Friday, May 30, 2014

Going West

Twain, Harte, Stoddard, Coolbirth - Ben Tarnoff's The Bohemians (Penguin, 2014)
Excuse the absence - I've been on a long voyage to the West and points thereabouts. With some inevitably, I finally ended up in San Francisco in the 1860s and 1870s, and got stuck there for a while. I've been working on what will be one of the first chapters of my book about Mark Twain and the Mississippi, which means I've finally been getting to grips with his time in California and the rich literary world of which he was a part. At the same time, I've also been chasing the ghost of Ralph Keeler - remember him? - which meant uncovering his early career in the Alta California and other San Francisco publications. And then, with some uncanny timing, I got asked to do some filming about the Gold Rush, which left me westering for a little while longer. How lucky, then, that these occidental travels coincided with the publication of Ben Tarnoff's The Bohemians (Penguin, 2014), one of the most engaging and readable books ever written on this pivotal and underexamined moment in literary and cultural history.