Friday, November 27, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In Denver, before an event at the Tattered Cover bookstore, I sat down with Gloria Johnston of Swing Vote magazine and Louie Wolfe at his BBQ spot on East Colfax St. near the state capitol. We talked about the WPA guides that Louie had collected through the years and how they'd guided his travels. And we talked about the WPA writers including Weldon Kees, who came to Denver after leaving behind his job on the Nebraska Writers’ Project, and his friend Rudolph Umland who came to visit him, and was surprised to find Kees had turned to poetry (with the encouragement of another WPA friend, as described in the book).
Louie suggested that before leaving Denver I visit Red Rocks, the park west of the city where an amphitheatre is set into the scarlet sandstone walls. He told me that Red Rocks had its own New Deal connection: the theatre was built by CCC workers. The WPA guide to Colorado calls them “public-spirited citizens” and notes that in the silt deposit layers of the stone walls where you can see “shells, teeth of curious fish, and plants,” archaeologists found the nine-foot-long thigh bone of an Atlantosaurus.
So I drove toward the mountains one afternoon and wandered the park as the late sun lit up the stone and the bare bronze back of the CCC worker statue.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The recent Texas Book Festival featured, once again, authors discussing their books in the halls of the state capitol building, from literary biography in the House to novelists in the Senate. In one annex room, an SRO crowd reassessed the Writers’ Project and whether its members were un-American (as Congressman Martin Dies, of East Texas, had deemed as first chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities) or very American (as Jim Thompson, sometime-resident of Ft. Worth and the West Texas oil fields, had insisted).
Others in the Austin fray this year included Richard Russo, Jane Smiley, John Pipkin on Thoreau’s misdemeanors, and Douglas Brinkley on Teddy Roosevelt.