Tuesday, May 29, 2007

American Heritage: So Long at the Fair

American Heritage has suspended publication. It was lavish and utterly middlebrow. By coincidence I picked up a couple copies just before the suspension was announced.

The one featured Walter Raleigh. The article was dumb, a recapitulation of Raleigh’s Roanoke adventure; but the color plates were great. I looked up Raleigh’s poetry in the Norton anthology. Then I read in the Fairie Queen; Raleigh helped get it published and Spenser’s letter to Raleigh is as important to that poem as Dante’s to Della Scala. And then I read some Donne in the Grierson edition; there’s a new biography of Donne. Ann Donne, for whom John sacrificed all, died at 33.

The other American Heritage featured Frederick Olmstead whom the magazine characterizes, laughably, as unknown. Olmstead designed the great parks of the great North American cities. The World for a Shilling by Michael Leapman credits the gigantic greenhouse which was essentially London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 for foretelling Olmstead. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson details the struggle by David Burnham to engage Olmstead as designer for the grounds of Chicago’s Columbian Exhibition of 1892. Olmstead alone, of course, made the great American cities bearable.

Will the wonderful American Heritage Dictionaries continue? The title is owned by Forbes. I am disappointed that with age and some money I have come to read Forbes with almost the attention I pay The New Yorker. In 1988 I published in Unmuzzled OX an interview with Imamu Amiri Baraka by David Remick. I regret having made fun of Remick. Of course, he now edits The New Yorker.


Blogger Riikka said...

Olmsted's not well-known like Warhol, for instance, is well-known. Even people who walk every day in Central Park have no idea that it was designed, and that if it wasn't scrupulously maintained, it would turn into dead scrub brush in about a month.

Personally, I like Bryant Park equally well. Have you ever visited Marianne Moore's Camperdown Elm near the Boathouse?

I also like how quiet the Brooklyn area is: the nice big library, the Egyptian stuff in the museum, the botanical gardens, and going west you can get to good Indian restaurants. And yet there's still a chummy multicultural aura to the south of the Park on Flatbush Ave.

If I had to live in one or the other as Tarzan, though, I think I'd choose Central Park. More publicity possibilities.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Michael Andre said...

I consider Bryant Park more of a formal French garden. The first time I was in Paris, I was surprised, like many visiting North Americans, to be shooed off the grass in a public jardin. In Olmsted's parks, I pretend I'm Wordsworth.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Kirby Olson said...

Michael, please note the comments that I left in your post on Love & Politics.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:10 PM  

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