Once you learn to read you will be forever free - Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Rewrite of the Rewrite

The Obsessive Reader has completed this draft of her novel!!! Now, the work is to start at Page 1 and conduct an overhaul of the entire manuscript in time to pass it by summer's end to two wonderful readers who are themselves accomplished writers. Please send me your well wishes and prayers; light candles and send positive energy, any and all of those cliched ways of providing the Obsessive Reader with the soul support she needs. Thank you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Revolt of the Underdog

This has to be the best cover I've ever seen on a literary magazine - maybe any magazine - bar none. Perhaps it is a picture of justice? Or one artist's wicked sense of satire. 

For this illustration, thank you to the new publication, ANTIQUE CHILDREN: A Mischievous Literary Arts Journal. For Obsessive Readers who would like to sample this new periodical venture on the literary landscape, click the hyperlink under the words ANTIQUE CHILDREN

In the meantime, The Obsessive Reader continues to work on the revision of her novel. She is at page 325 and is excited and appalled at the amount of work left to do!! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Bit of Book(Store) Humor

"If you are in a book store and cannot find the book for which you are searching, you are obviously in the...

The Obsessive Reader is still working on her novel and wishes you well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Good News Sites

The Obsessive Reader is thinking of you. While I continue to focus on revising my novel, I would like to share with you online news sites that may provide you with a refreshing alternative to the steaming pile of **** that passes for mainstream journalism. These sites are vastly different from  alternative media, which indulges in its own doom and gloom. You can wash down your consumption of books with visits to these sites, allowing you to remain an Obsessive Reader even as I am on hiatus from this blog. 

I offer to you my choices as follows:

1) Good News Daily - http://goodnewsdaily.com/index.php. Warning: It's very corny. 

2) Good News Network - Stories from actual news outlets. Sophisticated journalism, accent on the positive at http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/.

3)  Gimundo - Great videos, good writing to post on your FB page or email friends and family http://gimundo.com/.

4) Optimists News - http://optimistworld.com/News.aspx. Worldwide coverage, plenty of U.S. stories. Good info on the philanthropic world.

Let me know what you think!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Obsessive Writer

La Femme qui pense - Rigaud Benoit

Dear Ones,

The Obsessive Reader is now - more than ever - an obsessive writer.  I am making progress on the rewrite of my novel, and have decided to focus on completing the manuscript.  I plan to return to blogging in the summer - perhaps even before - depending on whether something transpires that I want to share with you.  In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the content here, and to access the websites and literary blogs, and past blogs.

I look forward to your comments - go right ahead and post them. I will be notified and can respond to you.

Keep reading!!

The Obsessive Reader Transformed

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Life is the Ultimate Power

Nuclear Power: The Fifth Horseman, Dennis Hayes  - click for more info
Less than a year after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in July 1946, NBC Radio broadcast a series of plays that dramatically questioned nuclear power. There are eight episodes of "The Fifth Horseman," narrated by actor Henry Fonda. You can listen to these old radio plays, and purchase them for download, by clicking here"Make your ships unsinkable," the Fonda character says. "But that will not save your people and your cities." He had witnessed Hiroshima. "The room we were in suddenly brightened by the greatest light ever seen on this earth...The shattered glass flew through the room with the velocity of bullets. Then a terrific wind roared through the room."

Actor Henry Fonda, The Fifth Horseman
The Obsessive Reader is aware that people are waiting to see how bad the nuclear crisis in Japan will become. Is there a possibility that fallout from the radiation in northern Japan will  shower Japan and be carried on wind currents and through water systems around the earth? The Obsessive Reader is aware that many people are panicking now. Bemoaning our fate. Having heart palpitations. Crowing that the chickens have come home to roost. Selling off stocks. Demanding life changes. All various reactions I've noticed in response to the nuclear crisis in Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami disasters.

A friend and poet, Margaret Randall, wrote the best response I have seen.

I grieve and rage for the Japanese people first of all, who carry Hiroshima and Nagasaki in their DNA memory and now face tens of thousands of lost lives and devastated land because of a terrible earthquake, a terrifying tsunami, and the wrongheadedness of those who believe we can "harness" nuclear power. We must ask what they need and try to give it to them.

And I grieve and rage for us all, living on a planet whose axis has shifted because of these tectonic plates unbuckling and realigning themselves after this disaster.

Here's to life, everywhere!

The Obsessive Reader remembers in the 1980s, after the 1978 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, a beautiful, clear voice emerged out of the panic and confusion.  It made so much sense that the orator was a pediatrician, a physician who cared for children, a small woman from Australia with her own children, who was outraged at our moral numbness. She was a scientist, a trained physician. What seemed to matter most as I listened to her voice on Pacifica Radio, and read some of her early books, was that Dr. Helen Caldicott was sane. She was angry, outspoken, shrill and repetitive.  But she had not lost her senses, she had found them. And nobody was going to stop her from speaking out about the dangers of nuclear power, how crazy a path humanity had carved for itself.  What struck me most of all, though, was Dr. Caldicott's love for people and the earth we live on.  Her words and spirit communicated such a passion for life.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, b. 1938
The Obsessive Reader joins Helen Caldicott in affirming that life is the ultimate power on Earth. Life, the stubborn, eternal substance that forces weeds through cracks in urban concrete, that allows cockroaches to outlast human catastrophes, that holds the galaxy in balance and spins the planets, that breathes us as we inhale and exhale. In infinite forms, Life is the source of all.

During this time, humanity is panicked, confused, and grieving for the losses of our brothers and sisters in Japan, it is easy to forget about the power of life. That power exists, even in the midst of death. It might help give perspective, even hope, to remember the words of Dr. Helen Caldicott from a 1981 Phi Beta Kappa address to the Harvard chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.  In her speech, "This Beautiful Planet," she called the nuclear age, "the greatest challenge the human race has ever had since we stood on our hind legs and developed the opposing thumb to use weapons."

Dr. Caldicott, in 1981
Unless we mature and stop behaving like children, we will not survive. 
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, "God Bless America," but every person on earth is the son or daughter of God. We are together on a small, fragile planet. We will either live together or we will die together.
What is our responsibility toward evolution? To continue this beautiful life process. If you take this on, life becomes very precious. Even the things you dislike most about your life become precious. Go outside and look at a rose and smell it, or look at a baby to know what I mean. 
We are curators of all life on this planet. We hold it in our hands. It is a beautiful planet, maybe the only life in the whole universe, and I refuse to believe we are silly enough to destroy it.

For obsessive readers to learn more about Helen Caldicott's books and how to purchase them, click here.  I join Margaret Randall in proclaiming, Here's to LIFE everywhere! Gracias a la Vida.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Road to Each of Us is Love

Author John Fante
Today, The Obsessive Reader's work life and literary life came together in a wonderful way. Stephen Cooper, author of  Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante,  and a professor of English at Cal State UniversityLong Beach, lectured on Italian American writer John Fante at UCLA Library Special Collections, which holds the writer's remarkable archive. I remember - it was the early 1980s - getting those Black Sparrow Press editions of Ask the Dust, and Wait Until Spring, Bandini. I lay on my stomach on the living room carpet, reading into the night, entranced. (Even then I was an Obsessive Reader, stealing time from sleep I needed to get to work in the morning). I had never encountered a voice like Fante's. "Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles, come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town." (Ask the Dusk) In 1939, Fante was writing about sexuality, racial prejudice, urban blues. He may have described the frustrations and solace of being a writer better than anybody. He wrote about the tough life, hunger, poverty, and love - ephemeral life-giving love. It's wonderful that - unlike when he was alive - all of his books are in print - available to obsessive readers everywhere.  They can read his lyrical words, ponder the beauty in his pain. "The road to each of us is love." (Ask the Dusk).
I was publishing my poetry, doing readings. In the 1980s, I was emerging as a writer, finding my way on the page, struggling toward my voice. John Fante was still alive, his spirit inhabiting my imagination, helping me believe it could be done. Today, Fante's middle-aged children, his grandchildren, a nephew attended Steve Cooper's lecture.  The nephew, also named John Fante, told me that it wasn't until the papers were acquired by UCLA that the family learned about much of his uncle's life. He looked at me sheepishly, saying that all those unsavory private details being revealed, it was embarrassing.  That's what happens when you're famous, The Obsessive Reader offered. But he wasn't famous, nephew Fante reminded me. Not when he was alive. 
After this exchange, I fell into conversation with another writer.  The audience had lifted themselves out of their chairs and were sampling refreshments, wine, chatting with each other.  People walked to peer at objects from the Fante papers on exhibition. Letters from H.L. Mencken, Steinbeck, Robert Kennedy. A recording by Charles Bukowski, signed.  Fante was his god. More correspondence between Fante and Carey McWilliams, dearest friends.  Screenplays. My fellow writer and I huddled on our seats. We bemoaned, compared, rededicated ourselves to our novels.  We make such galling progress in our writing, inch-by-inch during stolen hours. We hold such hopes to add to the world's literary worth. Today there was Fante still hectoring, inspiring, saying, "I am no longer lonely. Just you wait, all of you ghosts of this room, just you wait, because it will happen, as sure as there's a God in heaven." 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Libraries are Sanctuaries - Books are Journeys

Segregated, but reading anyway
North Carolina State Library, 1930s
Despite all appearances, The Obsessive Reader is holding out hopes for the world's libraries. I know they are being threatened, with cuts to funding, a reliance on book stores, online retailers, and the lazy forgetfulness of literate people everywhere.  But think about Egypt!! February 26 - 28, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosted a summit for young people "in recognition of their significant role in the Egyptian Revolution."  National Geographic interviewed BA Library Director Ismail Serageldin about the youth meeting.  Serageldin says, it was the people themselves, the demonstrators, who stood and held hands, and said, "This is our Library. We're not going to allow anything to happen to it."  He also says, the Library has played a role...to spread the ideas that these young people embodied so magnificently.

The new Library of Alexandria, Egypt

Egyptian National Flag at Alexandria Library
The Alexandria Library website reports The Library was protected by the people who joined hands around the building. Young students from the university designed and made a huge National Flag, and put it on the steps of the Library which elicited cheers from passing demonstrators... 

In the U.S., we have our own looters. Corporate looters who were bailed out by the federal government. Elected officials trying to solve a fiscal crisis caused by corporate greed, the inequities of our tax system, and lack of vision. The solution to problems caused by favors to corporations and the rich? Cut services to the poor and staples of community life.  Such as libraries. With such role models, would American youth protect libraries in a crisis? Would they protect them now?

For you whose libraries may be threatened, here is a wonderful article by writer, Pico Iyer from the Los Angeles Times.  Let me hear from you obsessive readers in defense of libraries.  Also, feel free to read this interview with Pico Iyer, by Rolf Potts. 

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 - 2007, Polish journalist, poet 
I place Iyers among my favorite travel writers, although I've always thought the term travel writer, particularly in the 21st century, when so much of the world has been traversed and reported on by outsiders, is peculiar. 

To me, masters of so-called travel writing, such as Ryszard Kapuściński, Bruce Chatwin, V.S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux are not hired guns for the travel industry, nor do they provide tips for sight seeing. No longer are they simply white sojourners into unknown lands, a contingency of colonialism. The best of them know that to look at the Other is to gaze into the mirror. They know that narrative is a journey, and that being a tourist, no matter how observant, is no substitute for insight.  

Finally, speaking of travel writers and libraries.  Without going to a library (or relying on the online library of a bookseller) you will not be able to find a copy of My Great Wide Beautiful World, a great, forgotten travel book published by novice author, Juanita Harrison, in 1936.  Starting at age 16, Ms. Harrison, an African American woman, traveled solo to 80 countries by the time she was in her thirties. She published her idiosyncratic observations and heartfelt experiences kept in her diary and from letters home.  When it was issued, it received reviews in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Time magazine and other periodicals,  and was a best-seller. The book is out of print. Because of libraries, you can still read it. 

Our culture needs to be reintroduced to libraries. On Facebook the other day, I read the response of a gentleman to a plea to support a ballot measure that would fund libraries. The gentleman wrote, "You can find a lot of texts online now." To which The Obsessive Reader replied in frustration, "Where do you think those digitized online texts come from? LIBRARIES!!!!!!!"   

If you live in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, March 8, Election Day, you have the opportunity to join other citizens in voting Yes on Measure L to keep the city's public libraries funded. If you live in another city, let me know what's going on with your libraries. The Obsessive Reader cares!

American Library Association poster

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Allensworth In Memoriam: Parnell Lovelace

Col. Allen Allensworth, founder

The Obsessive Reader, as you know, is also an obsessive writer. Take a look at my essay, "Black Utopia," on historic Allensworth, California and the little known black town movement on the Dr. Pop blog, part of an edition that explores Utopia. 

Mrs. Josephine Allensworth
I post it in memory of my dear friend and comrade-in-arms, Parnell Lovelace, the most effective advocate for Col. Allensworth State Historic Park. Parnell died on February 27. His memorial service is tomorrow, March 3, in San Diego. I am honored to be making remarks at the service. Well done, Parnell, well done. Rest in peace.

Allenworth was founded in 1908, forty miles north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. The first black independent town, Brooklyn Illinois was established in 1830, the last in 1910, Dearfield, Colorado.  Some of the more famous settlements were Boley, Oklahoma, founded 1903, and Nicodemus, Kansas, now a National Park, started in 1878.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You Have to See This by Jimmy Chen!

Jimmy Chen, you are the funniest - maybe the only? - literary comic out there.  Obsessive Readers, take a look at one of my favorites, and find others at HTML GIANT. (Also on My Blog List, below).

Rocky, Bullwinkle, Dostoevsky and Me

The Obsessive Reader just saw a hilarious post by Jimmy Chen called "Raskolnikov's Inbox" which I have pasted at the end of this blog post, below.  And it got me to thinking.  I don't know when you first sampled the novels of Dostoevsky, but references to his masterwork, Crime and Punishment, and that novel's doomed protagonist, Raskolnikov, remind me of two incidents from my teenage years; one still resonates with sadness, the other makes me laugh even now.

Sadness first.
A 19th century Obsessive Reader
The Obsessive Reader had a 10th grade AP English teacher, Mrs. Protter.  English, not surprisingly, was my favorite subject.  I loved it so much that nearly every week I read additional plays and novels and submitted reports on them for extra credit.  (Toward the end of the semester The Obsessive Reader's grade in this class was about an A+++!)  BUT, no matter how well I performed, Mrs. Protter refrained from praising me, and, worse, displayed such hostility toward me in class that my classmates often were compelled to come to my defense.  The unfortunate climax arrived when Mrs. Protter refused to believe The Obsessive Reader was the author of one of her many extra-credit book reports, this one on Crime and Punishment.  Pointing to a line in my book report, "the dry business of murder," Mrs. Protter said to me after class one day, "Fifteen year olds don't write like that." She insisted that I bring in my copy of the book so she could check its covers and determine whether I plagiarized my report. Hurt, confused and humiliated by the false accusation, I reported this incident to my parents.  
It was 1969 and my high school in the hills had only that semester opened its segregated white campus to African American students from the flats due to the district's court-ordered integration program.  There were so few of us; I was the lone black student in many of my classes. I interpreted Mrs. Protter's negativity toward me as a sign of inexplicable personal animus; she was picking on me, and I didn't know why.  My wiser parents believed that forces of ingrained racism, personal and institutional, were at work.  They demanded a meeting at my school with the teacher, dean and school principal. After the heated session, I think everyone believed, however subtly, that Mrs. Protter's animus toward me was the result of a disturbed shake-up in her distorted racial views.  But, I wonder. Both my brother and sister behind me had classes with Mrs. Protter, and experienced no such conflicts. And, in my senior year, as my independent study advisor, she gave me an A on an ambitious but garbled paper on D.H. Lawrence that showed, I know now, that I was too young to tackle his challenging world view.  Perhaps what I experienced in the 10th grade was what people call a personality clash.  Or, could she have been transformed by the cauldron of events? Did her confrontations with me change her? I don't know the answer, but I am more sensitive regarding what it may take to be an adult charged with teaching young people the wide-ranging humanist and aesthetic concerns that are the enterprise of literature. 

As it says in Psalms, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." So, on to the funnies.

Not long after this protracted event, I was as usual engrossed in watching the sophisticated cartoon, Rocky and Bullwinkle after school one day.  This activity was shared among my multiracial, college-bound, Advanced-Placement-course-taking friends.  We loved being newly aware of the literary and political in-jokes on the show, its knowing, sometimes obscure references to history and culture.  Between the innocence and ignorance of childhood and unknowable adulthood, we were skeptical observers of a society ravaged by the Vietnam War, and thus the perfect audience for the comic mayhem of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  With show titles such as "The Fin Diver or The Sharkshank Redemption," and "Cruise Control or Lord of the Spies," you can see how the silly, but sharp-edged educated humor appealed to us, burgeoning snobs and novice dissidents.  So, this afternoon, I was lounging in front of the TV in the hours before my parents arrived home from work, in between starting up dinner and ignoring my younger brother and sister as best I could.  The show commenced.

Narrator: Our story begins in Pottsylvania, the home of that terrible trio, Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and Fearless Leader. Since it is overrun by spies and a villain who wants to take over the world, the place is very dark and dreary. Which explains the lush plant life, wildlife, bright sunlight, and... wait a minute, what is this?

Natasha: We are in a jungle, narrator dollink.

Narrator: Okay, but what are you doing in a jungle?

Boris: Our boss told us that one of his spies found a secret formula here. It is so top secret that we are not supposed to tell anyone.
Narrator: You just told me about it.

Boris: Raskolnikov!

Fearless Leader: Badenov, you numbskull! What have I told you about secret formulas?

Boris: Uh, telling someone about them doesn't make them secrets anymore?

Fearless Leader: Exactly.

Raskolnikov! Boris Badenov (whose name is another joke, of course, on a real life tsar from Russia's misty past immortalized by Pushkin and Mussogorsky) had just uttered the word as if it was an oath, a curse. Raskolnikov! I knew who that was! The reluctant, impoverished, 
spiritually desperate murderer created by Dostoevsky. I had just read "Crime and Punishment," one of the masterpieces of literature. In front of the TV set in 1969, The Obsessive Reader laughed with recognition at the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, filled with a delight Mrs. Protter could never take away from me. 

*(Disclaimer: Rocky and Bullwinkle are owned by Jay Ward Productions)

As promised at the top of this post, enjoy this post found at one of my favorite literary blogs, HTML GIANT

Jimmy Chen

Raskolnikov’s inbox

[Best if read bottom up for chronological order.]

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Get Such a RUSH in my HEAD

American novelist, Norman Rush, b. 1933
For some of us Obsessive Readers, 2011 means avidly awaiting the latest publication by the wonderful American writer, Norman Rush.  He is one of the very few American literary figures who understands deeply what James Baldwin wrote in his essay, "Stranger in the Village" in NOTES OF A NATIVE SON: "People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them." I recently read Rush's two massive, extraordinary novels, MATING and MORTALSset in Botswana, where he spent five (obviously unforgettable) years with his wife as co-director of the Peace Corps in that Southern African country.   I have such enthusiasm for this work; every day while reading his books I rushed - pun intended - home to immerse myself in the author's compelling world. (I haven't yet read his first book of short stories, WHITES, but plan to, see below).

Botswanan novelist, Bessie Head, 1937 - 1986
The Obsessive Reader was predisposed to Mr. Rush because of another extraordinary literary figure I was fortunate to discover in the 1980s, Botswanan author, Bessie Head. Head was born in the Natal in apartheid South Africa and fled to Botswana as a political refugee.  Her books include WHEN RAIN CLOUDS GATHER, A QUESTION OF POWER, SEROWE: VILLAGE OF THE RAIN WIND and A BEWITCHED CROSSROAD. Bessie Head was the first African woman writer I read and her voice resounds still: incisive, tragic, lyrical.  I would very much like to travel to Serowe where Head lived and died and visit the Khama III Memorial Museum where her papers are archived and there is a permanent exhibit devoted to her.

My first acquaintance with Norman Rush was as a casual browser.  I'd seen his books on shelves in the public library and in bookstores.  I would note that their covers were composed around details from Hieronymus Bosch's painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights.  Then I moved on to other choices. I don't know why. Perhaps it just wasn't my time to be initiated into Rush's literary delights.

Later, still not having approached the work, I read the interview he did with Paris Review.  His unusual background and intellectual awareness, his artful conversation and worldly concerns so intrigued me I was finally sold.  I found MATING (480 pages), his first novel, published in 1990, at my favorite public library branch and committed myself to it. MATING, the 1991 National Book Award winner for Fiction,  makes the rest of American fiction look anemic.  As New York Times critic John Leonard described it, MATING is: "A parable of sex and utopia, an allegory of Mother Africa, a romance of political economy and a rewrite of Botswana's social text in discursive feminism."  And Rush himself stated in an interview with National Book Critics Circle Board member, Scott Esposito that   "I wrote frankly about what I saw in the various exotic cultures that I encountered in Africa: Tswana, U.S. Embassy, development professionals, development volunteers from everywhere, old-line Brit civil servants who’d been kicked down the African continent as British rule faded away and ended up in Botswana."

Just as I was about to finish reading MATING (my appetite as an Obsessive Reader having been aroused, not sated by reading Rush's first book), I lucked on a rare remaindered copy of MORTALS (715 pages), published in 2003, in a Barnes and Noble.  I had stopped to browse the discount tables on my way out of the mall, and there, as if fated, the next book I was so eager to read.  James Wood of the New Republic is a champion of Rush's fiction and wrote the best review of MORTALS I've come across. Wood compares Rush to Joseph Conrad and extols his prose. "One reason that Rush has so excited literary readers — and excited them on the strength, until now, of only one novel — has to do with his extraordinary prose...He is very interested in speech, in the slightly barbaric twisting of language that we commit when we speak, or speak to ourselves."

Now there is the exciting news, for us fans of Norman Rush, that a new novel - might be!! - expected this year. The literary blogosphere has sprouted with rumors and anticipation.  Last year John Woods told The Millions  “I think [Rush's] next book — his first to be set in America — will be unlike anything he has written before.” Esposito's blog reprinted this excerpt from a 2008 interview with Rush. "It sort of goes like this: Mating is about courtship; Mortals is about marriage; Subtle Bodies [Rush's upcoming book] is about friendship. Subtle Bodies is set in the Catskills on the eve of the invasion of Iraq." A comment at The Millions from someone who attended a reading by Rush from SUBTLE BODIES at the 92nd Street Y in 2007, pronounced that "there was indeed something different about this new work–something fresher, more poignant, more human (if that is in fact possible, given the great humanity of Rush’s previous novels). " I can hardly wait to read it. In the meantime, as a truly Obsessive Reader, I will be checking out the stories in WHITES.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Favorite Things 2011 - Heyday Books

The Obsessive Reader truly appreciates beautiful books about the Golden State of California, its history, hidden narratives, literature, native peoples, urban cultures and natural world. That's what Heyday Books has been delivering for nearly forty years from its publishing home in Berkeley.  It is run by one of the most polymathic, eccentric, brilliant, big-hearted geniuses I know, founder and publisher Malcolm Margolin.  

Malcolm Margolin publisher Heyday Books
(I admit this image of Malcolm looks a bit as if he's been irradiated, probably it's just an overexposed slide, or it could be that saintly light he seems to hold within himself - really).  

I am making my way through the riches of A STATE OF CHANGE , a work of "historical ecology," paintings based on the educated, delicate observations of artist and naturalist Laura Cunningham who traveled the state "with paintbox in hand" exploring landscapes, habitats and forms of life to tell us about our past and possibly our future. The book has been called visionary and it is just that on all levels, because of the ways Cunningham has of imaginatively seeing what has remained and what has disappeared from the earth.

You can visit Heyday Book's website and Heyday Book's Facebook pages to learn about its catalog and order books.  To give you a sense of the wonders in store, here is a list of some of my favorite titles:

Frozen Music: A Literary Exploration of California ArchitectureEdited by David Chu; Foreword by John King

The Harvest Gypsies: On the Road to the Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck; Introduction by Charles Wollenberg

I first discovered Heyday fifteen years ago, when I found a slim paperback called THE HARVEST GYPSIES. It's seven articles by John Steinbeck originally published in the San Francisco News, between October 5 and October 12, 1936 on migrant workers pouring into California's agricultural Central Valley during the Great Depression.  This was three years before he published his masterpiece, THE GRAPES OF WRATH.  He lived in the workers camps, his eyewitness reporting laying the groundwork for his testimony in a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize.

Steinbeck Sidebar

The Obsessive Reader has been a sucker for John Steinbeck since I wrote a book report on THE GRAPES OF WRATH in junior high school.  Even now I think what gorgeous prose he wrote, how his books were best-sellers, proving that there are times when the good, beautiful and worthy can be popular.  When Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature, American critics, asked, "Why?" The critical establishment never gave him his due, perhaps because people enjoyed reading him.  Perhaps because Steinbeck wrestled with social and political issues in his novels.  In some ways the critics were akin to the conservative Kern County, California Board of Supervisors who banned THE GRAPES OF WRATH the year it was published, afraid of inflaming the populace in one of the areas hardest hit by the influx of Dust Bowl refugees.  We could use a novelists like Steinbeck now - willing to witness our society.  See what he wrote seventy years ago in Chapter Five of THE GRAPES OF WRATH about the banks that were behind the ecological and human disaster in the Dust bowl:

The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. 
Of course, there's a famous  movie with Henry Fonda based on the novel, and now a famous Bruce Springsteen song, but do yourself a favor read the book, savor it in all its long form prophetically-inspired, truth-induced glory.

Back to Heyday Books
Engaged writing, illuminating the world around us, exposing us to the unorthodox and original, this is an honorable tradition in every part of the world.  Fortunately, it is the kind of writing brought to us by Heyday Books.  It's a heroic enterprise, by all the folks involved with Heyday, to continue its work for the rest of us, especially those of us who are obsessive readers.