Thursday, March 30, 2006

Black Oak Books Tonight

I'll be at Black Oak Books tonight (1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) at 7:30 along with Peter Schrag and Ethan Rarick. Peter has a new book out, California: America's High-Stakes Experiment, and Ethan's bio of Pat Brown, California Rising, is out in paperback. Both books are from UC Press. We'll each offer some brief remarks on California and its history and then have some Q&A.

Peter turned me on to McWilliams in 1999, and I'm looking forward to meeting Ethan, who now works at Berkeley's Institute for Governmental Studies. I have a soft spot for this bookstore, too. I lived around the corner throughout graduate school and was a regular customer.

A gigs update: I'll be at Dawson's Book Shop in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 17. This is another venerable institution. I met its proprietor, Michael Dawson, at a book signing for LA's Early Moderns (Balcony Press, 2003), which he co-authored.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Horowitz Review

Irving Louis Horowitz, professor emeritus of sociology at Rutgers, has weighed in on American Prophet and Victor Navasky's A Matter of Opinion in the Sewanee Review. McWilliams is described as a "solid native American radical" who "remained his own man," and I am credited for telling his story "earnestly and honestly" and handling McWilliams's stance on communism with appropriate nuance. Victor, his book, and The Nation under his guidance don't come off quite so well, though he is credited with treating the magazines's editorial lineage with more depth and detail than I did. (True.)

I received the review as a paper copy from my publisher, so I don't have a link or even a citation to pass along.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Norman Solomon

I'm pretty sure Carey McWilliams would be speaking out against the Iraq war, among other things, and the constellation of deceptions and atrocities surrounding it. And right now I'm listening to Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy, on KPFA--he's speaking at an anti-war rally in Walnut Creek tomorrow. It looks as if Norman will be a P3 author, so I'm especially glad to hear him speaking out on this issue.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Fante--and Steve Cooper

The L.A. Times review drew an email from Stephen Cooper, who wrote Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante (North Point Press, 2000)--highly recommended. I met Steve while working on the McWilliams book; we had dinner at Musso-Frank's on Hollywood and Vine just to complete the retro L.A. effect. He teaches English at Cal State Long Beach--great guy. Robert Towne's film version of Ask the Dust is getting some press now--big write-up in the San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook section, for example--so I'm hoping the movie will drive readers to the novel and Steve's superb bio.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Very Impressed ...

...with Kate Julian's review of American Prophet in the Los Angeles Times. She really put her finger on McWilliams's unique gift and contribution, I think--great selection and emphasis. David Ulin wrote an excellent piece on John Fante's Ask the Dust this week, too, so I hope these critical efforts will direct readers to these two Los Angeles writers, who happened to be close friends. Certainly the Times is doing its part.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Los Angeles Times review

So the big news this week is that the Los Angeles Times will review American Prophet on Sunday, March 12. That's fitting for all kinds of reasons. McWilliams worked for the Times, he has many fans there still, and Fante was right, I think, that Los Angeles (not New York) was McWilliams's real home.

This isn't to discount the admirable work McWilliams did as editor of The Nation, but he left an important part of himself in Los Angeles when he moved east in April 1951. In the book, I even wonder if The Nation's gain was the country's loss. When he took over at The Nation, McWilliams helped others find their voices but gradually lowered his own, so we'll never know what he would have accomplished had he stayed in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I welcome that review. I hope it helps the book, but I'd also like to see the prophet honored in his own country.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

The P3 Connection

PoliPointPress is having a two-day retreat this week to talk about our goals. When I started at P3 as editorial director almost a year ago, I wanted to do McWilliams-type books--smart, lively, progressive, fact-based, and pitched to general audiences. I think the authors we've signed (Joe Conason, Steven Hill, Yvonne Latty, Jeff Cohen, Nomi Prins, Phil Longman, etc.) are working in that tradition. I'm also contemplating a series of classic reprints to make that connection more explicit. Maybe a series called P3 Classics that would make some great older titles available to readers.