From the Wall Street Journal:
New Jersey is America’s secret treasure-house of culture.
If that strikes you as a proposition out of an absurdist play, consider a sampling of the gifted figures who have either come from Jersey or made a home there: Bruce Springsteen (N.J.’s state songbird); Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli; Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg; the painters George Inness and John Marin; the photographer Alfred Stieglitz; Stephen Crane, Philip Roth, Junot Díaz; and David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos.”
California? Too much fantasy, too much hazardous sunlight and too much obsession with software and hard bodies. New York City? Too much reality, too little sunlight and too much obsession, period. Everywhere in between? Riches, to be sure, but no place has New Jersey’s tightly packed diversity, its quick changes from urban to country, from mountains to coast, from gritty to gorgeous.
Of course, think “New Jersey” and cultural epicenter doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Instead, the name summons up unsparing caricature: grime, gangsters, pollution, ugly highways, Byzantine shopping malls, Saharan parking lots and a level of culture somewhere between troglodyte and troll.