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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Discover them or re-live them

Straight away I liked the honest strapline on Jonathan Sa'adah's How Many Roads? - Photographs of the Sixties and Early Seventies. Historians toy with broad divisions of time; the rest of us, conceivably passing through the oughties equivalent of the Renaissance (Middle Ages anyone?), must follow the calendar. Time - the sort we live through – can be a messy construct.

As it happens that strapline exactly covers the most mobile period of my own life. Escape in 1959 from a gloomy north-of-England adolescence, six years in London, six years in Pennsylvania, back to the Great Wen in 1972.

Which means I saw the sixties - or the part popularly identified as such - from a foreign country. From the lap of luxury too since I was, for the first time, centrally heated and more than a little innocent. The USA proved to be more exotic than Saturn so how was I to know that Watergate, Kent State, the public rendering of We Shall Overcome, and - above all - the furtive jowls of a certain Milhous weren't typical everyday phenomena. Some of it only fell into place when I got home.

And now, thanks to Mr S, that frequently revolutionary period is re-created  in vivid b&w. Milhous is there, trapped on a telly screen like a catfish, jowls expanding. Youth in large numbers, doubting that dying in south-east Asia might justify over-optimistic Washington rhetoric. Rural America at home round the Fosters and Maple pot-belly stove; restless America moving to the next vista, often in a German camper-van. A veritable slice of American pie.

If the past is where they do things differently, the sixties is the past in spades. Buy How Many Roads? from Beth's blog, the cassandra pages.


  1. My young family (husband back from southeast Asia, 2-year-old daughter and I) moved west in a German camper-van in 1971, headed to Milhous' home town of San Clemente and husband's next duty station near San Diego. I remember those times vividly, sometimes fondly, sometimes not so much.

    I wore my hair long, my dresses even longer (when I wasn't wearing bell-bottom pants and lacy peasant blouses) and my liberal attitude on my shoulder.

    I still have the liberal attitude. And the vivid memories of the 60s and 70s.

  2. This looks a great photo book. I think I will be getting it, and like you, I think. seeing how it places me in that epoch the way I was and perhaps still am.
    Also I am eager to read your new novel, which I will be getting, and already like the title of.

  3. Crow: To tell the truth the Swinging Sixties rather passed me by. I wasn't aware they were happening in London (blame extreme poverty), In the USA such ephemera were overwhelmed by being in the USA and meeting Americans. VR caused a stir at the "Jewish Y" (we went there for a piano recital) by turning up in a mini-skirt. All those long-skirted women!

    Guess your liberal attitude is going to have to go into hibernation given the result of the recent elections.

    Lucas: There's a lot about flying and a lot about France. For a long time the novel's working title was Risen On Wings but I junked it on the grounds that it sounded "holy". Joe contributed mightily.

  4. Robbie, thanks so much for this kind and appreciative review and recommendation of J.'s book, and your remembrances of those times in America. One unexpected result of the book seems to be that it really jogs people's memories - one friend showed up at our studio with her own photos of that time stuck into the book at the pages where they resonated! I hadn't realized how much of the social change was also reflected in Quebec, without the war and draft angst of course. Glad to be here now, where at least some of the changes we sought have been put into practice!