I've been listening to your podcast for quite a long time, and have greatly enjoyed it. (I particularly liked the reference to Arsenic and Old Lace in the latest cast). I'm very much looking forward to your continued discussion on Peace, but I have a quibble.
I believe that in your first two podcasts you've indicated that Cassionsville is in Kansas. I'm pretty sure that the state in which Cassionsville is located is not specified in Peace itself (Heck, Wolfe doesn't even identify by name what is clearly meant to be Florida in a later part of the book), so I assume that your reasoning is based on a mention of Kansas in the related story, The Changeling (in Gene Wolfe's Book of Days and Castle of Days). If you consult that story, you'll see that its narrator writes of moving out of Kansas on his way to "Cassonsville" after his release from the stockade at Ft. Leavenworth (which, of course, IS in Kansas).
Do you have another reason for believing the town in Peace is in Kansas? I believe in an interview (probably the Larry McCaffery one), Wolfe said that it was modelled after the small town in Iowa in which his father grew up.
Brandon and Glenn, I’m enjoying your work on Peace. Thank you for what you’re doing!
I’m probably too fixated on this topic, but both the location of Cassionsville and Wolfe’s P&G experience came up on the podcast today. I still don’t think the text points to Cassionsville being in Kansas, but we’ll see more of that in Chapter 4.
What today’s podcast really got me thinking about was Wolfe’s location. I want echo Andy Ambulo’s thought above. It seems likely that Wolfe lived in the Cincinnati area rather than Houston while he worked for P&G and wrote Peace. P&G’s headquarters and its US engineering/R&D are based there (and I believe always have been). Cincy is also mentioned this detailed profile published on “The Ringer” (of all places): https://www.theringer.com/2019/4/25/18515675/gene-wolfe-science-fiction-author
To me, this is important because it places him in the Ohio river valley while working on Peace. This just points to the need for a great Wolfe biography. Maybe someday!
I’m really looking forward to Chapter 4. There is a lot going on in Chapter 4!
I'll throw in a few more comments:
1) I know Illinois quite well, and you'd have to be well south of the Cubs/Cardinals line to match the topography described for Cassionsville. Certainly way down south by Cairo or Carbondale, you could find some of the features.
2) The IMDB (!) bio of Wolfe states that he was working in Cincinnati for P&G from 1956 to 1972, so I don't think the statement that he wrote Peace when he lived in Houston is accurate. Rather, this places Wolfe in the Ohio River valley at just the right time. Following up rshane, certainly Wolfe could have traveled to Jackson as part of the industrialization of the Pringles process machinery, and derived some ideas for Caissonsville from those visits.
3) "Clearly meant to be Florida" in my original post was maybe a bit strong. The association of Florida with citrus that you'd need to have a strong argument from internal evidence that it's somewhere else. I was also basing this on a tenuous association of the events in that part of the novel with the fact that circuses tended to have winter headquarters in Florida. I hope you're not planning to claim it's actually Texas (which, yes, does have a citrus industry) based on some extension of the Caissionsville, KS claim.
I am also enjoying the podcast and this particular topic moved me from lurker to poster.
The story is often described as taking place in Kansas. Do we know where this belief started?
I don’t feel like Wolfe was describing a town on the Great Plains when he wrote about Cassionsville. The geography he describes does not fit for me.
I am not confident that Wolfe had a specific location in mind, but I agree that the Ohio river valley seems likely. Sedo already made a more compelling case than I can but let me add a few random thoughts (at the risk of running ahead of the podcast).
In The Changeling, the narrator “moves out of Kansas” and has days of travel before he arrives in “Cassonsville.” He is clearly not in Kansas anymore.
Lois’ comment on Quantrill is a clue, but Den’s response to Lois’ question may be telling. He is neutral. He spends a lot of time thinking about local history. Would he have a stronger reaction to Quantrill if his family were early settlers in eastern Kansas?
Lois is from St. Louis. Pre-internet, it seems more likely that a small town in southern Illinois or Indiana would advertise in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch than the Kansas City Star.
I think that Tennessee or Kentucky is unlikely, because Wolfe describes Cassionsville as clearly Midwestern and seems to draw line between the Midwest and places that are more distinctly Southern.
But, let me add one note that is a bit of a stretch. If the anecdote about Wolfe working on machine design for Pringles is correct, then Wolfe probably spent time in Jackson, Tennessee. This is where P&G built their US plant to process potatoes into Pringles (the plant and brand now belong to Kellogg’s).
So, when I picture Cassionsville, I picture a small Illinois river town that looks something like Peoria and something like Jackson (but probably smaller than both) and is south of the line that runs through central Illinois that separates Cubs fans from Cardinals fans.
I’m hoping that you're saving discussion on the town name for the novel wrap up
I'll add that the legend of the Bell Witch is mentioned a few times. The events which gave birth to the legend occurred in Tennessee, but were pretty widely known even in the 1800s.
Just listened to the latest podcast. I think the book is pretty clearly set east of the Mississippi, and likely north of the Ohio river, in Illinois/Indiana/Ohio, which explains why the river flows to the west. A few pieces of evidence below:
>The strongest clue is when Lois tells Weer that William Quantrill, despite fighting for the Confederacy, was "born near here", and was "a Midwesterner, like Grant and Sherman" Quantrill, Grant, and Sherman were all born in Ohio, and Grant settled in Illinois.
>The Kanakessee River is fictional, but shares a lot of phonemes with the Kankakee River in Illinois.
>Stewart Blaine tells Weer that the land should theoretically revert to the Iroquois upon his death. The Iroquois nation exercised control of the Ohio river valley, but never any region west of the Mississippi
>Also, during Weer's reverie about American cities becoming overgrown ruins, he cites Chicago and Indianapolis, not Kansas City or Topeka.
>Julius Smart's trip south takes him to the Gulf Coast, probably somewhere from Florida to Louisiana (orange trees, shotgun shacks), rather than into Texas.
>And lastly, in a book that so keenly observes small-town social politics, it would only make sense for Wolfe to write about the region in which he spent much of his life.
I think this affects the "river flowing the wrong way" discussion as well. While I like the idea of Weer's America not being the "real" one, I think it's possible that Cassionsville is east of the Mississippi. I've generally leaned toward Tennessee, but I'm not sure a definite conclusion can be reached.
This is a great question and I think you are probably right that "Kansas" has never been said in the text. Yet everyone always talks about this story as taking place in Kansas. We'll certainly address this in the wrap-up episode. I'm not sure that "through" necessarily means "going out of" but just "deep into" or just "a lot in." Certainly that's how I've used the word "through" when talking about road-trips. But if we think about it as meaning going completely through and leaving, Iowa wouldn't work for "through" Kansas either, because you don't really go "through" Kansas to get to Iowa from Fort Leavenworth -- you go "through" Missouri. So perhaps Nebraska or Oklahoma?
We'll pay closer attention to this as we go and then probably try to do a better reading of the Native American material in Chapter One on our re-read before doing the wrap-up. Perhaps there are some bits of flora and fauna that might be useful clues that we've overlooked.
Also, you say "clearly meant to be Florida." I'm going to skeptical of THAT on the air when we get to Chapter Three.