Everything but Hawaii
February 12, 2013 9:15 AM   Subscribe

"Cheever wasn't the only one who found inspiration at the Writers' Project [NYT]. Others included Conrad Aiken, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Arna Bontemps, Malcolm Cowley, Edward Dahlberg, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Rahv, Kenneth Rexroth, Harold Rosenberg, Studs Terkel, Margaret Walker, Richard Wright and Frank Yerby. These federal employees produced what would become the renowned American Guide Series, comprising volumes for each of the 48 states that then existed, as well as Alaska."
posted by Iridic (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It took me a minute to realize the Wikipedia page links to the full-view Google e-Book for all the titles. That's awesome.
posted by steef at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2013

I've been working for years on finishing a long-forgotten piece of the Federal Writers' Project, the Lexicon of Trade Jargon, and it's clear the while names you give are exceptional, they are outnumbered by the unexceptional. The typical Writers Project worker, under whose umbrella the Lexicon was protected, was described in a WPA annual report as mainly having “neither the requisite skills nor the physical stamina to engage in construction.” Sometimes, literacy was a worker’s sole qualification for work on a FWP project.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:06 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Heh, Mo Nickels. That's great.

"Why'd you become a writer?"

"I'm incapable of productive work."

Thanks, Iridic. Bookmarked for later consumption.
posted by notyou at 10:12 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe the LOC will consider finishing that WPA documentary that led to Woody Guthrie writing one of his best songs.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2013

the Wikipedia page links to the full-view Google e-Book

I wish. The ones I checked are preview only, though available for sale as e-books.
posted by Twang at 11:30 AM on February 12, 2013

preview only

posted by Iridic at 11:36 AM on February 12, 2013

Indeed, at least in the case of Minnesota.
posted by mr. digits at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2013

Well... so it seemed at first, anyhow.
posted by mr. digits at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2013

I think I may have an old (original?) copy of the Washington book in hardcover. So much information in there!
posted by xedrik at 2:06 PM on February 12, 2013

I devoured the Virginia guide this summer. It was a fabulous melange of fact, legend, and half-remembered story. It was so interesting to see what was important or notable in the 1930s about places I know so well today. It makes me want to read the pertinent volumes before every road trip!
posted by julen at 2:18 PM on February 12, 2013

Weird - I'm working my way through Seinfeld again, and just watched "The Cheever Letters" about an hour before seeing this. Gettin' all Baader-Meinhoffy up in here.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2013

« Older The Island of lost flavors   |   "Oh? Is it a dud?" Least favorite words when... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments