The most important woman in the history of southern California never lived. The eponymous heroine of Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel Ramona, a half-Indian beauty raised on a wealthy Mexican rancho, nonetheless left an indelible imprint on southern California's landscape. Within a year of its publication, landmarks identified with Ramona's fictional life - her birthplace, her home, the site of her wedding, and her grave - became important, even canonical parts of a visit to southern California. One could take the Ramona freeway to town, cook like Ramona, and smell like Ramona. The novel's romanticized version of California's Hispanic past also inspired films, songs, musical instruments, jewelry, clothes, beer, wine, canned goods, collectibles, and a play that still draws thirty thousand people annually. Although historians and other writers have acknowledged Ramona's importance in the shaping of southern California's regional identity, there has never been an in-depth study of the origins and evolution of the "Ramona Myth" itself - until now. In Ramona Memories, Dydia DeLyser traces the myth's emergence within the context of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tourist industry. DeLyser explores the establishment of tourist attractions by fans of the novel. She details the stories of individual Ramona enthusiasts who, guided by numerous travel books and articles, wove the text of the novel and its lavishly described locations into their own lives, from pilgrimages to either of the two ranchos acclaimed as Ramona's home to Ramona-themed luncheons and hopeful honeymoon visits to the Wishing Well at her marriage place. Based on more than a decade of meticulous research, Ramona Memories reveals how a fiction - and the real places and products that it inspired - helped to make an idealized past visible, permeating southern California's social memory.
Ray Bradbury Unbound
Jonathan Eller University of Illinois Press, 2014 Library of Congress PS3503.R167Z67 2014 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
In Ray Bradbury Unbound, Jonathan R. Eller continues the story begun in his acclaimed Becoming Ray Bradbury, following the beloved author's evolution from a short story master to a multi-media creative force and outspoken visionary.
At the height of his powers as a poetic prose stylist, Bradbury shifted his creative attention to film and television, where new successes gave him an enduring platform as a compelling cultural commentator. His passionate advocacy validated the U.S. space program's mission, extending his pivotal role as a chronicler of human values in an age of technological wonders.
Informed by many years of interviews with Bradbury as well as an unprecedented access to personal papers and private collections, Ray Bradbury Unbound provides the definitive portrait of how a legendary American author helped shape his times.
Raymond Carver has become a literary icon for our time. When he died in 1988 at the age of fifty, he was acclaimed as the greatest influence on the American short story since Hemingway. Carver's friends were the stuff of legend as well. In this rich collection—greatly expanded from the earlier When We Talk about Raymond Carver—of interviews with close companions, acquaintances, and family, Sam Halpert has chronologically arranged the reminiscences of Carver's adult life, recalling his difficult “Bad Raymond” days through his second life as a recovering alcoholic and triumphantly successful writer. The result is a spirited Irish wake—toasts, anecdotes, lies, songs, confessions, laments—all beautifully orchestrated by Halpert into a very readable and moving narrative.
These funny, poignant, intensely remembered interviews juxtapose personal anecdotes and enlightening criticism. Memory mixes with analysis, and a lively picture of Carver emerges as we hear different stories about him—of the same story told from different viewpoints. He is here presented as hero, victim, and even villain—Carver's readers will recognize the woof and warp of his stories in these affectionate narratives.
Literary scholar Ann Ronald gathers her most notable published essays about Nevada, environmental writing, and Western American literature in one volume. These essays reflect Ronald’s wide-ranging interests. Here are deeply informed, critical essays on writers as diverse as Zane Gray, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and Terry Tempest Williams, as well as the Tonopah Ladies—a group of literary women who found their voices in the unlikely setting of a mining boomtown—and on such varied topics as the image of Reno in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. Included are several recent essays in which Ronald thoughtfully discusses the burgeoning field of environmental writing, some of its principal themes and concerns, and its best-known practitioners.
A provocative new way to read and interpret the classic works of John Muir, Mary Austin, and Gary Snyder, and to bring their ideas into the discussion of ecological values and the current environmental crisis. Lewis combines a perceptive discussion of their work and ideas with an engaging account of his own trail experiences as hiker/backpacker and volunteer trail builder, proposing that such a field-based, interdisciplinary approach to literary study and outdoors experience can enrich our appreciation for the work of nature writers.
Rebecca Harding Davis is best known for her gritty short story “Life in the Iron-Mills,” set in her native Wheeling, West Virginia. Far less is known of her later career among elite social circles in Philadelphia, New York, and Europe, or her relationships with American presidents and leading international figures in the worlds of literature and the stage. In the first book-length biography of Davis, Sharon M. Harris traces the extraordinary life of this pioneering realist and recovers her status as one of America’s notable women journalists. Harris also examines Rebecca’s role as the leading member of the Davis family, a unique and nationally recognized family of writers that shaped the changing culture of later nineteenth-century literature and journalism.
This accessible treatment of Davis’s life, based on deep research in archival sources, provides new perspective on topics ranging from sectional tensions in the border South to the gendered world of nineteenth-century publishing. It promises to be the authoritative treatment of an important figure in the literary history of West Virginia and the wider world.
This collection of reflective essays–all exploring themes of artistic self-discovery and regional awareness–showcases 19 nationally known writers who have roots in Alabama.
In The Remembered Gate, nationally prominent fiction writers, essayists, and poets recall how their formative years in Alabama shaped them as people and as writers. The essays range in tone from the pained and sorrowful to the wistful and playful, in class from the privileged to the poverty-stricken, in geography from the rural to the urban, and in time from the first years of the 20th century to the height of the Civil Rights era and beyond.
In all the essays we see how the individual artists came to understand something central about themselves and their art from a changing Alabama landscape. Whether from the perspective of C. Eric Lincoln, beaten for his presumption as a young black man asking for pay for his labors, or of Judith Hillman Paterson, floundering in her unresolved relationship with her troubled family, these personal renderings are intensely realized visions of a writer's sense of being a writer and a human being. Robert Inman tells of exploring his grandmother's attic, and how the artifacts he found there fired his literary imagination. William Cobb profiles the lasting influence of the town bully, the diabolical Cletus Hickey. And in "Growing up in Alabama: A Meal in Four Courses, Beginning with Dessert," Charles Gaines chronicles his upbringing through the metaphor of southern cooking.
What emerges overall is a complex, richly textured portrait of men and women struggling with, and within, Alabama's economic and cultural evolution to become major voices of our time.
In this truly one-of-a-kind book, the author/narrator—a representative, in extremis, of contemporary American obsession with beauty, celebrity, transmitted image—finds himself suspended, fascinated, in the remoteness of our wall-to-wall mediascape. It is a remoteness that both perplexes and enthralls him.
Through dazzling sleight of hand in which the public becomes private and the private becomes public, the entire book—clicking from confession to family-album photograph to family chronicle to sexual fantasy to pseudo-scholarly footnote to reportage to personal essay to stand-up comedy to cultural criticism to literary criticism to film criticism to prose-poem to litany to outtake —becomes both an anatomy of American culture and a searing self-portrait.
David Shields reads his own life—reads our life—as if it were an allegory about remoteness and finds persuasive, hilarious, heartbreaking evidence wherever he goes.
One March morning, writer Floyd Skloot was inexplicably struck by an attack of unrelenting vertigo that ended 138 days later as suddenly as it had begun. With body and world askew, everything familiar had transformed. Nothing was ever still. Revertigo is Skloot’s account of that unceasingly vertiginous period, told in an inspired and appropriately off-kilter form.
This intimate memoir—tenuous, shifting, sometimes humorous—demonstrates Skloot’s considerable literary skill honed as an award-winning essayist, memoirist, novelist, and poet. His recollections of a strange, spinning world prompt further musings on the forces of uncertainty, change, and displacement that have shaped him from childhood to late middle age, repeatedly knocking him awry, realigning his hopes and plans, even his perceptions. From the volatile forces of his mercurial, shape-shifting early years to his obsession with reading, acting, and writing, from the attack of vertigo to a trio of postvertigo (but nevertheless dizzying) journeys to Spain and England, and even to a place known only in his mother’s unhinged fantasies, Skloot makes sense of a life’s phantasmagoric unpredictability.
Finalist, Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction, Oregon Book Awards
The River Home: A Memoir
Dorothy Weil Ohio University Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3573.E3837Z47 2002 | Dewey Decimal 818.5409
The death of her father begins Dorothy Weil’s search for what causes the family’s “spinning of in all directions like the pieces of Chaos.” She embarks on a river odyssey, traveling the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers by steamboat, towboat, and even an old-fashioned flatboat. The river brings her family back, as she records the stories of her fellow “river rats”: steamboat veterans, deckhands, captains, and cooks.
The River Home takes the reader into a world few ever glimpse, that of America’s riverboats. In the fast-paced narrative, with incisive characterizations and dialogue, the author introduces us to this vivid milieu and a gallery of fascinating people. We meet her father, a “wild river man from the Kentucky hills,” her mother, “a proper girl from a Cincinnati Dutch clan,” and her brother, a fourth-generation river man, as well as the artists and academics she meets in her adult life.
Weil’s voice is clear and wry, as well as poetic, bringing out both the sadness and joys of a family torn by mismatched backgrounds. Her themes speak to all: the confusion brought by family conflict, the strength of family love no matter how troubled the relationships, the mortality we all face, the importance of where we come from and where we go.
DePastino, Todd Rutgers University Press, 2006 Library of Congress PS3523.O46Z475 2006 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
In 1894, an eighteen-year-old Jack London quit his job shoveling coal, hopped a freight train, and left California on the first leg of a ten thousand-mile odyssey. His adventure was an exaggerated version of the unemployed migrations made by millions of boys, men, and a few women during the original "great depression of the 1890s. By taking to the road, young wayfarers like London forged a vast hobo subculture that was both a product of the new urban industrial order and a challenge to it. As London's experience suggests, this hobo world was born of equal parts desperation and fascination. "I went on 'The Road,'" he writes, "because I couldn't keep away from it . . . Because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because-well, just because it was easier to than not to."
The best stories that London told about his hoboing days can be found in The Road, a collection of nine essays with accompanying illustrations, most of which originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine between 1907 and 1908. His virile persona spoke to white middle-class readers who vicariously escaped their desk-bound lives and followed London down the hobo trail. The zest and humor of his tales, as Todd DePastino explains in his lucid introduction, often obscure their depth and complexity. The Road is as much a commentary on London's disillusionment with wealth, celebrity, and the literary marketplace as it is a picaresque memoir of his youth.
Featuring essays by twelve prominent American literature scholars, Roman Holidaysexplores the tradition of American travel to Italy and makes a significant contribution to the understanding of nineteenth-century American encounters with Italian culture and, more specifically, with Rome.
The increase in American travel to Italy during the nineteenth century was partly a product of improved conditions of travel. As suggested in the title, Italy served nineteenth-century writers and artists as a kind of laboratory site for encountering Others and “other” kinds of experience. No doubt Italy offered a place of holiday—a momentary escape from the familiar—but the journey to Rome, a place urging upon the visitor a new and more complex sense of history, also forced a reexamination of oneself and one's identity. Writers and artists found their religious, political, and sexual assumptions challenged.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun has a prominent place in this collection: as Henry James commented in his study of Hawthorne, the book was “part of the intellectual equipment of the Anglo-Saxon visitor to Rome.” The essayists also examine works by James, Fuller, Melville, Douglass, Howells, and other writers as well as such sculptors as Hiram Powers, William Wetmore Story, and Harriet Hosmer.
Bringing contemporary concerns about gender, race, and class to bear upon nineteenth-century texts, Roman Holidays is an especially timely contribution to nineteenth-century American studies.
David Pichaske has been writing and teaching about midwestern literature for three decades. In Rooted, by paying close attention to text, landscape, and biography, he examines the relationship between place and art. His focus is on seven midwestern authors who came of age toward the close of the twentieth century, their lives and their work grounded in distinct places: Dave Etter in small-town upstate Illinois; Norbert Blei in Door County, Wisconsin; William Kloefkorn in southern Kansas and Nebraska; Bill Holm in Minneota, Minnesota; Linda Hasselstrom in Hermosa, South Dakota; Jim Heynen in Sioux County, Iowa; and Jim Harrison in upper Michigan. The writers' intimate knowledge of place is reflected in their use of details of geography, language, environment, and behavior. Yet each writer reaches toward other geographies and into other dimensions of art or thought: jazz music and formalism in the case of Etter; gender issues in the case of Hasselstrom; time past and present in the case of Kloefkorn; ethnicity and the role of the artist in the case of Blei; magical realism in the case of Heynen; the landscape of literature in the case of Holm; and the curious worlds of academia, best-selling novels, and Hollywood films in the case of Harrison. The result, Pichaske notes, is the growing away from roots, the explorations and alter egos of these writers of place, and the tension between the “here” and “there” that gives each writer's art the complexity it needs to transcend provincial boundaries. Quoting generously from the writers, Pichaske employs a practical, jargon-free literary analysis fixed in the text, making Rooted interesting, readable, and especially useful in treating the literary categories of memoir and literary essay that have become important in recent decades.