Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Obscene in the Extreme


I just finished reading Obscene in the Extreme by Rick Wartzman. It's about the furor that followed the publication of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath in 1939.

Rick focuses on the way that dust-up played out in Kern County, where the board of supervisors considered the merits of banning the book. Along the way, he weaves in the stories of major players in California agribusiness, labor, media, and government. That cast includes Carey McWilliams, whom Rick treats perceptively and at some length. But Rick is also very attuned to the stories of particular Kern County residents and families touched by the controversy. Highly recommended.

I have lots more to say, including many adjectives, but I'm leaving it here for now just in case some shrewd editor asks me to review the book. (By the way, check The Nation, July 14, p. 39, for the latest news in this department.)

Obscene in the Extreme isn't out yet--I threw around my ever increasing weight to get an advance copy--but I noticed that the publisher, PublicAffairs, used the jacket as the basis for its Fall catalog cover. That's a good sign, don't you think? We're hoping Rick will talk about the book this fall in Berkeley. More on that soon.

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