Obscene in the Extreme
Obscene in the Extreme
The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath
PublicAffairs, Hardcover, 9781586483319, 320pp.
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
When W. B. Bill Camp, a giant cotton and potato grower, presided over its burning in downtown Bakersfield, he declared: We are angry, not because we were attacked but because we were attacked by a book obscene in the extreme sense of the word. But Gretchen Knief, the Kern County librarian, bravely fought back. If that book is banned today, what book will be banned tomorrow?
Obscene in the Extreme serves as a window into an extraordinary time of upheaval in Americaa time when, as Steinbeck put it, there seemed to be a revolution . . . going on.
Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2008
“In these current times of bubbles and bursts, foreclosed-upon homes and entire industries confronting their own mortality, it’s good to have a fresh history such as this to remind us of what has gone on before, and to assure that the times will indeed change—eventually…. The Central Valleys of the 1930s … for many people have been reduced to emblematic photos… Wartzman puts some life on those images… A skillfully drawn reminder of the human toll of deep poverty, intolerance and the unfettered whims of those who control the purse strings.”
Metro Newspaper, September 24, 2008
“An important and illuminating new book.”
Salinas Californian, October 4, 2008
“A fast-paced narrative…. Enlightening and well worth reading.”
Columbia Journalism Review, November/December 2008 issue
“Obscene in the Extreme is much more than a conventional book-banning saga. It richly chronicles one of the epic tales of the 1930s, the struggle between left and right, hired hands and big farmers, migrant Okies and natives, in the towns and fields of California…. Unfailingly fair to all, Wartzman brings to life a rich cast, ranging from the radical journalist Carey McWilliams to the farm works chosen by his employers to burn a copy of The Grapes of Wrath on the streets.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, November 30, 2008
“With a novelist’s skill and journalist’s acumen, Wartzman uses the incident [of the book ban] as a springboard to explore the context of those turbulent times, the personalities and motivations of those involved and the notion of censorship as a political weapon.”
Boston Globe, December 2, 2008
“Well-researched, readable…. It's a cautionary tale, particularly relevant in light of the vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who once allegedly asked the librarian in her own small town of Wasilla, Alaska, whether censorship was all right.”