Michael B. Smith: History With a Beer Chaser

Roundup: Historians' Take

Michael B. Smith teaches history at Ithaca College. Without the help and inspiration of Derek Chang, Jeff Cowie, Joel Dinnerstein, Finis Dunaway, Adriane Lentz-Smith, Caroline Merithew, Aaron Sachs, Jason Sokol, Michael Trotti, and Rob Vanderlan, this essay would never have been written.

Not far from the campus of Cornell University sits a slightly shabby watering hole redolent of popcorn, old wood, and, on winter nights when it's all closed up, stale beer. The walls of the Chapter House are adorned with the visual flotsam of a college town: photos of bygone athletic events, old composite photos of fraternities, scarves of European soccer teams, and graffiti carved into the tables and scrawled on the walls.

Occasionally the Chapter House plays host to a group of historian friends—a beloved little community whose advice about writing and life has sustained its members for more than a decade. With our sheaves of papers and pens sharing the table with pint glasses and popcorn bowls, this group is both an oddity and perfectly in keeping with the eclectic atmosphere of the place.

After all these years, it might seem that any stated reason for our get-togethers is a pretext for drinking beer and unburdening ourselves of accumulated psychic detritus. In fact the gathering began as, and remains, a writing group....

comments powered by Disqus