The Beach Boy

How Southern California capitalism and one mysterious loner met, courted, married, and gave birth to our modern surfing culture

I was hurrying down an endless corridor in San Francisco’s international airport, in a swirl of shapeless people and with a storm raging around, when I was suddenly brought to a stop.

 
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George Orwell’s America

The author of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ never set foot on our shores, but he had a clear and highly personal vision of what we were and what we had been

FOR A WHILE George Orwell thought of calling his novel about life in a totalitarian future The Last Man in Europe. But in the end that title didn’t quite satisfy him, and he chose another simply by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he finished the manuscript.Read more »

Jack London

The Man Who Invented Himself

Jack London carved himself a special niche in the annals of American literature. Born in poverty in the first month of America’s centennial year, he spent his boyhood suffering the rejection of an unloving mother and much of his young manhood as a careless delinquent, a waterfront roisterer, and a road bum, quite as mindless of his own self-destruction as any modern youth who wastes himself with drugs and hitchhikes the interstates from nowhere to nowhere else. Read more »

Knights Of The Fast Freight

When young Jack London described the Reno of 1892 as “filled with … a vast and hungry horde of hoboes,” he was reporting no isolated phenomenon; shaggy, rootless men—tramps or hoboes—could be seen in every part of the West from the 1870’s down to the Second World War. Beginning in 1869, when Omaha Bill beat his way on the first Union Pacific train to the Coast, they were to be seen on all the western lines.Read more »