Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Week 6: State - Connecticut

Connecticut is the last state on the New England leg of this reading trip. Known as the Constitution State for being, somewhat debatably, the first state to have a written constitution (the Fundamental Orders of 1638-9), Connecticut is today known primarily for its wealth. The per capita income for 2007 was $54,117, ranking first among the states, though this does often overshadow the poorer regions of the state, mostly in the east (the state capital Hartford is one of the ten poorest cities in America). The western and southern area (part of the New York Tri-State area) is the most affluent and populous region of the state. Many music stars, radio and television personalities, and athletes have made temporary homes in the wealthy suburbs of Fairfield County. Connecticut is also home to the oldest public library in America (The Scoville Memorial Library founded 1771), New England's largest Protestant Church (The First Cathedral in Bloomfield), and Yale University, established in 1701, one of the most academically renowned and selective universities in the United States. The largest city is Bridgeport and Connecticut's center of population is in Cheshire, New Haven County.

Films set in Connecticut tend to focus on the wealthier side of life in the state: see the big country houses in Bringing Up Baby, Beetlejuice, Christmas in Connecticut, and Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House. While in the east side of the state the 1988 film Mystic Pizza was set in the real seaside village of Mystic in New London County.

Three popular books which focus on suburban life in Connecticut are Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin and The Ice Storm by Rick Moody. I almost wish I hadn't read The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin last year as it would have been the perfect choice for Connecticut. Not only is it very short (I read it in a day), but it's an enjoyable satire of wealthy American suburbs. Having narrowed down that choice though I've opted to go with The Ice Storm.

The Ice Storm was first published in 1994 to wide acclaim and was swiftly adapted into a 1997 film by Ang Lee. The book is set in the real town of New Canaan (currently the wealthiest town in Connecticut with a per capita income of $85,459) in 1973 against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal and the sexual revolution. Yes that's right, more adultery!

Review to follow this/next week...

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