• Stoddard Martin


This book was conceived originally as a survey of California literature. The idea was to study what has come to stand as classic in an essentially romantic body of work, and to define what has never been defined adequately: a California tradition. The undertaking proved as vast as the state itself, and some principle of limitation had to be found. Would the book be a survey per se or a critical appraisal along ‘great tradition’ lines? The primary need seemed to be for the latter. Surveys, particularly of the early period, have been churned out with regularity by anthologisers and collectors of ‘Californiana’. They are still appearing. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s recently published Literary San Francisco is typical of the common approach and has the typical shortcomings.1 It is a coffee-table book full of glossy photographs and gossipy vignettes; it devotes as much space to Joaquin Miller and William Saroyan as to Jack London and John Steinbeck; it studiously avoids any taint of the ‘academic’ or ‘critical’. This kind of book, whatever its charms, ends by being dilettantish. The tendency to all-inclusiveness and resistance to singling out individuals as ‘great’ inhibit serious discussion. Essential discrimination is lacking. How can a literature, or a culture for that matter, begin to be understood unless there is some consensus as to what is most unique and representative in it?


Central Valley City Life Young Wife Great Tradition Chilli Clime 
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Notes to Chapter One: Introduction

  1. 1.
    Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Literary San Francisco ( New York and San Francisco: Harper & Row/City Lights, 1980 ).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Mark Twain’s San Francisco ed. Bernard Taper (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On Harte’s career see Richard O’Connor, Bret Harte: A Biography (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1966 ).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On Bierce and his period see Carey McWilliams, Ambrose Bierce ( New York: Boni, 1929 ).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Leslie Fiedler, The Return of the Vanishing American ( London: Paladin, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Lew Welch, The Song that Mt Tamalpias Sings’, in The San Francisco Poets, ed. David Meltzer ( New York: Ballantine, 1971 ).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Edmund Wilson, The Boys in the Back Room ( San Francisco: Colt Press, 1941 ).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For these paragraphs I am indebted to Warren French’s Frank Norris (New York: Twayne, 1962).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (New York: Doubleday,. 1901 ). Further references in text.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Quoted and trans. by F. W. Watt in John Steinbeck ( New York: Grove Press, 1962 ) p. 42.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, critical ed. Peter Lisca (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977 ) p. 445.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    See F. I. Carpenter’s ‘The Metaphysical Joads’ in College English, Jan 1941;Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    repr. in A Casebook on ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, ed. Alice MacNiell Donohue ( New York: Crowell, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men ( London: Heinemann, 1937 ) pp. 50–1.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Joan Didion, Slouching toward Bethlehem (London: Deutsch, 1969). ‘John Wayne: a Love Song’ appears on pp. 29–42.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    Joan Didion, The White Album ( London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979 ) pp. 21–5.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    See Steinbeck: A Life in Letters ed. Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Walsten (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976) p. 154.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stoddard Martin 1983

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  • Stoddard Martin

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