May 19, 1985 |
The title is from Alexis de Tocqueville who, writing about us in "Democracy in America" from 1835 to 1839, discovered habits of the heart--he named family life, religious convictions and participation in local politics--as helping to form the unique American character. They were habits that would help sustain free institutions, De Tocqueville said.
May 13, 1990 |
In the late teens and early 1920s a group of men in the United States repeatedly risked their lives in the service of their country. They were not fighting a war, testing military equipment or working undercover as spies. They were delivering the mail. "Pilot's Directions" chronicles the beginnings of the Air Mail Service in what was then called the U.S. Post Office Department.
June 27, 1990 |
The University of California, in the first such move since it adopted a divestment policy four years ago, announced Tuesday that it will sell $763 million in holdings in three corporations that maintain ties with South Africa. The university's planned sale comes as black South African leader Nelson Mandela prepares to visit California on the final leg of his U.S. tour. Mandela plans to conclude the tour with a stop in Oakland this weekend.
December 1, 2002 |
New West magazine was launched in the mid-1970s with high hopes and not a little hype. As the title implies, its editors and contributors were full of confidence about their ability to put their readers on the cutting edge of life in California -- "newness," after all, is the essence of "Westness." As we discover in "Promised Lands" by David M.
April 21, 1996 |
If J.M. Coetzee hangs an icon over his writing desk, it must be a portrait of Erasmus, saint of skeptics. The author of "In Praise of Folly," an amiable forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, was censured by the pope for his forerunning and denounced by Luther for his amiability. "The king of Amphibians," Luther growled; and much later the French writer Georges Duhamel called him "The king of But."
December 21, 2003 |
I have probably seen Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder's home movie that recorded President John F. Kennedy's assassination hundreds of times. Its 26 wrenching seconds captured the shockingly violent finish to a young president's life 40 years ago. For a journalist trying to resolve the mysteries of Kennedy's death, the Zapruder film is the best visual evidence to determine if there was more than one assassin shooting at JFK and from which direction the bullets were fired.
July 13, 1986 |
Back in the 1960s, when an ambitious and talented group of "postmodern" writers were calling for fresh approaches to the art of fiction, Henry James (the "godfather" of novelist criticism) was an obvious target for attack. James was accused of being "fussy" and "prudish," his definition of realism was "old fashioned," his approach to aesthetics and culture was "elitist" and "conservative." This was all very convenient: Father figures need to be ritually ridiculed, slain, dismembered.
July 16, 1989 |
Henry M. Sayre ends his latest book with a joke: "There were these two fellows who got on a train for the first time in their lives. And they were amazed at everything about it." Somebody comes by selling bananas, which these two rubes have also never seen before: Just as the train enters its first tunnel one of them discovers how to get his banana unpeeled and takes a bite. " 'Don't eat that banana!' he yells to his buddy. 'I just took a bite and I've gone plumb blind.'
May 13, 2001 |
For 20th century readers of English with even some knowledge of French literature, Victor Hugo's monumental poetic oeuvre comprising well over 155,000 lines--and this aside from the verse of his dramas--has stood like a vast shadowed mountain, unvisited and unclimbed, celebrated and ignored. It became the object of averted gaze in an age of modernism, when the agenda outlined in Marcel Raymond's "From Baudelaire to Sur-realism" became requisite for the assimilation of French literature.
April 6, 2003 |
I've never thought too much about Baja California. The little I know of it comes from John Steinbeck's "The Log From the Sea of Cortez," the account of a 1940 marine expedition through the Gulf of California. Steinbeck's saga is typically charming, even edenic; "The very air here," he enthuses, "is miraculous, and outlines of reality change with the moment." Still, I have never visited Baja myself.