Iowa Writes

"Time and Distance Overcome" (Part 4 of 4)

A Note on "Time and Distance Overcome"

I began my research for this essay by searching for every instance of the phrase "telephone pole" in The New York Times from 1880 to 1920, which resulted in 370 articles. As I read through these articles, starting with the oldest and working forward in time, I was not prepared to discover, in the process, a litany of lynchings. I had not intended to write an essay about lynching, but I found that, given what my research was yielding, I could not avoid it. After reading an article headlined "Colored Scoundrel Lynched," and then another head lined "Mississippi Negro Lynched," and then another headlined "Texas Negro Lynched," I searched for every instance of the word "lynched" in The New York Times from 1880 to 1920, which resulted in 2,354 articles.
I refer, in this essay, to the first scholar of lynching, meaning James E. Cutler, author of the 1905 book Lynch-Law, in which he writes, on the first page, "lynching is a criminal practice which is peculiar to the United States." This is debatable, of course, and very possibly not true, but there is good evidence that the Italian Antonio Meucci invented a telephone years before Bell began working on his device, so as long as we are going to lay claim to one invention, we might as well take responsibility for the other.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Eula Biss is the author of The Balloonists (Hanging Loose, 2002). She teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University and is co-editor of Essay Press. "Time and Distance Overcome" is included in Notes from No Man's Land (Graywolf, 2009) which won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award.

"Time and Distance Overcome" appears in Discoveries: New Writing from The Iowa Review (Spring 2012).

"Time and Distance Overcome" is an essay that appears on the Daily Palette in four installments.  To read the previous installments, please visit the following links:  Eula Biss, Part 1, Eula Biss, Part 2, Eula Biss, Part 3.

This page was first displayed
on July 19, 2013

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