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Friday, November 06, 2009

Department of Book Reports: 1959: The Year Everything Changed

Fred Kaplan's 1959: The Year Everything Changed (John Wiley and Sons $27.95) chronicles an extraordinary year. On January 1st, Fidel Castro's revolutionaries took power in Cuba. On January 4th Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan visited the United States. Fidel would do the same on April 15th, followed by Khrushchev on September 15th. On April 9th, Lenny Bruce appeared on television. On March 17th, excerpts from William Burrough's Naked Lunch were published in the literary magazine Big Table which were promptly seized by the office of the Postmaster General on the 18th. A busy year for the Postmaster, who was sued by Barney Rosset of the Grove Press for confiscating copies of the newly published and unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterly's Lover on April 28th. On March 13th, the now largely forgotten Herman Kahn began his lecture tour on how he stopped worrying about the Bomb and learned to love it. On March 2nd, Miles Davis began recording Kind of Blue; John Coltrane would step into the studio on May 4th to record Giant Steps; and on June 25th, the day the Kind of Blue sessions ended, Dave Brubeck began work on Time Out. On July 13th, the documentary from Mike Wallace, The Hate That Hate Produced, on Malcolm X was aired. On July 23rd G.D. Searle sought FDA approval for its birth control pill. On November 11th, John Cassevetes' film, Shadows, opened, followed Truffaut's 400 Blows on November 16th. And on November 19th, Ford ceased production on the Edsel. All these things happened, and more. Kaplan gives the details in a fine narration.

I suppose my only quibble would be that Kaplan completely ignores the Triumph of the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Chicago White Sox in the Fall Classic. There was a young boy at game three, played on Sunday October 4th, just five days shy of his ninth birthday, a game he'll never forget. It was the swan song for the Boys of Summer, and Carl Furillo delivered the game winning hit in the 7th inning. That young boy's future dearly beloved was a rollicking three month old baby. How did that get by Kaplan? In any event, it is a fun book.

On another note, I'd like to point out that today is National Bookstore Day. If you can, please go visit yourfavorite independent bookseller and show them some love.

Jackson Street Books is proud to present Jess Walter at Lacamas Hall.
The Financial Lives of the Poets
“In Jess Walter's best yet, feckless financial reporter Matt Prior has lost his job, is six days away from losing his house, and suspects his wife is courting an affair. Walter's own obvious empathy for the human condition will have you pulling for Prior and his screwy, shady, last-chance scheme for solvency. A laugh-out-loud serio-comic masterpiece!”

—Ranae Burdette, Eagle Harbor Book Company via

Jess Walter is the author of five novels, including The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. He has been a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction.

Another 7/11

Cross-posted at
Jackson Street Books

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  1. Dang it all. I always thought 1962 was the year that changed the world.

  2. SeattleDan:

    1959 was a momentous year, that's for sure. Obviously Mr. Kaplan was concentrated on Right and Left coast societal fenomena or he woulda noticed the earth shattering shrieks and moans coming out of Omaha, when I lost my virginity*. I wanted to save myself for marriage, but since it's been another fifty years of nonconnubial bliss for me, well, I'm sure GOD will understand.

    * In the event, it turned up under the bed when I was looking for a pair of shoes. Those shoes had been lost for some time and my mother, hearing me muttering foul imprecations as I searched, said, "Say a prayer to St. Anthony.". I did so; I said "St. Anthony, where the fuck are my shoes?".

  3. i like 59 the way that black and white lasts
    while perfect color fades away: blood to paste.

    i dig myself a hole in gotham
    and lay sublime in the skirt of my grave:
    a feminine unfolding of earth.

    i loved that tall old man
    i loved that tall old man
    who wandered into the city of St. John
    kicking his junk every day.
    we wore black hats and stared at our feet
    the dessicates of form, shake it.

    the dead congratulate you.

    this is where i talk about insinuation:
    the music that insinuated the slow china curl
    the spine and spiral of the dark


    I wrote this some time ago--it was titled "Ode to William Burroughs" though it was also a nod to Steely Dan.



We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.