Apparently in the US, anything that isn’t Manhattan, is a suburb.
In The Morning News’s Tournament of Books, this morning’s judge eliminated a very good novel, Kapitoil, in favor of Jonathan Franzen’s yucky novel Freedom, which I spent a hateful week forcing myself to finish.
What sent me over the top in the face-off was the reviewers’ insistence that Franzen’s novel was set in the suburban midwest and her referral (and Franzen’s referral), over and over, to suburban St. Paul.
St. Paul is the capital of Minnesota. Yes, in recent years, Minneapolis has worked to hard-brand itself, but St. Paul itself has suburbs; it is not a suburb. If you want to set a novel in suburban St. Paul, you have to pick something like Oakdale. Try that. St. Paul is a city, and a nice one.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are two separate cities, and always have been.
To the coastal denizens of the literary world Franzen sells to, there surely is nothing more dull-sounding than the words “Midwest” or “suburb”. Putting the words “Midwest suburb” together for those people is cultural shorthand, like saying “feminist voter” to a brand of Tea Partier.