October, 2020 – A Stewartian lunch, and a new printing of Earth Abides

 A package arrived last week carrying copies of the new printing of Earth Abides, with its splendid “Introduction” by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Even if you have a copy of EA, this very affordable printing is worth buying for Robinson’s Introduction to the novel. (Buy from the non-profit Bookshop.org and a percentage of the sales will go to support independent bookstores.) 

 I consider the cover of this printing one of the three best EA covers. (And there have been many covers)

The original cover, by H. Lawrence Hoffman,  is a fine piece of art depicting a ruined city after the fall – a city which looks to be San Francisco.  EA Morleys

But as wonderful as Hoffman’s cover is, images of ruined cities speak of loss.   My other favorites, which include the one on this new printing’s cover, focus on the Hammer of Ish — a powerful symbol of rebuilding, and thus hope.  One of them is the cover of this new printing, with the Hammer centered over what appears to be a view of Earth from above the clouds.  That overview encourages readers to keep a Whole Earth in mind as they read the gripping, encouraging story set during a pandemic not unlike the one Stewart describes. 

91PMvVHUlgL._AC_UY218_ML3_My third favorite is by Alan Ligda, a hero of Earth Abides. 

When Random House decided to stop publishing the book, Ligda acquired the rights from Stewart.  His edition is  a beautiful work printed by Hermes Press, his family’s small fine quality press.   

 Ligda centered the Hammer of Ish on the cover,  juxtaposed over an open book.   The cover makes an important point:  LIke the Hammer, books are tools — for such as Stewart, Ligda, and all writers and readers.  

(Sadly, as heroes often do, Alan Ligda died young.)

Hermes EA

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My order of the new  Earth Abides was shipped on the publication date. October 13.   On October 14th, by coincidence (or Jungian synchronicity?) I shared lunch and conversation about things Stewartian with Ed, George and Ted  (Theodosia) Stewart’s grandson and the current keeper of the family rights. We hadn’t seen each other since his grandmother’s memorial service, about 30 years ago, so we spent some time catching up.Then we turned to matters of the GRS Legacy that he manages.  No need to go into great detail, but thanks to his request for advice about book contracts and followup suggestions from my agent, Sally van Haitsma, it looks as if Ed and the Legacy are about to get an excellent agent.  (The agent’s in Berkeley where most of Earth Abides takes place. He once managed a legendary bookstore, Cody’s.   And he’s looking for clients.) The agent is also familiar with film options and contracts.  Since there’s now  interest in filming another of GRS’s other books should be a marriage made in heaven (as they say)..

All-in-all, the middle of October 2020 has been a milestone time for the Legacy of George R. Stewart, and Earth Abides.

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It’s been  6 decades since a kind, wise librarian walked into the stacks, pulled out a book, and said “Here.  I think you’ll like this book.”  The trail from there has been like that of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow:  winding, up and down and back and forth, often through the dense fogs of life.  But the winding path has always been  lit by the lessons George R. Stewart teaches in Earth Abides.   Learning that Kim Stanley Robinson generously mentioned the GRS biography in his Introduction to the new printing of EA, brings this life arc almost full circle –  from reading the book as a 12-year old to finding myself in the book.  It is a pleasant summiting.  Lunch with Ed while we chewed over things Stewartian were gifts of the summiting, after that decades-long wandering saunter. 

Seeing Ish’s Hammer beautifully displayed on the book’s cover makes my spirit sing.  During those many years, the Hammer of Ish has been an encouraging (if symbolic) companion.  Like a lantern or a grail, it has been a life-gift.  As has Earth Abides

Ish's Hammer(1)

Ish’s Hammer

….By gifted artist, schoolmate of Lennon and McCartney, and playing an important role in the story of George R. Stewart and Earth Abides, Steve Williams (AKA The Pilgrim). 

Want to buy a print of the painting?  Here’s Steve’s  website; contact information is near the bottom:

 
 
 

A New Stewart Scholar

There aren’t too many George R. Stewart Scholars. The pioneers include Robert C. Lyon (Founder of the Friends of George R. Stewart), Vic Moitoret (Founder of the  George R. Stewart Fan Club), Steve Williams (the Pilgrim), and myself.

Now we’ve added a new one: Jason Schultz, Anaheim, California, who’s done remarkable research on the history of the Stewart family orange grove in Anaheim.

One of the rewards of posting to the George R. Stewart weblog is connecting with people like Jason, and sharing the joys of discovery. In his case, he decided to research the location of the Stewart Family Orange Grove  in Anaheim.  Stewart once described the location, vaguely, as about two miles west of the town on a road which is now the main route to Disneyland. 

Jason Schultz was able to pin the location down.  The following email exchange tells the story:

Hi Donald,

I got great information and documents from the Anaheim Heritage Center
and the Orange County Archives. Be sure to credit those institutions as
well!

I first heard from Jane Newell, the Anaheim city archivist.

Here’s what I was able to find at the Anaheim Heritage Center:
1) Property transaction from A. Gregory et al to Robert J. Laidlaw to
George R. Stewart – Santa Ana Register, May 13, 1912 ….
         Property description boils down to a few portions of the
southeast quarter of Section 8, Township 4 South, Range 10 West.
2) …
         Since I don’t see George Stewart’s name in the southeast
quarter of Section 8, I believe it is the parcel still labeled “A.
Gregory” and outlined in green.
         Per the[plat] map, the parcel is on Nutwood, just north of County
Road (aka Lincoln Ave.).

Chris Jepsen with the OC Archives provided some more specifics:

I looked at purchases (grantees) from 1889 through 1926 and sales
(grantors) from 1909 through 1929.

George R. Stewart bought a couple small parcels of land and also bought
half interest in another small parcel – all within the west half of the
southeast quarter of Section 8, Township 4 South, Range 10 West, just
west of Anaheim on April 23, 1912. (Deeds 211/176)  This area is south
of Crescent Ave., north of Lincoln Ave, and east of N. Muller St.

The sellers were Robert J. and Maggie G. Laidlaw (husband and wife). He
bought more adjacent land on Oct. 9, 1914 from Peter W. and Pauline
Schmidt (husband and wife). (Deeds 265/198) And on June 1, 1920, George
R. and Ella W. Stewart went in with their neighbors to jointly purchase
a small parcel of land for a pumping plant in that same area. (Deeds
391/328)

The Stewarts sold their Anaheim property to Bernard D. Parker, (son of
C.E. Parker, president of the Orange County Title Co.), on Feb. 25, 1928.

I was able to find a 1923 newspaper article that is also relevant…

At least part of the grove is now occupied by the Anaheim Union High
School District offices, which perhaps GRS would appreciate as an
educator himself.

Jason also sent a plat map of the property (and other files):

OC Plat Map 010

It’s interesting to note how life paths, after circling around for decades, cross again.  The family Orange Grove, where Stewart worked as a young man, is not far from today’s Disneyland.   Walt Disney would film two of author George R. Stewart’s novels, Fire and Storm.  And Disney eventually invited GRS to work as a consultant at the Disney studio.  Disney, a great fan of Stewart’s, sent the author two personal letters praising his work. 

So the circle of life turns, and turns again.

Schultz’s work is invaluable scholarship.   If the research had been available when I wrote the GRS biography, it would have been included. 

Consider this Jason’s New Year’s gift for all of us, at the beginning of the 70th anniversary year of the publication of Earth Abides. 

(By the way, I owe Jason a slight apology – this was supposed to have been posted last September; but several unexpected matters got in the way.)

Carrying the Fire of George R. Stewart. Kaplan and Kehlmann II – The First Publisher

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Born in New York City, and speaking with a distinct accent, Alan Kaplan brought a distinctive character to his work as a Naturalist for the East Bay Regional Parks.  Based in Tilden Regional Park, in the hills behind Berkeley, Alan interpreted the history and natural history of the area through guided hikes, school programs, and the preparation of exhibits for many years, until his retirement. He’s also provided leadership in organizations that provide education in interpretation for his fellow naturalists in the west, through his work in the old Western Interpreters Association.     (Note that “interpreter” in the park sense refers to what used to be called “naturalists” – those  people in distinctive uniforms who interpret the advanced concepts of a park’s cultural and natural history into common English for visitors.)

That’s where I first met him.  There,  he played a foundational role in the publication of the George R. Stewart biography.  He was the First Publisher of my writings about GRS.

In 1986, the WIA conference was held in Yosemite National Park.  I presented a talk, “George R. Stewart:  An Author for Interpreters.”  As the the title implies, Stewart’s histories and ecological novels are excellent resources for those interpreting the natural or human history of the West.

I was pleasantly surprised when Alan, then President of WIA, encouraged conference attendees to attend the GRS session.  And even more pleasantly surprised when the session was crammed full of enthusiastic naturalists and interpreters.

As the session ended, Alan, who was in the audience, rose to second my comments about Stewart’s value for interpreters.  He emphasized the power of Stewart’s writing by quoting the closing lines of FIRE.  Doing so, he even educated me – I knew FIRE well, but had never given the ecological power of its closing such careful attention. (FIRE was so well-researched and written that the U.S. Forest Service used it in their training programs for summer fire lookouts.)

Alan asked for an article for the WIA Newsletter, Bayways.  Entitled “The Man Who Named The Wind,” the article was a written summary of the GRS talk.  It was the first publication, for a large audience, of material which would eventually expand into the McFarland biography.

Alan also interpreted the work of George R. Stewart to Tilden Regional Park visitors.  For many years, on a weekend close to the day in August when Stewart died, Alan led a “George R. Stewart Memorial Hike” to the summit of one of Tilden’s peak .  The hike focused on Stewart’s work, especially his remarkable NAMES ON THE LAND.  The book is not a dictionary of American place names, but a history which explains in beautiful prose WHY we named places a certain way in a certain era.  As Wallace Stegner once wrote about NAMES (here paraphrased) “No one ever wrote a book like this before; no one has written one since.”  Visitors who joined Alan’s hike learned about Stewart, his work, and especially his unique work about place-naming.  (NAMES ON THE LAND has just been translated into Chinese for the millions of citizens of that country who are enamored of American culture.)

Once, friends and I joined Alan on the hike:  George  and Theodosia’s son Jack, Jack’s wife Joyce, and former high school student Denise L. Barney and her husband Barney hiked along; afterward we crammed into the back of the tiny Chinook microcamper with Alan to share some good wine and crackers (Alan abstained!)

As the GRS biography was written, and published, Alan joined public events which described GRS and my work.  Once, to my chagrin, he was at a talk at the Bancroft Library and I did not notice him so did not introduce him; fortunately, when he came up afterward to say hello I was able to give him a well-deserved gift – a first edition of STORM, autographed by GRS, with a rare misprint on one page.

He also shared our GRS dinner at the beautiful, historic  UC Berkeley Faculty Club, sitting next to me, and we were able to talk about shared GRS experiences.

To sum up – Alan Kaplan, Naturalist, played a major role in the work which led to the eventual publication of THE LIFE AND TRUTH OF GEORGE R. STEWART.   He also inspired me to take a second, deeper look at Stewart’s books, especially FIRE.  Stewart, and the GRS biography owe him much.  I am deeply grateful for his encouragement.

Another Honor For GRS: George R. Stewart in “Stewart Heritage”

Two distinguished British authors, Henry Fothringham, OBE, and Charles Kinder Bradbury,  have just released their beautiful coffee table book, Stewart Heritage.  The book devotes a page to each of several dozen famous and influential Stewarts.  One of the Stewarts they profile is our focus in these pages:  George R. Stewart.

This is the third recent work honoring Stewart and his work.  There was an essay in the literary magazine of the Chicago Tribune, “George R. Stewart: Unrestrained by literary borders,” the several pages devoted to Stewart’s Storm in  Snowbound,  Mark McLaughlin’s just-released book about the largest storms recorded in the Sierra Nevada, the fine interpretive sign at Donner Summit so ably designed and place by Bill Oudegeest of the Donner Summit Historical Society (followed by several articles in the Society’s magazine), the Berkeley ePlaque edited and published by Robert Kehlmann and his stalwart colleagues; and now this fine one-page essay which succinctly summarizes Stewart’s life and work.

Although I can’t reproduce the entire GRS page from Stewart Heritage for reasons of copyright, I can post a portion here to give readers the chance to see the quality of the book and the George R. Stewart entry.

grs-in-stewart-bk-copy2

There is clearly a continuing interest in George R. Stewart and his work.   The new, reduced price on the GRS biography and the planned mini-series of Earth Abides will increase that interest.

This weblog is not designed as a marketing tool.  But when something  exceptional  related to George R. Stewart comes along, I’ll always share it with you.  If you are a Stewart, or know a Stewart, or a passionate fan of George R. Stewart and his work, you might consider Stewart Heritage (which I understand was printed in a limited edition).

Post Script.  Having had the chance to review the book in more depth, I find it rich in history across disciplines, across borders, even across racial lines.  There are entries which sweep the Earth from Panamint City near Trona, California – founded by stage robbers who discovered silver there – to Brittany (“Little Britain”) and a tussle there between Satan and Saint George over Mont St. Michel – to Hollywood and James Stewart – and on and on.  Disciplines include science and engineering – the authors have expertise in chemistry and metallurgy – painting, music, film, sport, military accomplishments, academia, politics, law – think Justice Potter Stewart – and, of course, writing.  It is a fascinating read.

Jill Stewart Evenson Has Passed Away

  Jill Stewart Evenson, daughter of George and Ted Stewart, passed away late last month of complications from surgery.  She was 90.

Named Jane, but always called Jill, she was born in 1925.  She lived a long and interesting life, leaving home to move to San Francisco in the 1940s, marrying Morris Evenson of the Painters Union, and raising her family.  But she still found time to earn two Masters of Art, one in Educational Research and the other in Art.  She worked in Educational Research at the Far Western Lab for Educational Research.  After retirement, she helped to coordinate artists’ shows in her retirement.  She even wrote some poetry; one poem was highly praised by her author father.

Jill was of invaluable help in all the GRS work and projects.  In fact, Jill was the one who introduced George and Ted Stewart to Thornton State Beach, and thus, indirectly, to me.

When I was researching the GRS biography, Jill graciously invited me to her home in Santa Rosa so I could interview her.  Then she arranged with her daughter Anna, the Stewarts’ first grandchild, a chance to review the family photo collection and scan in many of the photos for use in the biography.

Jill will be remembered as long as the GRS biography lives.  More, she will be known to all who read Earth Abides for as long as that beloved classic survives – it is dedicated to her.  Her father gave her the first copy off the press, autographed to her.
Here are some photos of Jill:
Image 2
Jill (in striped shirt) with Jack Stewart (back to the door) and others on Wallace and Mary Stegner’s house, early 1940s.
FAMILY 1940s 2 136
Stewart family Portrait, mid-late 40s.  Jill is peeking out at the left.
  baby anna, jill, grs -- 182
The first Stewart grandchild, Anna, with Jill and GRS.