A New George R. Stewart e-Plaque at the Berkeley Plaque Project

 

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The Berkeley Historical Plaque Project is dedicated to placing plaques at, or about, historic sites in Berkeley.  Many of the plaques are physical, beautifully designed and placed at the locations interpreted.  Others are posted at the Plaque Project’s website, as e-Plaques.  The e-plaques allow people not in Berkeley to see the plaques, and learn about those being interpreted – a world wide version of the physical plaques, available to all.  The e-Plaques also allow an honoring of sites and people for far less than the $1000 cost of the physical plaques.

George R. Stewart has now been honored with an ePlaque.  With the permission of GRS Family Photo Collection Keeper Anna Evenson, the writing talents of Steven Finacom and company, and the leadership of Robert Kehlman, the plaque is now online at the link above. The Plaque gives a good overview of Stewart, his family, his life, and his work. It links to other honorings like the brilliant James Sallis essay on Earth Abides.  (Sallis is a poet and author, the writer of the novella DRIVE which was made into an excellent movie.)

The Plaque also links to a radio script, written by Stewart’s colleague, Berkeley author “Anthony Boucher.” “Boucher,”  nom de plume of William Anthony Parker White, created a series, The Casebook of Gregory Hood, which ran in the late 1940s.  One episode, The Ghost Town Mortuary, “starred” George R. Stewart. Follow the link at the bottom of the plaque to read part of that script.   (Some of the Gregory Hood episodes are online; unfortunately, The Ghost Town Mortuary is not.)

Eventually, it may be possible to put a physical plaque on what might be called “Ish’s House,”  the house on “San Lupo Drive” which was the Stewart home when Earth Abides was written, and Ish’s home in the novel. But that will need to wait until the time when there is funding available for it.  Until then – and after – this is a fine piece of work, to be enjoyed by people in many places around the globe – and beyond, if someone on the International Space Station is a Stewart fan.

Stewart’s Last Book – on Names

In the late 1970s, ill with Parkinson’s Disease, George R. Stewart worked valiantly to complete his last book.  The book was a dictionary of the names given to Americans, and, like Names on the Land, it considered those name-givings in an historical context.  The book was entitled American Given Names.

In the book’s “Introduction” Stewart describes several principles of American name-giving:  Names are given soon after birth; those names are considered permanent; names usually are gender-specific; the names chosen by the namers are considered “good” names; there is a huge pool of names from which to choose; names may leave the pool by misuse, and new names may be added by use; although the names may have originally come from many different languages, they are Americanized in spelling and pronunciation.   He follows that with a detailed “Historical Sketch,” nearly 40 pages long, which gives a good context for the types of names bestowed at different American eras, and some reasons for those choices.

The main section of the book is of course the dictionary of names.  Note that these are American given names – not English or any other nations, although many nations and tongues provided the names originally – so these names would be given to children born here.  Each name is defined; its origin and meaning given; and a brief history of its use included. Many of the names will seem dated now – the book is nearly 40 years old, and television and movies have had a profound impact on naming since then. But others are still common:  Robert, Catherine, Donald, Mary, John, and so on.  Since this is a work with an historical viewpoint, many of the names were not in common use even before publication, but Stewart included them as of historic interest.  Of just because he found them interesting.  How many people today are named Mahershalalhashbaz?

Stewart, good scholar that he was, leaves his readers with a quest – to track name changes of the late twentieth century, which seem like so much of that time to break with the past, to see if those new names endure, or if they’re replaced with other names.

The book is a good read, and a resource for scholars, writers, or anyone interested in American names.

 

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The book was published by Oxford in 1978.  Ted (Theodosia) Stewart told us that Stewart was  working while he lay in bed, in pain.  When someone commented that it must  be  hard to watch him do the work, Ted exclaimed, “No!  No one can live with George unless he’s writing!  Thank God he has this book to write!”

Stewart tried to write one more book, a biography of his father-in-law, University of Michigan President Marion LeRoy Burton.  But to read his manuscript is to feel deep sorrow.  He kept starting the book, over and over, but he could not get it beyond an early section.  He died without having made much progress on it.  On the other hand, he had written 28 published books, and a few never published; and even in the pain of his last illness, he wrote this fine book.

Earth Abides to Be Filmed?

(Another repost, so it’ll get to the FB page.)

Earth Abides, George R. Stewart’s great classic – in 20 languages now, and never out of print in 77 years –  thanks to Alan Ligda, who published the book for a few years through his Hermes Press when the Trade publisher dropped it and thus kept it in print until the Trade publisher realized its mistake  – is long overdue for film treatment.

 

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ALAN LIGDA, Publishing Hero

In the old days of movie-making, before computers and computer graphics, it would have been nearly impossible to film.  But today, when The Martian can re-create a believable long-distance shot of the Martian surface with a few layers of computer graphics, the post-apocalyptic Earth of Stewart’s novel would be easy to re-create.

Today long films based on several linked novels – think Lord of the Rings – make it possible to film long and complex books like Earth Abides.  EA, with its three sections (each in fact a novella) and its shorter interchapters between the three, could be filmed in a three part or five part version.

And Stewart’s Greek Chorus of observations, the beautiful bits of poetic prose set in italics which filter through the text,  would work as well with a viewing audience as they do with a readership, to help them see Stewart’s overview of events.

So it is with great interest I hear rumors of a plan to film Earth Abides as a mini-series.  A mini-series, it seems to me, is not as worthy of the book as a film or films would be; but remember that Lord of the Rings went through several anemic visualizations before Jackson made his mighty epic. So an Earth Abides mini-series would be a start; and if properly done, a fine start. It would certainly expand the fan base; and in so doing, eventually lead to an audience for a feature film or films.

IMDB has announced the mini-series plan.  There’s no detail about the series, but the public IMDB pages let us know it’s being considered.

Without giving away any secrets, I can confirm that another source has indicated the truth of the project.  No more details than are on the IMDB page, but one small slight confirmation of the interest by filmmakers, and their first steps to make it so.

Stay tuned.

 

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Sally van Haitsma-Agented Book to be filmed

(Again, a re-post to get this shared on FB)

Sally van Haitsma is my agent.  She’s been of invaluable help in seeing the GRS biography through to publication; and she’s supported it even though the publisher sells few copies.

Now she’s struck gold.  The Leisure Seeker, one of the novels she represents is going to be filmed.  According to Hollywood Reporter today, the film will star Meryl Streep and Donald Sutherland.

The book is a wonderful read – and dangerous if you’re a geezer, because it’s the story of a older, ill couple, ignoring their children and heading out in their RV – the Leisure Seeker – to travel Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica…and Disneyland.

Congratulations to Sally, author Michael Zadoorian, and the filmmakers and actors wise enough to make this film.  It will probably win many awards.

Now – if someone would only buy the film rights to the story of George R. Stewart’s life…..

Earth Abides Sheet Music Funded

(Another Re-post – Facebook hasn’t posted several recent bits of news, so I’m reposting them here with the expectation these will now go on the GRS/EA FB page.)

The kind folks who sponsored the publication of the sheet music for Philip Aaberg’s Earth Abides sheet music have donated the full amount needed for the project.

This is a busy time for Sweetgrass Music and Philip Aaberg, but the music should be available in the near future.

Phil, in the meantime, is having a not un-typical Montana spring experience.  He was a lucky winners of the lottery to float the wild Smith River, south of Great Falls, one of the great fishing rivers in a state of great fishing rivers.  But, as Montana luck would have it, a late blizzard moved in earlier this week.  So Phil and friends ared hole up for a while.  All is well, and they should be home soon.

Life in Montana is never boring.  But it’s always conducive to creativity.

Good news, as the price for the Google Play Edition of the GRS biography drops $26.00

(Again, this is a re-post; but with added information about converting Google Play books into some other eBook formats.)

 

If you’ve been waiting to buy my authorized biography of George R. Stewart, this is the time.  It’s dropped to $3.99 on Google Play books.

Buy it here.  Thanks.

Please note that Ebooks downloaded on Google Play books can be transferred to some other eReaders.  See the instructions here.

GRS Interpretive Sign now at Donner Summit; BIG Price Drop on the GRS biography at Google Play books

The almost final sign

photo of GRS sign location

(NOTE – THIS IS A REPOST.  TRYING TO GET THIS SHARED ON FACEBOOK.)

Thanks to the sponsors, who funded the sign, Bill Oudegeest, who had it manufactured and who placed it, and the Donner Summit Historical Society, the new George R. Stewart Interpretive sign is now on old U.S. 40 near the summit of the historic highway.

If you plan to drive I 80 from San Francisco to Reno, or from Reno to San Francisco, or points between, take a short detour on Historic US 40 to see the sign.  It’s not a long detour, goes from Soda Springs to Truckee, but it’s much more scenic than I 80.  It’s a gentle, curving road which follows the shape of the mountains, which include George R. Stewart Peak just above the sign.  The highlight of the old highway is the “Rainbow Bridge,” just east of the pull-out where the GRS sign is located  – the view is magnificent from the scenic turnout at the bridge.

The Stewart sign is one of many placed by the Donner Summit Historical Society on historic US 40.  Called the “Twenty Mile Museum,” the collection of signs interprets the extraordinary history of the road, and the Donner Pass country – railroad pass, wagon route, early highway route….there’s even a Walt Disney connection.   Take your time, and enjoy that trip across the Sierra in educated leisure.

The GRS sign is also near the trailhead to the Pacific Crest Trail.  Follow the trail a little south of Historic US 40 to find a short spur trail up to the summit of George R. Stewart Peak. The view from the peak is even better than from the Rainbow Bridge.

If you want to learn more about Stewart, you may want to read some of his books, like Earth Abides, Storm, or Ordeal By Hunger. Storm and Ordeal by Hunger center on Donner Lake and Donner Pass.  Storm is almost entirely focused on the historic Highway in a massive storm named “Maria[h].”  It’s the book from which we get the practice of naming storms.  Or read my biography, The Life and Truth of George R. Stewart It’s not inexpensive – costs about as much as two large pizzas – but it tells his story in detail.

But whether you do the reading first or not, please take the time to travel Historic U.S. 40 over Donner Summit; and stop along the way to read the GRS Interpretive Sign.

 

BIG NEWS:  THE GRS BIOGRAPHY HAS JUST DROPPED IN PRICE ON Google Play BOOKS TO $3.99!