Mike Royko, May 13, 1981, reprinted in One More Time
Mike Royko wrote his column shortly after the death of novelist Nelson Algren, who often wrote about the same Chicago neighborhood where Royko grew up. He said he first read The Man With the Golden Arm while a soldier in Korea, and he was shocked to discover the story took place in an area he knew very well. "He had the people, the sounds, the alleys, the streets, the feel of the place," Royko wrote.
One can understand why that would be thrilling. Just finding a scene in a novel that takes place somewhere where one has visited, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon, can bring a sense of connection. Yet a story really doesn't have to be about us to be about us. When we experience fear when a character is in danger, compassion when a character suffers or celebratory when a character prevails in the end, then no matter who the characters are or where or when the story takes place, it is really about us.