I read something the other day that destroyed my comforting delusion that if I died suddenly my unproduced or unpublished manuscripts would eventually be discovered and produced or published and my genius hailed.
Novelist and teacher Les Gorn (``The Anglo Saxons’’), writing for the Cedar Street Times, a small gem of a weekly newspaper in my town of Pacific Grove, California, is doing a series on Monterey Peninsula writers over the years, and they are many.
Not just the John Steinbecks, Henry Millers and Robinson Jeffers, but some other very fine artists who are lesser known but important nonetheless, such as Jean Ariss (``The Shattered Glass’’ and a close friend of Steinbeck’s) and Saul Alinsky (``Reveille for Radicals’’). Gorn writes that Alinsky, who lived in the Carmel Highlands, is ``believed to have inspired both Barack Obama’s years as a community organizer and his 2008 campaign strategy for the Presidency.’’
But it was the entry on Robert Bradford that brought me up short.
Bradford lived in Pacific Grove. He was, as Gorn describes him, a writer and activist. He was co-author with another Peninsula writer, Ward Moore (``Bring the Jubilee,’’ 1953, an acclaimed novel supposing the South won the Civil War), of a novel titled ``Caduceus Wild’’ as well as the author of ``numerous articles in left wing journals.’’
But, writes Gorn, Bradford’s best work was a novel that was turned down by several prestigious publishers. Gorn read it many years ago and writes that ``its characters still live vividly in my memory, a century and tons of manuscripts later, one true test, I think of literary merit.’’
The payoff then, one would think, is that the manuscript has been rediscovered and will be published and Bradford’s literary career resurrected.
It is here that Gorn destroys the delusion of literary justice, for, he writes, the manuscript has been ``unaccountably lost.’’ Even Gorn has forgotten its title, if not its characters.
There are other tragic stories in Gorn’s essay for the Cedar Street Times, the paper founded and edited by Marge Ann Jameson. One is of writer and singer Richard Farina (friend of Thomas Pynchon and Peter Yarrow and author of ``Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me’’).
Shortly after the publication of that novel, Farina (see photo), in a celebratory mood, took a ride with a motorcyclist out to the wilds of nearby Carmel Valley. The `cycle hit 90 miles per hour rounding a bend and leaving the road, according to authorities. The driver lived, Farina was dead at age 29. ``Farina’s grave,’’ Gorn writes, ``marked with a peace sign, is in Monterey City Cemetery.’’
Joan Baez, who for a time made her home in the Carmel Valley, wrote and recorded the song ``Sweet Sir Galahad’’ to commemorate Farina’s life.
So, very sad, but at least Farina’s best work is still with us. It would be nice if we could say the same about Bradford’s. Or even knew what he had titled it.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...