high-performance all-American automobile to and through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C., a journey that enables him to capture - in the distinctive style that has made him one of the most respected newspaper writers in the country today - the essence of the Mid-Atlantic, a microcosm of the nation itself.During his travels he says farewell to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and hello to its celebrated successor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards; visits Frank Lloyd Wright's house, Fallingwater, in the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania; attends a reunion at his beloved alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; gives a comparison test to the region's most famous mountain resorts, the Homestead Inn in Virginia, and its rival in turn-of-the-century splendor, the Greenbrier in West Virginia. He stops in, grudgingly, at Williamsburg, "home of crass commercialism"; searches for his grandparents' grave in Philadelphia; and enjoys the singular pleasure of seeing his family's name plastered all over Yardley, Pennsylvania. The author visits the birthplaces of much of America's history, and goes to the centers of much of its present - malls, outlet stores, and fast-food restaurants. He also spends a lot of time stuck in traffic on unsightly, crowded highways, musing in his curmudgeonly way about the modern world and its dubious delights.It's a journey that takes him many places, including one he had not expected to find. The reader will share his surprise and delight in this, his final discovery.