Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Shelfy Selvie 6-Phil's Books
Well, I discovered something while I was putting these books in order. ONE WAS MISSING. Kind of crazy but I went online and ordered it. It just seemed wrong not to have one of every book he wrote.
His first book was his dissertation revised. THE SHOTGUN BEHIND THE DOOR. It looked at reasons for obeying the state. Philosophical reasons laid out by writers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, etc. Very much his training in grad school and in fact, I got an email recently from his dissertation adviser still lamenting that Phil had drifted away from traditional political theory. Phil did drift. His books concerned such diverse subjects as American inventions (ie. the quilt and the motel), discussions of famous American texts (i.e. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," the evolution of the American family, American biographies, and his last four books on the American Presidency.
My favorite book was LEFTWARD HO! and the reason I liked it so much was because I came to New York with him many times in the late eighties and early nineties and helped him go through boxes at the NYPL and copy information on V.F. Calverton, a left-winger in the thirties and forties who slowly transitioned to a right-winger in the fifties. The contents had to be looked at very carefully and notes could only be taken in a certain way. Getting into the room required all sort of protocol. And getting out was not much easier.
A whole box was his love letters to his wife, who lived in the same house he did. He wrote her several letters every day despite spending every night together. Calverton (not his real name) was an obscure figure but darn if another book on him didn't come out just as Phil's did.
I always like Phil's fanciful titles: Seeking Many Inventions, Leftward Ho!, Furious Fancies, States of Perfect Freedom, Exceptional America.