Today I reset my RSS feed for the Republican primary season. You know what the keywords are: “Mitt Romney,” “Michelle Bachmann,” “polygamy.” Since the political news in the mainstream is usually a version of what I heard on NPR earlier in the day, I set the feed for blogs and — lo! What should come up but The Edge of the American West, one of the smartest and most fun history blogs around, but that ditched out on us last spring. A group effort coordinated by Eric Rauchway and Ari Kelman of UC-Davis, EotAW put itself into hiatus on May 10 2011. I used to check every once in a while to see if they had reconsidered, but eventually stopped because it made me blue that they seemed to be gone forever. So imagine my delight when I saw a series of bright new posts. ”I can get through the semester now,” I thought.
Why did EotAW stop writing? I heard a rumor that, in austerity measures taken over the summer, President of the University of California Mark Yudof had the faculty out collecting returnable bottles on every recycling day. Policies like this can really cut into your blogging time. Perhaps they quit was because the End of Days was supposed to happen, but then it didn’t, and now they are back because they realize that there is the end of the Mayan Calendar to look forward to in December 2012. This will be around the time when Mitt could be sworn in as president and, like Bill Henrikson, he introduces us to the other Mrs. Romneys on election night. That’s the kind of thing Eric and Ari would want to be around for, I think.
But why should you read EotAW? Because the posts are funny, they are smart, and best of all: they are short. If you are an adjunct, you can read them on your iPhone when you are at a stoplight in between classes. It’s not like coming to this blog, where you have to set aside a half hour to read the post and then another half hour to write about what a narcissistic, elitist punk I am. Furthermore, you usually walk away from EotAW with a satisfying thought, one that is not so heavy that you become morbidly preoccupied with it but one that you remember all the same. For example, noting David Greenberg’s excellent obit of historian John Morton Blum in Slate (October 21 2011), Eric writes:
As is often the case I want to quibble a little with David, who writes, “John Morton Blum—who always used the very Jewish-sounding “Morton” in his professional byline”—to me, the “Morton” made the name sound less, rather than more, Jewish. As someone who doesn’t professionally use his middle name, I sometimes think about these things.
See, I would agree with Eric on this one but go him one better. I took a course from Blum in college because I had read his V is for Victory (1977) over the summer. For an entire semester — in fact right up to this evening – it never occurred to me that Blum was Jewish. Crazy. Was it the “Morton”? The “John”? Was it that I was just clueless? Or all of the above? It’s this kind of thought that Eric inspires and then helps you find a home for.
So welcome back, guys.