I love it when two seemingly disassociated current reads, which I’ve only just begun, come together in unexpected ways.
I have long been fascinated by the Mississippi, and years back it was a bucket list item to travel the river road from its start close to where I live to its mouth. Didn’t make it to the gulf coast, but we did make it from Winnipeg to Memphis. In Rinker Buck’s new book Life on the Mississippi, his own fascination with the rivers history led him to build a boat and travel in the wake of its now forgotten past.
In Malcolm Harris’ book Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World, he narrows in on Palo Alto in efforts to show how California became the seedbed for the emergence of Ameican style capitalism through a series of developments, including the creation of mass farming and Hollywood.
Buck’s interests are in locating the river as a lost portrait of America that remained somewhat detached from the ideological interests of the east coast, consumed as it was in establishing American principles over and against the presence of Britain. If the East Coast became the entry point for immigration into the new world, the river became synonymous with building and maintaining relationships with the old world. This river culture eventually becomes consumed by the obsession with land and westward expansion, formulated as it was around the western mythos.
Harris picks up the story from the West coast now pushing Eastward with its new vision of capitalist pursuit. The two together provide an interesting way of seeing this development unfold.