Ah, flowery June, when brooks send up a cheerful tune. The Muckdogs won their home opener last night before the largest Opening Day crowd in years. The sun has chased away, or at least agreed to coexist with, the clouds. And herewith a piece by yours truly from the Daily Caller about a certain movie that begins its long march across the nation’s Cineplex complex next Friday.

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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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Yikes! So soon, yet. Looks like I’ll have to go scouring around for the novella (I like to be prepared) and start preparing myself to do something I rarely do and dread worse than the piles, AIDS, gout, GIRD, and hangnails all rolled up in one ball of contusion–see a new American movie during its first run. Only for you, Bill.

    (“from 1969 until the latter part of the ’70s” was the “heyday”, “the golden age” of American movies?????!!!!!! Surely you jest. I was reviewing the things back then, and they almost invariably stuuuuuhhhhhnnnnk! They’re even worse–unwatchable, unbearable–now. OK, Little Big Man . . . Zabriskie Point [done by a furriner, though] . . . McCabe and Mrs. Miller. But I take your point, We DID yack about ’em.)

  2. I’m with you on McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Ray, but–I hesitate to confess this, but didn’t Thoreau say any truth is better than a lie?–I like Zabriskie Point.

  3. Actually, I didn’t like Zabriskie Point when it came out. It took a retrospective of Antonioni at the Film Center of the Art Institute of Chicago to open it up for me. Antonioni radically–radically!–changed his style for Zabriskie Point but had his reasons for doing so that I appreciated after seeing his previous work. I just love his films. If you haven’t seen it, try his first feature, The Story of a Love Affair (Cronica di un amore), which I think of as the best James M. Cain roman noir that Cain never wrote and Hollywood never concocted.

  4. Oh, wait!–I mentioned the three movies I did in my first post as exceptions to the doldrumish tenor of the American films of those times. I know the era is supposed to have been a renaissance for American film, but I just don’t see it. Maybe it’s the ugly fashions of the time, exceeded in emetic hideousness only by those of the rest of the 70s, that makes most of those movies so repulsive to me. I had to wear jeans and blue workshirts near-exclusively for the duration to be able to get through it. Do I exaggerate? Well, yeah.

  5. Reading the novel this week, even though I don’t know if the movie will play Pittsburgh or not, or when. But just in case…

    A good recent American film: Jeff Nichols’ Mud. The first run is past, but is very much worth seeing nevertheless.

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