In looking into the story of Diego Rivera and his murals in Detroit, I found myself following all sorts of stories I hadn't dreamed would interest me, but they did, big time. So now I am trying to pull them together into something comprehensible. In doing this, I remembered why I so loved history: I love it because it or rather almost any scrap of it has loose threads that connect to other scraps which connect us intimately with the past. And the past is only a moment ago.
Anyway, today I found another scrap. I won't pursue this anywhere as far as I have the Detroit murals stuff (I don't have time!) BUT it is definitely worth following. This scrap is a piece of the story of anarchism in the United States and Russia and of some of its major participants. I have a funny feeling that if I looked far enough, I could tie it to the Diego Rivera stuff. Of course this discovering of and weaving together of various themes is one of the blessings and curses of the internet.
There is a series by writers about writing in the New York Times called "Draft". Today's piece was "A Collaborative Effort" by Karen Avrich. Avrich became her father's posthumous collaborator in a biography of Emma Goldman and Alexander Bergman, two very important adherents of anarchism in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Karen Avrich's father, Paul Avrich is a leading if not the leading scholar of anarchism and worker rebellion in Russia and the US during that time. Karen Avrich creates a deeply loving sketch of her father. She also talks of how she was enveloped in the work of finishing his book.
And so I have found myself following the threads of Karen Avrich, Paul Avrich, Emma Goldman and Alexander Bergman, just in a cursory google-y kind of way, but I find it amazing that I can trace them and their histories and other histories sitting at my desk in Xico.
Wikipedia has a good article on Emma Goldman here. It will be easy to find yourself sidetracked to major events in the U.S. past: The Panic of 1893, for instance, and the assassination of William McKinley. And here are Margaret Sanger and birth control and Woodrow Wilson, World War I and The Draft....
I wanted to learn more about Paul Avrich, basically a quiet man who wrote and wrote and breathed life into the anarchists. Of course you can find material on Paul Avrich on google. If you read Spanish, this is an interesting link.
In looking for information on Avrich the father, I arrived at the Kate Shipley Library, a treasure trove of anarchist literature and history, of primary sources, the creme de la creme for writing history. And then there's this bit of gossip about Karen Avrich who turns out to be Mark Halperin's girl friend.
The book that Paul and Karen Avrich collaborated on, Sasha and Emma,was well-received and sounds like it would be absorbing and lively. Here is the NYTimes review. It was a NY Times notable book in 2012.
If you aren't up for anarchy, how about trying Alex Berensen's essay for Draft. Berensen writes a series of thrillers centered on an agent, John Wells. The plots, which Berensen hangs on a careful and accurate use of history, could lead you down a path of research on terrorism, Al Qaeda, and the like.
I HAVE to try to be more disciplined. I really do want to get through Diego Rivera in Detroit!