The Nation, 8 December 2008

The Fall Books Issue“- it seems a bit late this year… but worth the wait.

Torie Osborn wonders how California could have passed anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.  Her view is that No on 8 forces neglected Los Angeles County, despite decades of experience showing that antigay measures win or lose based on the margins in that county.  She also has some harsh words for the Obama campaign for allowing voters to believe (mistakenly!) that Mr O backed Proposition 8. 

Christine Smallwood reviews a new edition of George R. Stewart’s 1945 book Names on the Land.  A collection of anecdotes about how various places in the USA got their names, this highly regarded work inspires Smallwood’s unreserved praise.  She goes on at some length about Stewart’s other works, including environmental fiction like Earth Abides, “the first American postapocalyptic thriller,” and Ordeal by Hunger, a novelization of the Donner Party.  She tells us that Names on the Land was Stewart’s own favorite of his books.  It raises no less a question than “what is America?,” Smallwood says.  And answers that question: “Not the leader of the Free World and not the scourge of the world, but a history of settlement.”  This answer would hardly have been extraordinary in 1945.  The book does sound interesting.   The cover of the first edition illustrates Smallwood’s review, and is reproduced below.