2012/07/26

Remembering the Cold War in the South


Reading Olen Steinhauer, especially 36 Yalta Boulevard, takes me back to the Cold War of my childhood in the 1960's.

I remember having a sheet of stamps like the ones above.  My father must have given them to me.  I suppose that he had contributed to or had been a member of the United States Anti-Communist Congress.  I stuck some on my trumpet case.

 In Florida, every high school student was required to take a course called "Americanism versus Communism."  The text for the course was Masters of Deceit, a book about the U.S. Communist Party by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.


Among segregationist Southern whites, Communists were believed to be behind the Civil Rights movement.  I remember these billboards:


It is a picture of MLK at the Highlander Folk School, which, while not a "Communist training school", was a center for labor and civil rights organizing.  Close enough, to the segregationist mind.

2012/07/08

"Bright Young People" Fiction

An interesting blog post and comments about fiction of the "Brideshead Generation" at a fairly new blog, Cocktails With Elvira:  Elvira Barney and Her Circle.

Though I've read later works by Anthony Powell, Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, the only title here that I've read is Henry Green's Party Going.

2012/07/06

The change to their life had sunk in with him.  It was sinking in with people everywhere, as it gradually dawned on them that hard times were moving in like a band of rain.
-Capital, by John Lanchester

2012/07/05

John Lanchester on the Library of America

I spent most of my July 4th holiday afternoon napping or reading John Lanchester's novel, Capital.  Looking now at the reviews, I see him likened to Dickens, but nowhere what seems to me the most obvious comparison, Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities:  a Master of the Universe, (Roger Yount), brought low, with supporting characters from All Walks of Life..

Along the way I found this Short Cuts column from the London Review of Books on the Library of America.  I prize LOA editions when they are donated because they let me get lesser-known  titles by classic American writers, (Faulkner, Hurston), into the library's collection, where I would be unable to persuade the library to purchase them singly.  But I share Lanchester's reluctance to read novels in omnibus editions.
The books are lovely, lovely objects. They are about the nicest books I have. American books are in general printed to much higher standards than British books. (Ask publishers about that, and they always say that it’s to do with economies of scale: five times as big an audience equals higher print runs equals lower costs equals the possibility to make nicer books. So they say.) The Library takes that tendency about as far as it will go: it’s hard not to take the volumes down from the shelves and stroke them, like a Bond villain fondling a cat.What is really hard, though, is to read them. The books are so gorgeous, so marmoreal, that I find them unreadable. Not unreadable in the Pierre Bourdieu/Edward Bulwer-Lytton sense, and not unreadable in theory – I want to read them, I really do. It’s just that in practice, I don’t.