Tuesday, June 30, 2015

“Valley Fever” and Liberty Island

•I saw Malcolm Gladwell interview Katherine Taylor, author of the novel Valley Fever, earlier this month, and he was very good at subtly teasing out the fact that this novel required research. Though set in the author’s native Fresno, it bears less resemblance to her own life than her previous novel, Rules for Saying Goodbye. Instead, we are immersed in the seasonal, precarious, and anxiety-inducing lives of Central California farmers, seen through the eyes of a depressed farmer’s daughter, and we learn that even as seemingly effete a pursuit as wine-making can lead to brutal financial backstabbing and emotional betrayal.

With real valley fever (in humans and in dogs) in the news, along with drought and water-wrangling, it’s a perfect time to read this book. Even when describing very pragmatic matters, though, it’s also poetic in a sparse, efficient, Hemingway-influenced fashion, so it’s a great balance between the relevant and the artsy. It’s like reading extremely beautiful bullet points.

•It should not, by the way, be confused with a Sweet Valley High novel, though Taylor knew someone who wrote Sweet Valley High novels. Note that the siblings at the heart of Taylor’s novel are not twins.

•The economics of Valley Fever’s universe is subtle and intertwined with emotional conflict in a way that might make some of my Ayn Rand-loving friends think twice before the next time they approach property rights issues with a rhetorical sledgehammer, but if you want to see a range of fiction approaching econ issues from all angles, from the subtle to the giant-robot-related, always remember to check out the latest stuff at LibertyIslandMag.com.

•With the world having all too few writers about Central California agriculture, Katherine Taylor found herself reading the work of farmer, historian, and political commentator Victor Davis Hanson, though she assured one curious audience member she’s mainly interested in Hanson’s take on farming, not in politics.

Those who really want to see conservative wisdom prevail over lefty hippie ideas in rural areas might, however, enjoy watching this spectacular footage of Germans finally dynamiting the giant, virtually useless windmills that environmentalists duped them into constructing.

•Apparently, there’s a movement afoot here in the U.S. of media folk who want to organize rural presidential debates to counter the outsize influence of the big cities. As a relatively impartial guy who grew up around dairy farms but moved to the ultimate city, it sounds like a good idea to me. It also strikes me that such forums could play to the strengths of a certain self-described “crunchy con” paleolibertarian candidate I like (you know, the one who this week suggested completely privatizing marriage and sought donations from the bourgeoning marijuana industry, fresh off his near single-handed battles against drones and NSA snooping).

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