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San Francisco Fifty Years Ago

(Kenneth Rexroth’s complete columns for the San Francisco Examiner)

 

Introduction

1960
January
31. Here I Am [including remarks on James Huneker and Dave Brubeck]
February
07. New Forms of Art and Culture?
14. New Forms of Politics?
21. A Night Out in the City
28. Merits and Faults of the San Francisco Ballet
March
06. Beckett and Ionesco
13. Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and the Modern Jazz Quartet
20. Drama and Community [on the oratorio Queen Esther]
27. In Praise of Amateur Shakespeare [including an unorthodox interpretation of Hamlet]
April
03. Two Questions About Modern Life
10. Signs of Change in the South [on the civil rights movement]
17. Conversations with Southerners [ditto]
24. Flagstaff versus Phoenix
May
01. New Orleans versus Pittsburgh
08. Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman
15. The Execution of Caryl Chessman
22. The HUAC Riot
29. Signs of a New Youth Revolt
June
05. New American Poetry and Jazz
12. San Francisco Theater and Chicago Architecture
19. Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author
26. Slum Clearance? [critique of “urban renewal”]
July
03. Three Poets in the News [Pasternak, Frost, Supervielle]
10. Kabuki Theater
17. Poetry and Ballet
24. Ballet and Jazz
31. The Royal Danish Ballet
August
07. The Tao of Fishing
14. Riding in the Mountains
21. Upheavals in Cuba and the Congo
28. More on the Third World
September
04. The Circus
11. Lack of Imagination and Common Sense [plus remarks on Brecht and African sculpture]
18. Japanese Art of Grace and Modesty
25. Why I Like Opera [including remarks on Carmen and The Threepenny Opera]
October
02. Why I Don’t Like Jazz Festivals [plus remarks on Japanese sculpture]
09. Aida and Ornette Coleman
16. Governmental Clowning
23. An Astonishing Painting Prodigy [in a show of Japanese children’s paintings]
30. La Traviata and La Bohème
November
06. Style versus Pretension
13. Bruce Conner and the Royal Ballet
20. Matters of Taste
27. Mathematical Elegance and Classic Fiction
December
04. The Cost of Taking a Grant from the Ford Foundation [plus remarks on Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist]
11. Robert Duncan
18. An Appeal for Kenneth Patchen [plus remarks on race relations]
25. Christmas

1961
January
01. Man at the End of His Tether
08. Little Theater [plus remarks on Lionel Abel]
15. Theater in San Francisco, Art in Chicago
22. Controversy About Cuba
29. The Attempted Assassination of Thomas Parkinson
February
05. Night Clubs and Jazz
12. Pacifica Radio KPFA [plus remarks on Pablo Casals and the Budapest String Quartet]
19. The Assassination of Lumumba
26. The Chicago Opera Ballet
March
05. The Peace Corps
12. More on the Peace Corps
19. Journalism and Talk Shows
26. The Black Muslims
April
02. More on the Black Muslims
09. King Lear
16. A Few Days in New York
23. New York Jazz Clubs and Genet’s The Blacks
30. Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

[At this point it shifts from once a week (Sunday) to two columns per week, Sunday and Wednesday.]

May
03. The Bay of Pigs
07. Mediocrity in Art
10. Atoms and Irresponsibility
14. A Delightful Spring Opera Season
17. The Population Explosion
21. A Marvelous Magic Flute
24. The Attacks on the Freedom Riders
28. Courage and Cowardice in the South
31. Summit Meeting
June
04. Urban Uglification
07. The Celebrity Elite
11. Nurturing Student Creativity
14. American Provinciality
18. Another Investigation of Campus “Subversion”
21. Interracial Casting
25. The Moiseyev Dancers
28. Government Is Not Business
July
02. The Meaning of Conservation
05. Morality Crisis
09. Hemingway
12. Sierra Camps
16. Sausalito Cuisine and Camus’s Caligula
19. The Berlin Crisis
23. Dangerous Bluster over Berlin
26. The Bizerte Crisis
30. The New York Ballet

August
02. Remembering the Spanish Civil War
06. Ballet and Opera
09. Who for Mayor?
13. Needed: A Master Plan for the City
16. A World of Refugees
20. The Two Cultures
23. A Geopolitical Easement [more on the Berlin crisis]
27. H.G. Wells’s “Open Conspiracy” [Aspen Humanities Conference]
30. Breadth of Vision versus Narrowness of Interest

September
03. Gracious Music at Aspen
06. The Russians’ Real Goal
10. Comments on Cuisine
13. Anachronistic Geopolitics
17. An International Business Conference
20. Negroes and Classical Music
24. An Atrocious New Opera [Blood Moon]
27. Boris Godunov

October
01. Odds and Ends
04. Fine Opera with Shoddy Decor
08. Rigoletto and Coltrane
11. Thoughts While Watching Fidelio and Nabucco
15. More on the Above
18. More Opera
22. Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance
25. Letters from New York and Florence
29. The Russian H-Bomb Test

November
01. Public Opinion
05. The Sick Comedians
09. The Fallout Shelter Craze
12. Henry Miller
15. The Kirov Ballet
19. Pablo Casals at the White House
22. The Kirov’s Shostakovich Piece
26. Milhaud and Chekhov

December
03. The Age of Inoffensiveness
06. Postcolonial Problems
10. Personal and Municipal Responsibility
13. Mandarin Ethics
17. Patronage, Personal or Governmental
20. General Strike for Peace?
24. Christmas Events
27. “Don’t Do as I Do . . .”
31. The Holidays We Need

1962
January
03. My Choice for Man of the Year
07. The French Crisis
10. Urban Deterioration
14. Some Excellent Plays in New York
17. The Bail System
21. Drawbacks of New York
24. Proposal for an Arts Council
28. Better Theater at Home
31. The Disoriented

February
04. Jazz and Longhair
07. Back to Big Sur
11. Chinese Opera
14. A Wise Proclamation from Oregon
18. Some Racial Progress
21. Eskimo Art
25. The San Francisco Mime Troupe
28. Battered Children

March
04. Folkloristic Hokum
07. John Glenn
11. Loving Care for the Mentally Ill
14. Isaac Stern, Prokofiev, and a Lovely Harpist
18. Peter, Paul and Mary, and Eugene O’Neill
21. At the Matisse Opening
25. A Visit to Tucson
28. Generation Gaps in Tucson

April
01. Poetry and Song, French and American
04. Religion and the Enhancement of Life
08. Our Ailing Symphony
11. Golden Gate Park
15. Casals and Strindberg
18. The Lamentable Cuisine of Los Angeles
22. Splendid Ballet
25. The Atomic Arms Race
29. Damn Yankees and a Casals Oratorio

May
02. Social Integration
06. Shakespeare, Ibsen, Swan Lake
09. Juvenile Delinquency
13. Originality versus “Self-Expression”
16. The Constant Dread of a Hideous Extinction
20. The Spring Opera
23. Racial Bridges
27. Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers
30. [no column]

June
03. Can-Can and Dizzy Gillespie
06. Creativity versus Subliteracy
10. The Persistence of Pseudoscience
13. Elusive Educators
17. The Poetry Festival
20. [no column]
24. The New Frontier in Alaska
27. The Wealth of Alaska

July
01. Last Stand of la Vie Méditerranée
04. Patriotism
08. Packing in the Sierras
11. The Intermountain Country
15. Research for Peace?
18. The Aspen Idea
22. A Tribute to Darius Milhaud
25. Midwest Trying to Be French
29. Debussy
s Lovely Trio

August
01. Economic Dilemmas
05. American Poetry Since 1940
08. Utopia or Perish
12. Igor Stravinsky
15. The Tao of Politics
19. The Death of Marilyn Monroe
22. The Ineffectiveness of the United Nations
26. High Sierra Characters
29. Comfortable Confusion

September
02. Conservation and Wise Use
05. Classic Humor Becoming Politically Incorrect
09. East versus West in Art
12. Starved Infrastructure
16. Strindberg
19. The Continuing Appeal of King Tut
23. Church Architecture
26. Superb Verdi Productions
30. KPFA in Danger

October
03. Show Biz Plugs
07. Racial Discrimination and Resentment
10. Opera Too Light
14. A Flawless Twelfth Night
17. Shakespeare and Opera
21. To Each His Own Hula Hoop
24. Bolshoi versus Kirov
28. The Bolshoi Ballet
31. The Cuban Missile Crisis

November
04. A Very Official Poetry Festival
07. Why Not Abolish Market Street?
11. The Continuing Destruction of San Francisco
14. In Praise of Live Music
18. Bad Art, Fair Hamlet
21. The Glass Menagerie
25. Richard Nixon and Bertrand Russell
28. Thanksgiving in Yosemite

December
02. Heifetz, Hindemith, Mozart, Milhaud
05. Follies Foreign and Domestic
09. The Limits of Post-Stalin Art
12. Debussy and Stravinsky
16. White House PR
19. Ballet and Bartok
23. Brecht’s Philosophy
26. The Increasing Appreciation of Early Music
30. San Francisco’s Ballet School

1963
January
02. The Turning of the Year
06. Plea for a Municipal Arts Center
09. Nuclear Power and Free Speech Radio
13. The Negro in Vogue Again
16. Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband
20. Contrasting Speeches by Kennedy and De Gaulle
23. Alienation or Frustration?
27. Moscow and the Chinese Communists
30. A Poorly Directed Macbeth

February
03. Stravinsky’s Mass
06. Classic Ballet and Chinese Theater
10. Who’s Backing De Gaulle?
13. Budapest String Quartet and Russian Opera
17. Academicizing the Avant-Garde
20. Theatrical Intercasting
24. The Chaos of Decolonization
27. Volpone and Ash Wednesday

March
03. Volpone and the Black Comedy of Humanity
06. The Film Elektra
10. The de Kaplany Verdict
13. Kandinsky
17. The Pan-Islam Movement
20. Foot in Mouth Politics
24. The Narcotics Problem
27. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or
31. The Season of Resurrection

April
03. The Debbil-Debbil Theory
07. Revolting Genet
10. Government and the Arts
14. A Monster Is Loose in the Human Heart
17. Protest of the Month Club
21. Superlative Ballet
24. John Handy
28. More Thoughts on Protest

May
01. The Gordon Lish Controversy
05. Pirandello and Offenbach
08. Art versus “Promotion”
12. A Cultural Cornucopia
15. A Century of Restraint
19. The Privilege of Community
22. An Appeal for Bay Area Cultural Coordination
26. A New Human Revolution
29. Two Civil Rights Events

June
02. Fictitious Images of America
05. The Death of Pope John XXIII
09. The Spring Opera
12. Self-Segregation Issues
16. An Impressive “Ballet ’63”
19. Performing Arts in the Parks
23. Planning and Preserving the City
26. The Power Elite's Dolce Vita
30. By the Waterfall

July
03. Planning the City’s Future
07. Silly Reactions to Four-Letter Words
10. Agriculture Issues
14. Bayard Rustin and the New Black Struggle
17. The Green Revolution
21. The Mime Troupe in the Park
24. Martians in the Ghetto
28. The Needs of the City
31. Summer Spy Season

August
04. The Chinese Theater
07. The Persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam
11. Three Cultural Losses
14. More on the Chinese Theater
18. Camping in the Sierras
21. Conservation Issues
25. What to Do with the Old Hall of Justice
28. A Wild Horse Refuge

September
01. Music in the Vineyards [and more on Chinese Theater]
04. The Campaign for Mayor
08. Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary
11. The Real Coal Mine Disaster
15. Diebenkorn at the De Young
18. A Master Plan for the City
22. Opening Nights at the Opera
25. [no column]
29. T.S. Eliot

October
02. Questioning Psychiatry
06. Superlative Opera
09. Declining American Power
13. The Taming of the Shrew and The Queen of Spades
16. The Wine Festivities
20. Invigorating the Cultural Life of the City
23. [no column]
27. [column missing from library copy]
30. Efficient Spending

November
03. Best Opera Season Ever
06. Frivolous Picketing
10. A Crisis of Leadership
13. A Loyalty Oath for KPFA
17. The Sickness Runs Deep
20. Labor’s Faltering Image
24, Superlative Theater [Lorca, Pinter, Chekhov]
27. The Web of Hatred [on the Kennedy assassination]

December
01. The True Mourning
04. Thoughts About Death
08. A New and More Satisfying Symphony
11. Redevelopment Dilemmas
15. The Challenge of Utopia
18. Ghosts That Haunt the Public Mind
22. Drama Pros and Cons
25. To Men of Good Will
29. An Impenetrable Maze

1964
January
01. Resolutions and Habits
05. Misguided Ballet Funding
08. The New Mayor's Challenge
12. H.L. Mencken
15. The Miserable Twilight of Colonialism
19. The Greek Ideal
22. Troubles Around the World
26. Ballet Schools
29. Recognition of Red China

February
02. Neglected Parks
05. What to Do with the Fine Arts Palace?
09. Drug Addiction and Synanon
12. More on Race Relations
16. Symphonic Progress
19. Government by Celebrity
23. Ralph Stackpole and the Coit Tower Murals
26. Sex Education

March
01. Pennsylvania
04. Traffic Tangle in Golden Gate Park
08. Tom Jones and The Ginger Man
11. Civil Rights Action at the Sheraton
15. Ideas for a San Francisco Music Festival
18. More on Civil Rights
22. Trade Secrets of the Arts
25. Youth Problems Not Addressed
29. “Here Begins a New Life . . .”

April
01. Improvements for Golden Gate Park?
05. Blissful Indifference
08. Poverty in San Francisco
12. In Quest of New Opera
15. Examples of Local Poverty
19. A Scatterbrained Column
22. Another Poverty Scenario
26. The Enigma of Shakespeare
29. Divorce: Another Factor of Poverty

May
03. Planned Laissez Faire
06. Alcoholism and Poverty
10. Ideas for Replanning the City
13. Skid Row
17. A Backward Glance at the Season’s Arts
20. [no column]
24. Charles Mingus
27. A Cultivated Congressman
31. Spring Opera

June
03. Nehru and India
07. Interracial Marriage
10. The Goldwater Effect
14. Homosexuality
17. Library Architecture
21. Greeks and Buddhists in Afghanistan
24. A Drastic Solution for Market Street
28. Spring Opera and the International Repertory Theater

July
01. Feedback on Controversies
05. Arts Festival in Milwaukee
08. Milwaukee’s Public Philosophy
12. Mellow Milwaukee
15. [no column]
19. A Buddhist’s Request
21. On Church and Ecology
22. The Danger of Unanimity
26. Wedekind’s Lulu
29. The Harlem Riots

August
02. Pork Barrel in Harlem
05. The Invasion of Northern California
09. Culture on the Go
12. Disappearing Farmland
16. Descendants of the Heroic Negro Past
19. San Francisco Swimming
23. Wonder and Meditation in the Sierras
26. Community Planlessness
30. Mysticism, Ethical and Chemical


The next column will be posted on September 2, 2014.

 

 


 

Introduction


In January 1960 the San Francisco Examiner (a Hearst newspaper) offered Kenneth Rexroth a job writing a weekly column. He accepted. By May 1961 the column had proved popular enough that he was asked to do two and sometimes even three per week.

The association was an odd one. Although Rexroth was by that time a well-known figure in the Bay Area, he was known primarily as a political and cultural radical, and even (somewhat misleadingly) as “the godfather of the Beat Generation.” But he was willing to work for the Examiner as long as they gave him complete freedom to write whatever he wanted. They did so until July 1967, when they fired him after he wrote a particularly scathing article about the American police.

All told, Rexroth wrote approximately 700 columns for the Examiner. I am tentatively planning to post all of them fifty years after their original appearance. If all goes well and I don’t get OD’d with the project, it will be completed on June 22, 2017.

Normally I plan to post each column on the exact 50th anniversary of its original appearance. This means that during the upcoming year you can expect to find a new column here every Saturday. (Occasionally, depending on my schedule, I may post it a few days early or late.)

Needless to say, the columns vary widely in topic and interest. Some offer incisive commentary that remains astonishingly relevant on all sorts of general issues, social, political, cultural, urbanistic or ecological. Others are more dated, such as reviews of particular musical or theatrical performances. I think you will find, however, that his remarks about even the most ephemeral topics are full of amusing observations and perceptive insights, and that the ensemble constitutes a unique and fascinating chronicle of those eventful years.

I have silently corrected obvious typos, added an occasional comma that seems to be necessary to make the sense clear, and taken the liberty of composing new titles (the original titles were composed by Examiner editors and often do not give a very good idea of what Rexroth is actually talking about).

The contents are listed above. (In a few cases I have added additional information in brackets.) As a preview of things to come, you can also explore my earlier selection from the entire series: Rexroth’s San Francisco.

Ken Knabb
February 2010


May 2011:
In May 1961 Rexroth began doing two columns per week. So from this point on, you can expect to find a new column uploaded each Saturday and each Tuesday (give or take a day or two, depending on my schedule).

 

 


Table of Contents for “San Francisco Fifty Years Ago,” an ongoing project of posting all of Kenneth Rexroth’s columns for the San Francisco Examiner (1960-1967). Each of the columns is being posted on the 50th anniversary of its original appearance. Copyright 1960-1967 Kenneth Rexroth. Reproduced here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.


[Rexroth Archive]

 

     


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