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News and Features
02.20.08

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Made in Santa Cruz

A roundup of offerings by local writers

By Steve Hahn and Traci Hukill


Pogonip: Jewel of Santa Cruz
by Joan Gilbert Martin and Colleen McInerney-Meagher (Otter B Books, 2007; $13.95)

Recent efforts by the city to restore the Pogonip Clubhouse, finally abandoned once and for all last week, have reinvigorated Santa Cruz's love affair with this 640-acre park. Nevertheless, the full history behind this vast and diverse swath of land is still a mystery to most residents. Enter local historians and nature lovers Joan Gilbert Martin and Colleen McInerney-Meagher, two lovely ladies who just can't get enough Pogonip in their diets. In Pogonip: Jewel of Santa Cruz the authors give the city's landmark park the full treatment, exploring its history from the time of the Ohlone through the invasion of the Spanish to its more recent use as a polo and golf club for well-to-do socialites. The book then explores Pogonip's evolution into a city-owned park and provides a guide on exploring the many trails and species that grace this one-of-a-kind natural history preserve. (Steve Hahn)

New Mexico's Palace of the Governors: History of an American Treasure
by Emily Abbink (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2007; paperback)

Anyone who's been smitten by the charms of the Southwest will appreciate this handsome softcover coffee table book with its large photographs and breakout factoids. Emily Abbink, a lecturer in American Studies at UCSC, has employed the history of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe (construction of which began in 1609) to tell the story of conquest and rebellion in the Land of Enchantment. Old photographs of the pueblos seal the deal. (Traci Hukill)

Voice of Ice/Voix de Glace
by Alta Ifland (Les Figues Press, 2007; $15)

These 50 or so prose poems, composed in French and translated into English by the author, explore the soul's questioning in language that's at once lush and spare, sensual and surreal: "Who is murmuring in the alcoves of sadness? It is my eyes' dark circles complementing things, accomplices of their inner grayness. Hanging from branches in the trees, violet clocks are measuring time. ..." Sometimes brooding, often violent, always beautiful, Ifland's imagery has the power to move the imagination. (Traci Hukill)

Sticks and Stones: The Philosophy of Insults
by Jerome Neu (Oxford University Press, 2008; $29.95 cloth)

UCSC humanities professor Jerome Neu casts a wide net in this scholarly inquiry into the nature of insults; the Mohammed cartoons, the N-word, stinkeye and Don Rickles all receive treatment, as do teasing, hate speech and slander. Neu has essentially taken an entertaining collection of anecdotes and organized them into tidy categories. And while he has thought to include a chapter on forgiveness at the end, the book is primarily an intellectual exercise, not a how-to for staying cool when you've just been informed your mother wears combat boots. (Traci Hukill)

Local Girl Makes History: Exploring Northern California's Kitsch Monuments
by Dana Frank (City Lights Books, 2007; $16.95 paperback)

In this entertaining and informative book, UCSC history professor Dana Frank aims the beam of her insatiable curiosity at Santa Cruz area landmarks, piercing their innocent facades to reveal a dark history of imperialism. Drawing on childhood memories of visits to local landmarks, Frank uses the time-tested method of in-depth investigation to tell the true, albeit uncomfortable, stories behind a slew of Santa Cruz and South Bay "kitsch monuments." Turns out that date-marker-adorned fallen log at Big Basin State Park has more to do with celebrating the rise of European colonialism than it does with illustrating the old age of redwoods. Likewise, the Pulgas Water Temple in San Mateo County is more an allusion to the imperial nature of water privatization than a neat way to peek at one cog in a vast reservoir system. Pick up this book to have your assumptions about local history torn to shreds. (Steve Hahn)

Refuge
by Amber Coverdale Sumrall (Hummingbird Press, 2007; $12 paperback)

One of the grand dames of Santa Cruz poetry, Sumrall finds her surest footing in this volume in the language of the household and garden, especially when a younger self is undergoing self-discovery there: "My grandfather's fish pond / Lived beneath an avocado tree. / Leaves of green. Fruit of green. / Red flame of the fish. / I filled my lungs with air/from the damp grotto, / walked the cobblestones/slippery with moss, / tossing pebbles and pennies, / wishes swelling my chest." It's a credit to Sumrall that this nostalgic collection doesn't bore the outsider but pulls him or her into shared experience. (Traci Hukill)


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