Welcome, March! William Cullen Bryant saw through your bluster:

For thou, to northern lands again,

The glad and glorious sun dost bring,

And thou hast joined the gentle train

And wear’st the gentle name of Spring.

Ring in the month with Gerald J. Russello, patriot of Brooklyn and editor of The University Bookman, and John Bryan Kuhner, author of Staten Island, or, Life in the Boroughs:  http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/live-where-we-are. The 1900 declaration of the Staten Island Separation League in favor of “the Jeffersonian principle of decentralization” rings truer than ever today: “Staten Island can only become truly great when divorced from New York and incorporated as an independent city.”

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Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman was born on November 15 (also the birthday of Bobby Dandridge) in the otherwise forgettable year of 1959. He was an all-star Little League shortstop for the Lions Club Cubs but soon thereafter his talents eroded. After an idyllic childhood in his ancestral home of Batavia, New York, birthplace of Anti-Masonry, he was graduated from Batavia High School in 1977. He earned, more or less, a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1981 and went therefrom to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only dairy farmer in the U.S. Senate. Two and a half years later he left Moynihan’s staff a bohemian Main Street anarchist who loved the Beats, the New England transcendentalists, early 20th century local colorists (Sarah Orne Jewett his Maine gal), cowpunk music, and the crazy old America. Neil Diamond and Karen Carpenter, too, but don’t tell anyone. He bummed around out west for a while, sleeping in bus stations and writing derivative poetry in Salt Lake City flophouses (nah, he’s not a Mormon, just a BYU fan) before an ill-starred year in graduate school at the UR. He took a seminar with Christopher Lasch and thought on it. In the spring of 1985 he flew west to become an assistant editor with Reason magazine. He had great fun in Santa Barbara with that crew of congenial editors drinking far into the night at Eddie Van Cleeve’s Sportsman’s Lounge, but in ’86 he flew east to become the magazine’s Washington editor. Always homesick, Kauffman persuaded his lovely and talented wife Lucine, a Los Angelena, to move back to Batavia in 1988 in what he called a “one-year experiment”—the year to be measured, apparently, in Old Testament terms. They’re still there—or, more accurately, five miles north in Elba (apt name for an exile!), where Lucine is Town Supervisor. She may well be the highest-ranking Armenian-American elected official in the country, at least until the voters of California send Cher to the U.S. Senate. Take that, Turks! Lucine and Bill have a daughter, Gretel, 17, who writes and acts and plays piano and French horn. Their lab mutt, Victoria, whose tail graces the accompanying photo, is now departed, to their sorrow, but a cat, Duffy, darts in and out of the house when the mood strikes. Bill is the author of nine books: Every Man a King (Soho Press/1989), a novel, which was recently rescued from the remainder bin by a New York Sun article proclaiming it the best political satire of the last century (the Sun thereupon set); Country Towns of New York (McGraw-Hill/1994), a travel book about God’s country; America First! Its History, Culture and Politics (Prometheus/1995), a cultural history of isolationism which Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic called the best introduction to the American anti-imperialist tradition; With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America (Praeger/1998), his worst-seller, a sympathetic account of critics of highways, school consolidation, a standing army, and the Siren Progress; Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt/2003; Picador ppb. 2004), a memoirish book about his hometown which won the 2003 national “Sense of Place” award from Writers & Books; Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (ISI/2006), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006 and which won the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award; Ain’t My America: The Long Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (Henry Holt/ Metropolitan/2008), which Barnes & Noble named one of the best books of 2008; Forgotten Founder: Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI/2008), a biography of a brilliant dipsomaniacal Anti-Federalist who warned us this was gonna happen; and Bye Bye, Miss American Empire (Chelsea Green/2010), a cheerful account of dissolution. Bill is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for The American Conservative. He has written for numerous publications, including The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, Chronicles, the Independent and The Spectator of London, Counterpunch, Orion, University Bookman, and Utne Reader. He is vice president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn Baseball League. Come summertime, he can be found in the 3rd base bleachers at Dwyer Stadium. He is also active in the officerless (of course) John Gardner Society. Bill is more handsome than the photo on this site would suggest. See books written by Bill Kauffman.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like a great book. If the subject is of interest I’d also recommend “Days Afield on Staten Island” by William T. Davis. Originally published in 1892, it’s a nature memoir written by a prominent Staten Island naturalist and historian.

  2. Looks like a great book with some fine illustrations.

    I’ll meet yer demolition of Washington’s Homes and raise ya with the damnable demolition of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Don’t know why anyone is tender about the showy folks of Gotham. After all, the outer boroughs provide the capital “C” in the word “character” that defines the greater place.

    I’ve seen as many second or third generation localists in College Park Queens as I have in many a small town in the heartland. I’d hate to see Staten Island go though….its the last holdout of Republicans in Deep Blue New Yawk. If all things go well, Fresh Kills Park will be one of the most amazing public parks on the Eastern Seaboard in a few years, recovering from its career as one of the largest dumps in history. Frederick Law Olmsted cut his teeth as a failed “Scientific Farmer” on Staten Island before moving on to designing and building Central and Prospect Parks with Calvert Vaux after founding the Red Cross in the Civil War.
    Every Borough possesses its ample charms, not the least of which are the world class personalities.

    Methinks we’ve atomized enough though , we ought should try a little covalence before we put up the dukes. Then again, nothing so conveys an idea quite as well as a good old poke in the nose with a side of “ovuh heah you, you friggin mook”.

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