Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cal Studeez Stunna!!!!

It's happening. Mark your calendars. The 18th annual conference of the California Studies Association is coming to Berkeley, April 11-13. Check out Changing Climates: Class, Culture, and Politics in an Era of Global Warming.

Boatloads of talent. Matt Gonzalez will give the keynote Friday night at Berkeley City College. The next two days will feature many of my faves: Philip Fradkin, Rick Wartzman, Rose Aguilar, Dick Walker, Peter Schrag, Peter Laufer, Sasha Abramsky, David Bacon, Jon Rowe, etc. Susan McWilliams and Yumi Wilson will chair panels, and Mary Moreno Richardson is coming from San Diego to tell us how she made the Minutemen enemy's list.

The panels will be on the environmental impacts of ports, coping with climate change, working in the green economy, green media, California lit, immigration and the border, and more. Former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg will give the lunch address on Saturday.

This is going to be good, people. Free and open to the public (donations requested), 2050 Center St. in Berkeley.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stegnorama Redux

OK, one last post on the Stegnorama in Point Reyes. It received even more attention than I thought. The New York Times ran a piece on it last week. This is the photo of Page and Lynn Stegner that ran with the piece.

In slightly less exalted news, the West Marin Citizen will run my review of the Fradkin bio. Also, I noticed a large ad for that bio in the current issue of Harper's, complete with blurbs. One, it turns out, was from some perceptive reviewer at the Los Angeles Times.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Small World

Another great day at the Stegner conference. Met many interesting people and discovered that Margaretta Mitchell took the cover photograph for the Stegner bio I reviewed. (See that photo a few posts down.)

As we discussed the photo shoot, I realized she had captured Stegner's winning nonchalance, a quality I emphasized in my review. As with McWilliams, that nonchalance masked a very developed work ethic. When this subject came up at lunch, Lynn Stegner noted that the motto at the Stanford creative writing program was that hard writing makes for easy reading.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I caught the opening panel of the Stegner conference last night in Point Reyes. Super duper. First was a lasagna dinner at Toby's Feed Barn, where I ran into Jeff Lustig. Then we strolled over to the West Marin School gymnasium for the first panel.

When we got there, Robert Hass spoke, Michael Witt read a fine poem, and Mark Dowie presided over a panel of Stegner students and friends. In addition to fleshing out Philip Fradkin's storyline in Wallace Stegner and the American West, those recollections introduced me to the contrasting styles, interests, and life trajectories of the panelists. The only name I knew well before I arrived was William Kittredge, and I'd never seen or heard him speak before. Robert Stone was supposed to attend but had to cancel. Too bad, but the panel was superb anyway.

By utter coincidence, I met Margaretta Mitchell, whose husband Fred was once publisher of Ramparts. I also visited with Melody Graulich of Utah State University and the Western Literature Association, who will speak today.

By no coincidence at all, the Marin alternative weekly has a cover story on how West Marin became a literary mecca--the story is tied to the Stegner conference--and the Chronicle ran a big story this week, too. These guys know how to work it. And I checked the Bookscan numbers yesterday--Philip's book is off to a strong start.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Cannons on Bush

Lou and Carl Cannon have a new book, Reagan's Disciple, that compares Reagan and George W. Bush at the latter's expense. Jacob Heilbrunn's review ran this week in the New York Times.

Lou covered Governor Reagan for the San Jose Mercury and was senior White House correspondent for The Washington Post during Reagan's presidency. His son Carl is White House correspondent for the National Journal.

As it turns out, Lou is also a Carey McWilliams fan. Their friendship stretched back to the 1960s, when Lou was writing a book (his first) on Reagan and Jesse Unruh. Lou told me he had mentioned McWilliams in every book he has written since then. Not sure yet if that applies to this new one.

When I was researching American Prophet, Lou was very supportive. I interviewed him at his home near Santa Barbara, he reviewed the manuscript for the University of Michigan Press, and he ran my article on McWilliams in California Journal.

I've read two of Lou's previous books: Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power and Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. Both first-rate.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ralph and Carey

Ralph Nader is running for president again. Didn't you hear? It was in all the papers.

Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote an open letter asking him not to. In the first sentence of his response to her, Nader evoked the legacy of Carey McWilliams, the magazine's editor when Nader wrote his landmark piece on automobile safety.

Katrina's request is a practical one. Nader's response is more about principle. Who better, then, to evoke in your first sentence than Carey McWilliams? But since Carey stepped down at The Nation more than three decades ago, Nader's response has a giants-in-the-earth quality.

By coincidence, the keynote speaker for the next California Studies Association conference, which I'm helping to organize, will be Matt Gonzalez, Nader's running mate. I asked Matt before the nomination was announced. That conference will run April 11-13 at Berkeley City College; Matt will speak Friday night, April 11. Details to come.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Nader picked a PoliPointPress book (Building the Green Economy) as one of his top picks for the 2007 holiday season.