Historoclumping

In a not terribly serious way, Ken Kesey wrote in Esquire (June 1985) about the history of Oregon that led up to their Round-Up rodeo in "The Blue-Ribbon American Beauty Rose of Rodeo."

In the 1700s, explorers. Then pioneers. Then settlers tired of the Oregon Trail, this is fur damn piece enough, by gadfrey! Then ranchers and stock, riders and roundups. Finally the wheat farmers draw lines, and more lines, gathering space, creating a county.

.. .In 1865 the county seat was Umatilla Landing, where the Umatilla River meets the Columbia.

Point of departure for pack trains bound for placer mines in Idaho. In 1868 the railroads push inland; kills the river trade. Umatilla Landing dwindles in size and importance, becoming barely a ghost port. Farsighted go-getters sign petition demanding county seat be moved to Pendleton. Shoot, the only saloon in the territory is located there, stands to reason the county business oughter follow suit. Even build a courthouse to accommodate it____

Jan Morris, after an opening paragraph in which she describes contemporary Native American traders under the portico of the Palace of Governors Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, gives her readers a quick review of what these Native Americans have gone through over the past several hundred years.

They have been around here for ever. Long before the gringos came in their wagons, long before the Spaniards with their cavalry, centuries even before the wandering Navajos or the raging Apache reached these parts, the Tewa and the Keres Indians lived in their adobe pueblos along the valley of the Rio Grande. The arrival of the white man has left them more or less cold to this day. Once in 1680, they rose in rebellion against the Spaniards, but they were soon put down, and ever since they have lived in a condition of reasonably amiable but unforth-coming resignation, coming into town each day to plonk themselves down there beneath the venerable arcade____

Jan Morris also used historoclumping when she wrote about her first visit to mainland China in a piece titled "Very Strange Feeling," collected in Journeys. She wrote of a Chinese dance band playing a Glenn Miller song in Shanghai. They sounded to her as though they had played it once too often:

They have been playing it, after all, since they and the song were young. Their musical memories, like their personal experiences, reached back through Cultural Revolution, and Kuomingtang, and Japanese Co-Prosperity Zone, back through all the permutations of Chinese affairs to the days of cosmopolitan Shanghai—those terrible but glamorous times when European merchants lived like princes here, Chinese gangsters fought and thrived, the poor died in their hundreds on the sidewalks, and the Great World House of Pleasure offered [here Morris segued seamlessly into a litany of services offered] not only singsong girls and gambling tables, but magicians, fireworks, strip shows, story-tellers, mah-jong [sic] schools, marriage brokers, freak shows, massage parlors, porn photographers, a dozen dance platforms and a bureau for the writing of love-letters.

In 1985, Gary Wills wrote in Esquire about the 1960s, giving in one paragraph a rapid cultural history of that decade:

The fads and tragedies came and went, barely distinguishable. We had camp weddings—Tiny Tim's on the Johnny Carson show. Camp assassination—the S.C.U.M. woman attempt on Andy Warhol. Camp patriotism—Abbie Hoffman in flag drag. Camp religion—Billy Graham going disguised in fright wig to a rock show. And it grew harder to find a difference between the camp and the straight versions of—what? Reality? Between Billy Graham with a wig and without one; between Abbie's flag and Anita Bryant's anthem; between Valerie Solanas and Lee Oswald; Johnny Carson's bridegroom and Johnny Carson.

0 0

Post a comment