I'm prone to the occasional rant about how much I dislike the movement folk music of the 1960s—its lack of subtlety, its odd mix of the earnestly humorless and the cornball, its endless verses of repetition. But I love Woody Guthrie, who was born 100 years ago today.
Guthrie was a generation older than the 60s troubadours and a singular influence on many of them, none of whom shared his gifts and sensibilities.
The national parks are rightly considered some of America’s great treasures, but their history is not as serene as their landscapes. A year after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln deeded Yosemite Valley to the state of California, to be maintained for public use for all time. Lincoln hoped these “magnificent lands . . . might offer a unifying peace for a divided nation.” But before Yosemite could be turned into a park for public use, the Ahwahneechee, its native inhabitants, had to be driven out. Similar wars of removal were conducted at the end of the 19th century at the sites of Glacier and Yellowstone parks (Times Literary Supplement, September 2).