Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Without a Literary Blueprint

Madison Smartt Bell remembers his early days in New York City

January 10, 2012 “I arrived in New York in 1979, without a literary blueprint,” writes Madison Smartt Bell in a new essay for The Millions. “I was a Southern boy, from rural Middle Tennessee (okay, by way of Princeton, I admit). My favorite writers at that time were Dostoevsky and Harry Crews. I didn’t know that a contemporary urban fiction existed. I saw New York at first through my own eyes. It was like Columbus ‘discovering’ America: New York City was a wealth of material, ripe to be exploited, and as far as I knew, nobody else ever had.” Read the rest of the essay here to learn how Bell discovered the rich literary tradition of the city, and why he didn’t feel particularly drawn to Bright Lights Big City, the megabestselling novel by a writer who would later leave NYC to live in Middle Tennessee himself.