When I first started this column, my editors suggested I localize it as much as possible. I didn’t know if it would work – I figured it wouldn’t be long until I started spouting purple prose and abstract analogies on how Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s village of Macondo was Ann Arbor and points of its rise and fall corresponded to administrative goings-on, or the 1960s barbershop depression.

But it’s not yet time to start worrying about that nasty Caribbean windstorm. Turns out that beyond the Shaman Drum Bookshop poetry events and reserve-shelf treasures, our college town also serves as inspirational literary backdrop.

I’m not just talking about short-story collections from local writers about romps in the Arb, e-mailed to indie publishers from Café Ambrosia, however poignant they sometimes are. There are a number of works of fiction set in Ann Arbor that you might not know about but can find with relative ease via local bookshop sages and, surprisingly, Wikipedia’s “Culture in Ann Arbor, Michigan” page.

Perhaps most prominent on public radar at the moment is “The Feast of Love” by Charles Baxter, a long-time head of the University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. (The also excellent Peter Ho Davies – who was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year for his first novel, “The Welsh Girl” – currently directs the creative writing program. Hopefully he’ll immortalize Ann Arbor at some point, too.) “The Feast of Love” revolves around many lives and loves – and drama, lots of it. Director Robert Benton’s film adaptation, starring an ensemble cast led by Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear, transfers the quilt of stories to a small town in Oregon, but I believe it’s still generating a fair amount of “Ohmygod, no way. Really? No way” responses from fans who have bought the book and realized Baxter’s characters are doing all that living and loving in Treetown. Pick up a copy of the 2000 National Book Award finalist and guess who and what inspired its central coffee shop, Jitters, the café’s punk romantics or the melancholy philosophy professor.

Then there’s the stuff that evokes the amazing, musty little corners of campus – 20 years ago. Bharati Mukherjee’s “Jasmine” is perhaps one of the most detailed and only short stories I’ve read that paints A2 as an equal parts hot-sweat sexy academic wonderland. In it, the titular character moves from Detroit to Ann Arbor after slipping into the United States from “Port-of-Spain, by way of Canada . in the back of a gray van loaded with mattresses and box springs.” Jasmine finds out that “Ann Arbor is a magic word.” Tired of housekeeping for family friends, she takes that trip down I-94 with her new friends to the West Indian Student Association fall bash and ends up staying for good. There’s a sleepover on a couch in the Michigan Union and an alluring yet predatory molecular bio professor; it’s a coming-of-age story set in Ann Arbor that doesn’t read like the average college girl’s first semester, having great lines like “This Ann Arbor, girl, they don’t just take you off the street. It cost like hell.”

Speaking of great lines, look no further than Dean Bakopoulos’s “Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon,” another coming-of-age novel. “A newcomer’s guide to Ann Arbor” that’s full of them. “Do not, do fucking not . under any circumstances, fall in love with a woman in Ann Arbor,” advises a character named Nick. “Do not wake up in their sunny apartments the next morning, in their messy rooms full of books and black-and-white photography, in their warm narrow beds that smell of beer and salt and sweat, and say that you’re in love. You’re not in love. You’re an outsider . She won’t miss you.”

New York, San Francisco and London may be more popular choices for scenic inspiration and the backdrops for some of the best stories ever told. But sometimes it’s nice, too, to see how someone else elucidates where you’re spending these four years. A lot more people will get a reference to Little Star in the Mission District than Casa Dominick’s on Monroe Street, and it’s a good thing. It’s like you’re in this secret Ann Arbor reading club.

– Stop her before she gets weepy. E-mail Chou at kimberch@umich.edu.

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