The Bohemians

The Bohemians

Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature

Book - 2014
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Traces the birth of modern America as reflected by the writings of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warrant Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith, placing their achievements and personal lives against a backdrop of the post-Gold Rush era in California.
"The Bohemians begins in 1860s San Francisco. The Gold Rush has ended; the Civil War threatens to tear apart the country. Far from the front lines, the city at the western edge roars. A global seaport, home to immigrants from five continents, San Francisco has become a complex urban society virtually overnight. The bards of the moment are the Bohemians: a young Mark Twain, fleeing the draft and seeking adventure; literary golden boy Bret Harte; struggling gay poet Charles Warren Stoddard; and beautiful, haunted Ina Coolbrith, poet and protectorate of the group. Ben Tarnoff's elegant, atmospheric history reveals how these four pioneering western writers would together create a new American literature, unfettered by the heavy European influence that dominated the East. Twain arrives by stagecoach in San Francisco in 1863 and is fast drunk on champagne, oysters, and the city's intoxicating energy. He finds that the war has only made California richer: the economy booms, newspapers and magazines thrive, and the dream of transcontinental train travel promises to soon become a reality. Twain and the Bohemians find inspiration in their surroundings: the dark ironies of frontier humor, the extravagant tales told around the campfires, and the youthful irreverence of the new world being formed in the west. The star of the moment is Bret Harte, a rising figure on the national scene and mentor to both Stoddard and Coolbrith. Young and ambitious, Twain and Harte form the Bohemian core. But as Harte's star ascends--drawing attention from eastern taste makers such as the Atlantic Monthly--Twain flounders, questioning whether he should be a writer at all. The Bohemian moment would continue in Boston, New York, and London, and would achieve immortality in the writings of Mark Twain. San Francisco gave him his education as a writer and helped inspire the astonishing innovations that radically reimagined American literature. At once an intimate portrait of an eclectic, unforgettable group of writers and a history of a cultural revolution in America, The Bohemians reveals how a brief moment on the western frontier changed our country forever."--Publisher's description.
Publisher: New York : The Penguin Press, 2014
ISBN: 9781594204739
159420473X
Branch Call Number: 810.9 TARNOFF
Characteristics: 319 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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Hopalong_Kid
Jun 19, 2015

Insightful book on Twain and Harte, and their role in developing the first uniquely American literature, breaking away from Old World influences. Captures the character and influence of remote early San Francisco and frontier California, before invasion of the transcontinental rails.

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