Native Talk

Jim Krusoe is a little worried. The Cleveland native, who teaches at Santa Monica College in California, doesn’t know how Clevelanders will react to his new book, Erased. That’s because when its main character, Theodore Bellefontaine, receives a postcard from his dead mother (“I need to see you,” it reads), he heads to Cleveland to find her. Ted discovers a city very different from the “Best Location in the Nation” tagline found on his mother’s card. The radiant but warped Cleveland is full of artists, sweat-stained residents, strange women’s clubs, avid bowlers and so many rats that two crusades are organized to kill them. Krusoe, 66, who left Cleveland after high school and only recently returned on a book tour, almost expected a newspaper headline, “Former Resident Mocks City.” The book is not a vehicle for criticizing his hometown, though. “In a weird way, it is a funny, cracked love poem to the city,” he says.

How did growing up here influence the way Cleveland is depicted in the book?
It wasn’t the happiest time of my life, but I think everyone’s childhood can’t help but be a kind of paradise. And, like all paradises, it’s flawed. So no matter where you grow up, it’s sort of your version of paradise, because everything is fresh and new, and that’s the way you think the world is.

Had you ever been to Aurora Pond, where Ted’s mother presumably dies while fishing?
My dad was not a fisherman, but once a year, he’d drive me out to Aurora Pond and spend three hours in a boat complaining.

The “Best Location in the Nation” tagline becomes, at times, the “City of Noble Foreheads,” the “City of Rats” and the “City of Strikes.”
Yes, how do you name your home? The one thing I didn’t call it, and I suppose it’s implied, is “City of Wonders,” because that’s the way the world is to a child. One of the things I like to do is create a book that gives people gifts, that shows you wonders you didn’t know were there, because essentially, my endings tend to end with mortality.
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