Friday, February 22, 2008

Granted, It Ain't California ...


...but I can still link it to Carey McWilliams.

Last summer, Matt Bokovoy of the University of Oklahoma Press asked me to write a report on McWilliams's Prejudice (1944) with the idea that the press might reissue it. In return, I received a credit for some of their books.

I chose four:

George Armstrong Custer, My Life on the Plains
Elizabeth Custer, Boots and Saddles
Richard White, It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own
J.S. Holliday, The World Rushed In

I started reading My Life on the Plains and am still making my way through it. Yesterday I came home to find my issue of The New York Review of Books. It included a piece on Custer by Larry McMurtry. Slightly uncanny. McMurtry recommended Evan Connell's Son of the Morning Star, one of my favorites. Also a coincidence since McMurtry and Connell appeared in my review of Philip Fradkin's Stegner bio. (Not sure if Connell made it through the final trim.) Also, McMurtry will make a cameo appearance in the Ramparts book.

This clustering reignited a desire from the mid-1980s to visit Little Bighorn. And maybe that will happen. But in the meantime, I'm tripping on the simple fact that Libbie Custer and my parents were walking the planet at the same time. Actually, my mother might have been crawling the planet when Libbie Custer died in New York City.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carey on HuffPo and AlterNet

Scott Kurashige kicked off a widely circulated article yesterday with a reference to Carey McWilliams. Fitting. The article looks at the role of race and ethnicity in the Democratic campaign: specifically, how California "flipped the script" when it comes to multiracial coalitions.

Kurashige is an associate professor at the University of Michigan. His new book is called The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles (Princeton UP, 2007).

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Philip Fradkin on Wallace Stegner


Today the Los Angeles Times ran my review of Philip Fradkin's Wallace Stegner and the American West. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the literature of the American West--especially fiction, history, and environmental writing. I learned a lot from it.

While visiting with Alice McGrath in Ventura yesterday, I discovered that she met Stegner in the 1940s. Stegner was writing a book called One Nation, his version of Carey McWilliams's Brothers Under the Skin, which appeared a couple of years earlier. Both men had contributed to the American Folkways series edited by Erskine Caldwell, and they may have met that way. (Stegner wrote Mormon Country, and McWilliams wrote Southern California Country, later simplified to Southern California.) Stegner asked McWilliams for help on the Latino chapter in One Nation. McWilliams referred him to Alice, who introduced Stegner to some folks in Los Angeles.

When I asked Alice what Stegner was like, she mostly remembered how handsome he was.

Fanatical readers of this blog will recall that the Times doesn't keep their online material posted for very long. After a few days, you have to pay for it. So if you're going to get it, get it early.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

More Ramparts

Another book review of Hugh Wilford's The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America put Ramparts back in the paper today--this time the New York Sun. The book's title plays on the CIA's name for its own propaganda machine. Wurlitzers, the old theater organs that accompanied silent movies, let audiences know how they should feel at any given moment.

Unlike the Wall Street Journal review, this one (by the Hudson Institute's Ronald Radosh) doesn't suggest that Ramparts' investigative work on CIA activities aided communism.

Note to self: Look at The Mighty Wurlitzer.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Jasmine Trade


I finished Denise Hamilton's The Jasmine Trade and am ready to rule: Check it out.

Denise is a former Los Angeles Times reporter, and this is the first of several Eve Diamond mysteries. Her protagonist, it turns out, is also an LA Times reporter, and we end up learning a lot about the city as we follow her through her sleuthing. The Jasmine Trade is about "parachute kids," Asian teenagers living on their own and attending school in Los Angeles while their parents run their affairs from the old country.

Turns out Eve lives in Silverlake, Carey McWilliams's old neighborhood. Did you think for a second that I wouldn't tie that in somehow?

Next up: Los Angeles Noir, edited by Denise. This is part of the series from Akashic Books.