"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where did all those ephemeral publications go? Decades of them - on Googlebooks!

Here's something I thought was pretty neat. From time to time I look up my father's name (Selden Menefee) online to see if any reference is made to his writing, or if I can pick up a copy of something long out of print. Like the study of migrant workers he did in the 1930's, one of the first (perhaps the first) of its kind (cover at left). He wrote books, studies, magazine and newspaper articles from the 1930's through the 1990's. Most were long forgotten, or so I thought, until the Internet came along and provided a window to view the life a good writer's efforts can have, long after publication.

Did you know you can find all kinds of obscure references on googlebooks? When I looked Selden up, I found this:
http://www.google.com/books?q=Selden+Menefee&btnG=Search+Books
It gives references to places where his books are quoted in footnotes; magazine articles; etc. All from university collections, probably. There's even a full text online of Assignment: USA (1943), his book of wartime homefront journalism. Pages and pages of references to instances in which his work is noted and used even today, and sometimes by major historians. It's interesting to see how a writer's work DOES continue to be out there in the culture, used by other writers and on and on. This is how the "cultural commons" works and not just songwriters, but scholars, build on each other's work. That's reassuring in a case like Selden's because he was a fine, principled journalist... but not so good when you think of all the poor journalism out there and how inaccuracies and fabrications are being perpetuated ad infinitum... but wait, I'm trying to be optimistic. Smiley face here.
Above and left, the cover of an oral history collection Selden put together as a project of his small town weekly newspaper in Fair Oaks, California, to collect the stories of the old-timers in the community. "The Way It Was." (Was "oral history" even a term, then?) Funny to think that I'm one of those old-timers now, and if someone were to ask for my memories of 1950s Fair Oaks, they would evoke a place just as alien to people now as the Fair Oaks of the early days did to the child I was in the 1950s.  
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here's a later post on fanzines, another kind of ephemeral publishing.