|Malcolm Margolin publisher Heyday Books|
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:
- Wheels of Change: From Zero to 600 m.p.h.: The Amazing Story of California and the Automobile, Kevin Nelson
- Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience, Edited with an Introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada; Preface by Patricia Wakida; Afterword by William Hohri
- The Port Chicago Mutiny, Robert L. Allen
- Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California, Edited by Rick Heide; Foreword by Juan Velasco
- The Land of Orange Groves and Jails: Upton Sinclair's California, Edited by Lauren Coodley
|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 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.
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.