But for New Jersey native P.F. Kluge, now a professor and writer-in-residence at Kenyon College in Ohio, it's the place where he grew up, and a perfect setting for a novel about how the American dream has changed through generations.
The Newark Star-Ledger and Cleveland Plain Dealer both reviewed Kluge's new novel, A CALL FROM JERSEY, this week.
The Star-Ledger's interview offers more insight into the creation of this literary novel and the thought processes Kluge had while writing. Read the full article here, but our favorite excerpt is below.
"The book is really about conversations with my father I never got to have," Kluge said. “I have tried to imagine his experience as an American, and as a German in America, especially between the two world wars."
The son, too, is culturally adrift. He is a second-generation American, suddenly trying to understand his parents’ life and re-connect with their lost old-world ways.
“As I grow older, and the number of years since my parents have died grows larger, I grow closer to them,” Kluge said. “As I get older, I miss the sound of their voices, the sound of German being spoken around me, and the stories they told. I miss the beer parties and German songs sung into the night. I miss mother’s potato pancakes.”
The book’s sense of place is authentic. Kluge writes about “13 Bumps,” (Johnston Road in Watchung), which climbs the mountain above Route 22 and has been a teenage makeout place for generations, from Model As to Mitsubishis. And Snuffy’s in Scotch Plains, gone from “roadhouse to Parthenon.” Old Hans even recalls Madame Bey’s, the old Passaic-side boxing training camp on River Road in Summit, where Schmeling once trained.
Only one of Kluge’s previous seven novels was a Jersey story, and it was his most famous.
“I set ‘Eddie and the Cruisers,’ in South Jersey. I spent the summer of 1962 working as a college intern at the Vineland Times Journals, and I found South Jersey so fascinating, and so different from here I was from. You could smell whatever they were canning that day in the air.”
The Plain Dealer's article, which you can read in full here, calls A CALL FROM JERSEY an "engaging road novel" and also comments on Kluge's ability to vividly describe a particular location.
In P.F. Kluge's "A Call From Jersey," characters travel to the highest point of the Watchung Mountains at night, park the car, turn out the lights and strain to glimpse Staten Island in the distance. New Jersey is the place from which Kluge's characters flee, Manhattan being "in the direction of my dreams," says George Griffin, co-narrator, with his father, Hans, of this engaging intergenerational story.
Kluge, a wry and underappreciated novelist who teaches at Kenyon College, wrote 2008's beguiling "Gone Tomorrow" and "Eddie and the Cruisers."
Here, he illustrates how difficult George finds it to get entirely away from New Jersey. Even if you are away your entire adult life, the roads of the Watchung Mountains, George says, still "become part of you so you feel you could find your way along them in the dark forever."...
Then, like all great road trips, Hans and George's ends in an epiphany. Kluge handles these passages deftly, allowing for the bonds of siblings, and Hans' lingering questions: Was my brother a monster? Or was my brother me?
Stay tuned for more news and reviews for P.F. Kluge and A CALL FROM JERSEY.