From West To East: California and the Making of the American Mind

Overview

Artfully weaving together the strands of California's social, political, and cultural history, Schwartz chronicles the state's turbulent life from the Spanish conquest through the Civil War, the labor movement, the Great Depression, and the birth of modern cultural radicalism in the Beatnik revolution and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
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1998 , Hardcover with the dust cover , 566 page book . This is the authors fantasy that American cultural started in the West ( California ) THEN spread East ( New York ) . ... Interesting reading. Condition : NEW Read more Show Less

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Overview

Artfully weaving together the strands of California's social, political, and cultural history, Schwartz chronicles the state's turbulent life from the Spanish conquest through the Civil War, the labor movement, the Great Depression, and the birth of modern cultural radicalism in the Beatnik revolution and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From its beginnings, California has embodied the new, maintains Schwartz in this ambitious, unorthodox history. By the time the U.S. annexed the state in 1848 after the war with Mexico, California already had a cosmopolitan identity utterly different from that of other West Coast states, he further argues. The era after the 1848-50 Gold Rush saw a waning of Hispanic traditions and Native cultures, and conflicts between farms and railroads, whites and nonwhite immigrants, as well as the rise of a bohemian subculture by the 1890s. Schwartz, a San Francisco Chronicle correspondent, aims to write a "hidden" or "secret" history of Californians' forging of a nonconformist cultural identity. He sometimes overstates his case, but his entertaining narrative offers new vistas on the Golden Gate State as a crucible of American experience. Along with thumbnails of Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Ambrose Bierce, Lincoln Steffens and avant-garde composers Harry Partch and Henry Cowell, he peoples his saga with social activists, utopians, cranks, artists, anarchists, Wobblies and Hollywood communists. Although Schwartz extols a postwar California mindset shaped by Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan and the Beats, he opines that the post-1965 California scene has "produced little of lasting value in the literary and artistic fields." His iconoclastic chronicle deserves a place alongside Kevin Starr's standard histories. (Mar.)
Booknews
In his sweeping four-and-a-half century political and cultural history of California, Schwartz, a journalist and historian of radical movements, dispels the myth that American national culture was developed first in the East and then spread westward across the frontier. He examines the movements and colorful figures in the state's history, then turns his attention to its most important innovation: the transformation of revolt into style. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
This attempt to place California at the center of our national consciousness starts out with great ambition but gets bogged down in an extensive look at Communism in the Bear Flag Republic. Schwartz, a San Francisco journalist and historian, offers brilliant views early on of California's creation first as a division of the Spanish colonies, based on its Dominican clergy, then as an outpost of Mexico, and finally as the last frontier of American "manifest destiny." The Gold Rush and the building of the railroads prefigure the labor battles that dominate most of the rest of the book. Initially, Schwartz's depictions of unions fighting the newspaper industry in San Francisco and the land issues brought to bear by the railroads are lively and compelling. But once this landscape becomes sullied with the Trotsky-Stalin infighting taking place within worldwide Communism, his book starts losing ground. And after Stalin's purge and subsequent murder of Trotsky (via Soviet agents in California, according to Schwartz), he becomes a standard-bearer for the far left. Then, with the injuries of the indefensible Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, Khrushchev's revelations of the atrocities committed by Stalin, and the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Communism is all but destroyed in California. To his credit, Schwartz doesnt ignore the machinations within California that led to Communism's downfall, including the House Un-American Activities Committee (on which Californian Richard Nixon sat). Further, the author is able to shift easily between depictions of life and art, cogently demonstrating the impact of the state's political struggles on the writers John Steinbeck, Frank Norris, AllenGinsberg, and others. Still, the last 30 years of California history are relegated to a mere 10 pages that cover in only a cursory way several very important historical events. This would have worked better as one volume in a multi- volume project—or as a straight-shooting labor history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684831343
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 3/10/1998
  • Pages: 566
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Beginning in Inverness 1
Pt. I Borderlands and Other Extremes 7
Pt. II Runaway Society 73
Pt. III Blood Oranges 139
Pt. IV Red Years 205
Pt. V Charon's Shore 287
Pt. VI In Defense of the Earth 391
Epilogue: Thirty Years After 509
Bibliography 519
Acknowledgments 539
Index 543
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