Friday, July 15, 2011

Theodore Roszak RIP

We lost another important California writer this week: Theodore Roszak, author of The Making of a Counter Culture. He was 77.

As his obituary notes, that book began as a series of articles for The Nation. It doesn't mention his editor, Carey McWilliams, who helped him develop the work. Professor Roszak, who met McWilliams only once in 1964, told me that he considered McWilliams a gentle, friendly, avuncular, and remarkably generous older man who listened carefully and astutely assessed his strengths and weaknesses.

Like many Nation contributors, Professor Roszak was grateful for McWilliams's hands-off editorial style. "He didn't intervene, interfere, or climb all over the work," Roszak recalled. Instead, McWilliams supported him and let him develop his thesis in a four-part series. "It was exactly what I needed at the time," Roszak told me. The series formed the core of his 1969 landmark book, which coined the term counterculture.

I'm sorry to say I never met Professor Roszak in person, even though he lived in Berkeley and taught at Cal State East Bay. But I was grateful for his time when I interviewed him on the telephone for the McWilliams biography. And I'm even more grateful for his important contribution to our understanding of the Bay Area in the 1960s.

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