Random Okie thought
Mentioned Catch-22 a few days ago, leading to some memories of the book itself. There was an Indian character named Chief White Halfoat, who supposedly came from Enid.
Nope, wrong. If you're going to make up names and details for your characters, you've got to do better. First of all, the original Americans didn't grow or use oats, so Halfoat makes no sense. More importantly, a Chief wouldn't come from Enid. There were never any 'official' Indians or tribal governments in that part of Oklahoma, so no Chiefs.
Another example in current literature: the play or movie called 'Osage County', which has zero connection to anything Okie. Judging from reviews, it seems to be a shallow parody of the TV series Dallas, which in turn was a shallow parody of real Texans.
Among the writers I've read thoroughly, all of them got Oklahoma right for different reasons. Steinbeck got it right because he took the time to learn, and perhaps because he was a Westerner to begin with. Percy and Updike got it right because they never mentioned it. They had enough sense to avoid characters from places they didn't know.
Well, of course "write what you know" is Lit 101, but these Oklahoma errors go beyond other Midwest errors. No New Yorker gets Ohio or Nebraska so dramatically wrong.
Why? I think it's because Oklahoma spawned a few icons that spread into New York and Europe. The icons for 'cowboy' and 'indian' and 'oilman' have French versions and NYC versions and even Kafka versions!!!,
none of which bear the slightest connection to reality.
What's an Ohio icon? Can't think of one, can you? Ohio has distinct types, but try to fill in "He was a classic Ohio ______" and you're lost.
Footnote: Percy captured one of those distinct types in a single word,
but he didn't thereby create an icon like 'cowboy'.