I can’t say enough about the importance of putting a project on hiatus if you’re just not feeling it or you can’t decide which direction to take it in. Forcing words that don’t want to come is a recipe for disaster, and if you’ve lost control of your ship, continuing to steer it through the eye of a storm will only make things even worse.
The tentative chapter-by-chapter notes I made for Dream Deferred in 2015 have very little detail about the Minnesota storylines. Thus, it’s no wonder I almost immediately lost control when I took them in a completely unexpected direction. Nothing had been planned in advance.
I thought only of pros for the Konevs moving back to NYC and cons for remaining in Minnesota when I hatched that unplanned subplot. As I lost more and more control, I could only think of cons for going to NYC. However, I still had no strong feelings about where exactly they should go.
Pros of NYC:
1. All their relatives and many close family friends live there.
2. Ivan’s aunt and uncle, and Lyuba’s mother and stepfather, are now in their autumn years. It’s hardly unusual for people to move closer to elderly family.
3. NYC in 1952 was the centre of the art world. Where else could Ivan get a proper fine arts education and have a successful art career?
4. Likewise with Lyuba getting a master’s degree in history from a top-notch university and finding a career in that field.
5. In the conformist 1950s, big cities were safer for against the grain people.
6. Sonyechka and Tamara are really excited about living near their new friends in the Zyuganov family and attending the famous progressive Walden School with them.
7. With only two kids left at home, Lyuba and Ivan don’t really need a house anymore.
8. There are more opportunities for everything in NYC!
9. Who wouldn’t want to live in such an exciting city?
10. So many museums and libraries!
11. Lyuba and Ivan deserve a do-over of their NYC experience. This time, they’d do everything properly, in much happier circumstances.
12. It’s very convenient for future plots if everyone is in the same location instead of only together for family celebrations.
13. They regularly left their farm to visit NYC anyway. Someone truly committed to that lifestyle would always be on the farm.
14. Ivan has admitted he only latched onto the dream of farming in the Midwest as an escape from his abusive father, not out of genuine passion for that profession or area.
15. Their oldest children never felt deprived because they lived in an apartment and had to go to parks instead of playing in a backyard.
16. Those oldest children also admit they only came home to Minnesota after graduation because of familial duty. They were quite happy in the city, and didn’t want to leave.
17. It’s the perfect time to start over, and for their oldest children to establish new lives.
18. They never set down real Minnesota roots.
19. The Green Revolution forced many small farmers out of business.
20. There are fewer opportunities for art, education, and culture in Minnesota.
Copyright Simon Fraser at email@example.com
Cons of NYC:
1. It’s a really bad trope and gimmick when the entire cast moves somewhere, unless it’s a situation like immigration.
2. It feeds into the romanticised view of NYC as the best of all possible cities.
3. NYC, like many other cities in the postwar era, had a very serious housing crisis. Very unlikely there’d be an easily-available, relatively spacious apartment waiting for them.
4. The odds of finding a single-family townhouse were even slimmer. Almost all of them were split into apartments, duplexes, and SROs years ago.
5. Speaking of, I was thinking of NYC the way it was a generation earlier, not the reality of the 1950s. This wasn’t an era of luxury prewar apartments and townhouses. Most people lived in smaller quarters.
6. The city was beginning its decline by 1952, even if the situation didn’t begin getting noticeably dire until the next decade. In a family saga or series, we should always think ahead instead of entirely in the present.
7. Sonyechka and Tamara don’t need to be uprooted yet again! Children need stability.
8. It reads like a juvenile, deus ex machina wish fulfillment. Lyuba and Ivan get accepted to Columbia! Ivan’s father croaks and leaves them $20 million to buy a luxury penthouse and spend summers travelling to places like France and Italy! The entire extended family, all their friends, and the entire Zyuganov family move into a luxury for less apartment that functions like an urban kibbutz! The magic of living in Manhattan!
9. Lyuba and Ivan are in their early fifties and still have two kids left at home. They’re not unattached people in their twenties who won’t mind living in a 200-square foot apartment in a less desirable part of town.
10. They’re kind of used to having a yard and their own front and back doors.
11. Their family has been too joined at the hip for too long.
12. During all their years apart, they’ve developed separate lives from their extended family and old friends.
13. I failed to settle on one direction for this storyline.
14. Sonyechka, who emerges as the most brilliant of their children during the fourth book, comes across like a spoilt child living in a fantasy land when she latches onto this idea of moving to NYC and essentially dictating major life decisions to her own parents.
15. It’s perfectly normal to wish we’d done things differently and long for a return to how things used to be, but that doesn’t mean packing up one’s entire life to pursue a daydream. Friends’ lives often take different paths even if they live nearby, and you can never really go home again.
16. It felt like a preachy polemic.
17. It involves way too many cluttery storylines and silly plot twists justifying a huge chunk of the cast relocating.
18. How many New Yorkers spend all their free time going to museums, libraries, ballets, operas, art galleries, film festivals, and lectures, or having deep conversations and debates with other intellectuals and artists? They have ordinary lives to live, bills to pay, families to raise.
19. We take our personalities and interests with us wherever we go. A serious, introverted homebody won’t suddenly become super outgoing and eager to hobnob with strangers just because of the magic of the big city.
20. Believe it or not, other cities have awesome schools and museums too!
21. Where would their dear horse Branimir live? He deserves more than a city stable and daily walks in a park.
22. Deep down, I still can’t truly see Lyuba and Ivan as true-blue New Yorkers. They’re just not big-city or apartment people.