Friday, July 6, 2007

Recognition: The Beholder and the Beheld

Just over the hill from the portion of Santa Barbara where I live is the splendid, funky, notional hamlet of Summerland, a place that attracts tourists with the most dreadful-looking knees imaginable. A distinctive landmark in Summerland is a restaurant, The Big Yellow House, which closes and languishes on a regular basis, is reopened, staffed with locals who have attractive knees and who serve tourists who don't. There are a few other eating places, a post office, a coffee house, and antique stores that look more like retro Los Angeles movie houses. There is one liquor store, a gas station that used to be called Jack Gas, and no longer is, reflecting, some say, the sad effects of encroaching gentrification. There is also a toning station that used to be called a gym, a fire station, and a market that used to be called Lucky's, where one could procure remarkably good sausage. Lucky's is no longer called Lucky's; it is called Available, and Will Negotiate, which means the man who owns Lucky's and who used to make the remarkably good sausage has retired and wants to sell.

There is also a restaurant/saloon called The Nugget, which used to be called The Nugget, and which used to offer foodstuffs of remarkable awfulness. Like the dresshop in Santa Barbara now occupying a restaurant that used to be called Mom's, customers were drawn for ambiance rather than food. The Nugget now presents reasonably good food at reasonable prices, and reasonably strong drinks at prices locals seem to respect. Tonight, while dining at The Nugget, I was approached, as I was the last time I dined chez Nugget and the time before that, by a person who claimed to have just seen me on television.

I want to make it clear that I do not in the slightest resemble Geraldo Rivera or Jerry Springer, and when I compare myself to other TV personalities, I arrive at a loss. I do not give the impression of having been on TV when I dine at any other restaurant. Nevertheless,the experience got me to thinking along a particularly morbid line that has as its denominator the fickleness and forgetfulness of the public.

The following authors are scarcely thought of, which is worse than shameful. Although some forgotten authors are richly and deservedly forgotten, the following ought to be remembered with greater intensity and clarity:

1. Jack London
2. James M. Cain
3. Mordecai Richler
4. Carol Stone
5. John Fante
6. Ring Lardner
7. John Sanford
8. Willa Cather
9. Sarah Orne Jewett
10. Stephen Crane
11. Robertson Davies
12. Dorothy Parker
13. Dorothy Baker
14. Hilda Doolittle
15. Wilfrid Sheed

Through some past associations, I have a sense of the tough buck publishing is. Nevertheless, I would put time and effort into a business plan whereby the works of all these and many other wrongly or unnecessarily overlooked authors, perhaps calling them to the attention of those who have missed opportunities to know the, perhaps not. But it would do the modern equivalent of bringing these shining lights back in twisted, coiled format, where they could once again emit their friendly glow.

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