The Highway and the Wilderness: Dennis McNally and Jonah Raskin

An evening of discussion that centers around the ideas from two recently released books:

Dennis McNally celebrates the release of

On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

from Counterpoint Press

and

 

 

Jonah Raskin celebrates the release of

A Terrible Beauty

from Regent Press

discussion moderated by Peter Maravelis

On Highway 61 explores the historical context of the significant social dissent that was central to the cultural genesis of the sixties. The book is going to search for the deeper roots of American cultural and musical evolution for the past 150 years by studying what the Western European culture learned from African American culture in a historical progression that reaches from the minstrel era to Bob Dylan.

Shortly before he published Walden; or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau called “The library a wilderness of books.” He also noted that while Americans were “clearing the forest in our westward progress, we are accumulating a forest of books in our rear, as wild and unexplored as any of nature’s primitive wildernesses.” In A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature, Jonah Raskin takes a long close look at the forest of books that poets, novelists and essayists mapped and explored before and after Thoreau. The first work of cultural criticism to look back at writing in the United States from the perspective of the contemporary environmental crisis, Raskin offers insights for students, teachers and lovers of literature as well as for backpackers and hikers who have trekked across untrammeled forests, deserts and mountains.

Dennis McNally received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1977 for a biography of Jack Kerouac which was published by Random House in 1979 under the title Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. He became the Grateful Dead’s authorized biographer in 1980 and the band’s publicist in 1984. In 2002, he published A Long Strange Trip/The Inside History of the Grateful Dead with Broadway Books, a division of Random House. It made the New York Times best seller list.

Jonah Raskin has taught American literature at Sonoma State University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook and as a Fulbright professor at the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent in Belgium. The author of fifteen books, he earned his B.A. at Columbia College in New York, his M.A. at Columbia University and his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England. He lives in northern California and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Times, The Nation, The Redwood Coast Review and Catamaran.