Friday, August 12, 2016

Something Witchy

I noodled out two books reviews connected to what David Talbot calls San Francisco's "season of the witch." The first review appeared on Truthdig and considers Jeffrey Toobin's American Heiress, the Patty Hearst story. The second review is of Joel Selvin's Altamont. It will run in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. It's my first review for the Chronicle, which my family read during my misspent youth. (This despite the fact that my brothers and I delivered the Oakland Tribune in the afternoon.)

Both books slow walk readers through iconic stories that seem to reveal the failure of Bay Area utopianism, 1960s style. It's true that Altamont and the Hearst affair demonstrate a great deal of fecklessness in the counterculture and contemporary revolutionary politics. And when taken together with the Zebra killings, Jonestown, and other atrocities, there's no denying the witchiness. But still, it's a little too easy to link the utopianism with the witchiness and then reject both of them. Or at any rate, I'd like to hear that argument before jumping to that conclusion. And that argument would have to consider what mainstream American politics was up to during that period. I won't rehearse the details here, but it wasn't a pretty picture.

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