History

Manny Man is a Must

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

When I went to WorldCon in Dublin in 2019, I was expecting to meet people I’d only interacted with online, make new friends, learn a lot about both the art and the business of writing. I was also expecting to find interesting people from across all walks of life.

Although I was expecting very different people to be part of the experience, I believed that everyone I had longer conversations with would be part of the SFF genres in some way, shape or form.

I was wrong on many counts, but perhaps the most memorable was John Ruddy’s wonderful stand where he was selling his Manny Man-themed books and merchandise in general, but with a special focus on Irish-themed things. Is spoke to him the first day I was there (his stand was diagonally across the aisle from the Guardbridge Books stand).

I spoke to John and immediately realized he was, apart from looking the part, a student and promoter of Irish history and culture in the deepest sense of the word. I loved his cartoon people, and the book Manny Man Does Revolutionary Ireland 1916 – 1923, caught my eye… but I didn’t buy it right away because I was afraid that, loaded down with all the SF books I was going to buy (plus my contributor’s copies of Off the Beaten Path, my luggage would be overloaded.

So I went about my WorldCon business, but this little hardcover with the wonderful cartoons pulled at me and, on the Sunday, I approached John again and asked if he still had a copy. There was one, reserved for someone who hadn’t shown up… so I bought it.

And man, am I glad I did.

Irish history, especially the Revolution, is a fraught subject. Emotions still run high nearly a century after most of these events took place. At the same time, Irish history with its unmatched glorious peaks and tragic valleys is one of those things I’m a sucker for (in my mind, only Polish history comes close, hitting many of the same beats).

The book takes this tremendously complex and difficult period and not only gives the uninitiated reader a surprisingly detailed course in the events of the period but does so in an impartial and informative way, looking at the different viewpoints. Don’t be fooled by the cartoons on the cover: this is a serious book, and the conversational tone and cartoon humor do not detract from the learning in the least.

What those things do achieve, on the other hand, is to make reading the book a pleasure. I really couldn’t put it down, with even the most political of the questions becoming interesting in Ruddy’s capable hands. And the cartoons made me laugh out loud a couple of times… albeit it’s easier if you have a well-developed sense of dark humor.

So I’d recommend this one to history buffs who want to learn more about the Irish Revolution… but don’t want to get bogged down in a dry academic text… or simply want the serious issues involved to be tempered with humor. Actually, I’d recommend it to anyone, but those interested in history will absolutely love it.

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer whose work is published in English all over the world. The book he launched at WorldCon in Dublin is a collection of short stories that mainly take place outside the usual science fiction and fantasy settings. So no Western Europe or Continental USA in these. Check it out here.

Rara Avis: A Bad Paul Theroux Book

I’m a fan of Paul Theroux’s work. It started back in 1993 when I was preparing an English A-Level and was utterly bored by the Shakespeare we were studying. The Bard himself wasn’t to blame (for my opinion on Shakespeare, see here), as Much Ado About Nothing is always good. Rather, my classmates were. The problem is that, while I grew up in English-speaking countries, they were studying English as a second language, so their pace was a bit slower than mine.

Having read the play, I took advantage of where I usually sat in class (at the very back where I could lean my chair against the lockers) to randomly pull out a book from the lockers. The only thing available was a Penguin copy of The Mosquito Coast, which I read over the course of a couple of weeks of class while everyone else was discussing Benedick, Beatrice and Hero.

It was a wonderful book.

My next experience with Theroux happened a couple of years ago when I picked up a free copy of The Great Patagonian Express. This one was equally good and once again, I loved it. I especially enjoyed reading a travel book from the era when one could clearly and openly state how foreign cultures looked to a First World eye. It’s a refreshing change from today’s excess of sensitivity.

Unfortunately, third time was most certainly NOT a charm.

Kowloon Tong is a book whose premise had potential. It focuses on a British family in Honk Kong, tied to the colony by ownership of a factory, in the days leading up to the handover of the territory to China.

It’s a situation fraught with melancholy, the loss of a unique way of life, one which can’t be created in the modern world and doesn’t seem to have been improved upon by the new communist regime (at least judging by recent events). As the great Peter Egan once said: wherever the British planted their flag, you most often ended up with democracy, safe drinking water and a decent lifestyle.

But the book falls flat on its face. In the tradition of A Confederacy of Dunces, the characters are intentionally made to be unlikable. And like Confederacy, I enjoyed it very little.

Without giving spoilers, it’s a novel of human weakness and the duller, less interesting sordid side of humanity. Instead of going for the huge gesture, the major statements, the characters in this book are wet, uninspired and small.

Which is a pity, because the loss of the unique anachronism that was British Hong Kong deserved a great monument.

Perhaps that monument exists, but this isn’t it.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer fascinated with exotic places and interesting cultures. He celebrates human differences instead of trying to minimize them, and nowhere is this more evident than in his collection Off the Beaten Path, where science fiction, fantasy and non-Western civilizations combine in a unique and heady mix. You can check it out here.

Marco Polo, Still Fascinating Nearly a Thousand Years Later

I stumbled over The Travels of Marco Polo almost by accident. If you’d asked me, I would have stated my intention of reading it someday, but whenever I’m off buying books, I never seem to think of it.

But a friend was clearing out her library (she said that, at eighty, there are a few books in there she probably won’t read again), and this was one of the ones she gifted me.

The Barnes & Noble edition I received is a hefty book, coming in at around 600 pages, of which 400 is the actual text of the book. The fact that you have 200 pages of end notes tells you a bit about the edition: it’s a heavily annotated and explained version, with every place name and custom given a clarification.

But that doesn’t tell you everything. This is a reprint of an early 20th-century edition, doesn’t affect the main text–it’s a very good translation–but the end notes refer to place names that are no longer recognizable, uses other medieval travelers as corroborative evidence and treats much of Asia as terra incognita. It’s probably a wonderful resource for comparative cartographers, but not for a general reader. In the end, I only used the end notes to try to figure out where in Asia Marco was at any given time (this is not easy sometimes, solely from the notes).

But that puzzling editorial oddity (I’m pretty sure there are modernized editions out there, but maybe B&N didn’t want to pay copyright fees on an eight hundred year old classic) aside, this is a wonderful book. Marco’s look at cultures, peoples and places is marvelous. Of course, some of it is apocryphal hearsay and all of it is affected by his medieval preconceptions… but it reads in a surprisingly modern way (the end notes are much more arcane in text style).

My entire conception of the world east of Constantinople during the reign of Kublai Khan was modified… and, unless your a scholar or enthusiast of non-European medieval cultures, I would bet yours will change as well.

Definitely worth the read. You’ll be transported to a place that was wondrous and a time where if something seemed magical, you were permitted to believe it was. A wonderful follow-up to the Shackleton book.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer from Argentina. He loves spending time (real or imaginary) in faraway places, which is why he eventually ended up with enough published stories for a collection of tales set outside of European or US settings. Off the Beaten Path is a wondrous journey to the far corners of the globe, and you can check it out here.

Get Down on Your Knees and Pray for Shackleton

The complete phrase is as follows:

For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.”

The quote, which isn’t in the book we’re reviewing today is from Raymond Priestley, an Antarctic explorer who wasn’t on the expedition told about in the book.  And yet, it sums it up perfectly.

South - The Endurance Expedition.jpg

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to reading South  – The Endurance Expedition.  Books written by the explorers themselves (except when the explorer is also a poet) can be dry and self-serving.  I didn’t expect serial Antarctic failure Sir Ernest Shackleton to be any different.  In fact, considering that he never managed to achieve any of the exploration goals he set for his expeditions, I expected the book to be a defense of his person.

This, dear friends, is why we read the books.

Ernest Shackleton might not have been successful in achieving his lofty goals, but he was still a hero, both as a scientist (he added reams and reams of knowledge to science) and, particularly, as a leader.  Reading the book in which he chronicles his most spectacular failure is a revelation… and ends up making you admire the man.

There is no apology here, no attempt at anything but to tell the facts of the case as they happened.  He would let history judge.

History has been favorable because the facts are.  The drama begins when the expedition’s ship, the Endeavor, gets trapped in pack ice and crushed… hundreds of miles from the nearest land.

Twenty-eight men were adrift on Antarctic sea ice in winter with nothing but a couple of lifeboats and the supplies they had taken with them.

Hopeless, right?

Countless expeditions, in this kind of situation died.  In the best case, a man or two would straggle in months or years later and tell of the sad fate of his compatriots.

Those expeditions didn’t have Shackleton.  Two years later, after a war-torn world had given them up for dead, all twenty-eight men emerged from the ice to tell the tale.

It wasn’t a question of just walking and persevering.  It was a brilliant survival strategy, a sea-crossing often compared to that of Captain Bligh.  He split his group into two parties, each with, on the face of it, a tiny chance of success… and saved every single man.

All of this is related in Shackleton’s words, as drily and matter-of-factly as we expect from any man who’s had the word “Sir” appended to his name.  It’s compelling reading and one of the best books I’ve read recently.

Hell, I might pick up even more exploration books if they’re going to be like this one.

But I doubt it.  Not many people are Shackleton, and I went from a skeptic to a fan in the course of less than 200 pages.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer from Argentina.  He believes in exploring hopeless situations and finding the heroism and spirit within.  The best example of that in one of his books in Incursion, in which a suicide mission gets… worse.  You can check it out here.

 

Gaskell’s Brontë, a Controversial Piece of Hero Worship

Choosing a favorite among the three universally accepted colossi of the 19th-century female writers is supposed to be an exclusive proposition.  You can only like one–Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë or Jane Austen–while being severely critical of the rest.

Of course, that only applies to superfans, the kind of personality who will force perfectly normal people to choose between Star Wars and Star Trek, or between Twilight and Harry Potter.

If forced to dance to this music, I’ll go with Austen, followed by Emily.  Charlotte would be close… but third.

Even among the Brontë’s themselves, I have gone on record as preferring Anne to her more famous sisters.

Elizabeth Gaskell, were she alive, would disagree.

The Life of Charlotte Brontë - Elizabeth Gaskell.jpg

A famous novelist herself (North and South), Gaskell was friends with Brontë while Charlotte was still alive.  She was therefore perfectly placed to write the authorized biography of the author of Jane Eyre.  In fact, she was so perfect that Brontë’s father was the one who asked her to write it.

Being that close to the subject brought very many advantages–the knowledge of the people and places really brings the resulting book, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, to life.  Unfortunately, it also means that Gaskell withholds important information and pulls her punches somewhat.

The basics are well covered.  Gaskell’s style paints an incredible picture of the six motherless children growing up in an isolated village, and you cry with them as they lose the two eldest sisters, leaving probably the greatest concentration of literary genius every gathered under a single family’s roof in the persons of the three surviving girls (the one boy, Branwell, was never able to get it together and was basically an anchor and a source of anxiety, nothing more).

If you wrote a fictional account this poignant, no one would believe it, and you’d be laughed at.

But it’s real.  One by one we watch the women of the generation drop in the clutches of tuberculosis, fortunately after producing immortal masterworks.  Emily is the one felt strongest in this particular book.  The personality we guess at from Wuthering Heights appears fully present here, walking the moors.

In fact, this book reinforced my thinking that, if I had a time machine, I would probably go back and give Emily a TB vaccination as an infant.  I would really want to see what she, the genius of a family full of them, would have done with a little practice under her belt.  She’s the one I’d save if I could only save one.

On the debit side of the ledger, the Life completely conceals the episode of Charlotte falling in love with the (married) owner of the school she studied and worked at in Belgium.  That is because Gaskell had a hero worshipper’s view of Brontë.  She considered Charlotte a model of Christian mores and suffering, and this view was inconsistent with any possibility of that kind of inappropriate behavior.

In fact, had it been any other life, I’d say the suffering angle was way overblown by a natural dramatist… but when your mother and siblings drop like flies out in the moorlands, I’m inclined to give Gaskell the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, some people didn’t, and despite the care to omit names, the publishers were threatened with lawsuits, most notably by the owners of the school that killed the eldest siblings through unsanitary conditions and the woman who was Branwell’s (the brother) lover, and also the wife (later widow) of one of his employers.  Fortunately, the first edition went out unexpurged, and we can record her name here for posterity: Lady Lydia Robinson Scott.  We do this not because we think she did anything wrong in taking a lover, but because she lawyered up when caught.  Yawn.

There have been more factually accurate biographies of the Brontë’s, but I doubt there will ever be any more powerful.  Gaskell could write, and the material in her hands was dramatic indeed.  Recommended.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer.  He is fascinated by how the human mind responds in emotionally charged situations.  One of his books explores this in great depth, and is, unsurprisingly entitled Love and Death.  You can check it out here.

So it Wasn’t Aliens After All

Thor Heyerdahl isn’t exactly a household nametoday, but readers of National Geographic in the second half of will remember his particular brand of science.  Essentially, he was the precursor of the Mythbusters, except he didn’t use a safety net.  His crazy experiments were extreme examples of science at work.

And they were fascinating.  From the perusal of an National Geographic in grade school–already old when I saw it–I was aware of the Ra expeditions in which he tried to sail across the Atlantic in a boat of ancient Egyptian design.

Apparently, he also sailed from the American coast to Polynesia on a raft of even more ancient design.  That takes a certain amount of balls.

Aku-Aku - Thor Heyerdahl.jpg

What brings us here today, however, is his 1950s expedition to Easter Island (and other places as well, but Easter Island, as you can see from the cover, is the main course).  The book is entitled Aku-Aku, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into what happens when an archaeological expedition is led by someone who thinks outside the box.

Now, before we talk about the aliens, I want to say that I don’t think I could ever be an archaeologist.  Though I’m not claustrophobic, I would not willingly jam myself into a cave where I can only advance by shrugging my shoulders.  Not for a few ancient artifacts, anyway.

Heyerdahl does this quite often.

But he also teaches us about how an archaeological expedition to cultural sites with a nearly westernized local population was run in the 1950s.  It’s interesting to see the combination of sensitivity to local people while at the same time recognizing and acknowledging that superstitions and certain behaviors belong to the past for a reason.  I wonder if a modern expedition would be that honest.

If you enjoy archaeology, or learning about ancient civilizations, this book is a good read.  Not necessarily a textual joy (although I can’t comment on the merits of the original Norwegian version), but a wonderful look at a team obsessed with looking into the past.

Now, some of Heyerdahl’s conclusions about the origin of the Easter Island natives has been challenged by a genetic study (limited in scope, so there may be hope yet), but one thing is no longer in doubt: aliens had nothing to do with the construction or transport of the island’s famed stone faces.

Essentially, he just told one of the townsfolk on the island descended from the statue-building part of the population that he’d give him a hundred dollars if he stood one of the stones in its pedestal.

So the man did. I won’t tell you how because that is the ultimate spoiler for this book, but the method he used was something that any ancient civilization with access to rocks and a dozen workers could have managed.

When asked to show how the huge stone blocks could have been transported, they used an equally simple and ingenious method.

While this doesn’t prove that the method illustrated is necessarily the one that was employed, it makes it clear that anyone insisting that aliens had something to do with this is worse than a kook… he is an ignorant kook!

So if any of that seems like it might interest you.  Go forth and get yourself a copy.  You’ll enjoy it.

At the very least you can show the photos to your local alien apologist and watch him go into deep denial.  That should be worth the price of admission.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist.  His novel Timeless serves as an outlet for his love of ancient culture.  Set in a monastery complex in Greece, it’s a fast-paced, sexy thriller.  You can check it out here.

Hitting its Stride – R&T’s Vintage Year

Let’s go back in time to 1988.  Why?  Just because I happened to read a couple of car magazines from that year (I promise to get back to the normal, more literate style of this blog in the next post, but today, we’re doing car mags again – here, here and here are the earlier installments of this series) and I wanted to keep my thoughts about them more or less all together before I forget what I was going to say.

It’s one of the prices of getting older, but aging also has its advantages.  I get to look at thirty-year-old magazines and judge them with a future perspective.

So, 1988.  I read The final pair of mags in my pile: Road & Track Exotic Cars: 7 and the regular monthly magazine from September 1988.

Road & Track Magazine September 1988

The first thing one notices is that the two mags appear to have been designed by two different graphics departments.  The monthly magazine feels very much a product of the eighties, while Exotic Cars looks forward to the nineties, a departure from the earlier installments in the series, which looked much more similar to the magazines.

The Exotic Cars series was one of Road & Track Specials, which explains the discrepancy, a series that was run by Thos L. Bryant, the man who later–as from January of 1989–became the editor of the regular magazine.

This one was, nostalgia aside, much better than the early installments of Exotic Cars.  The selection of cars was mature, the design was excellent, and the writing engaging.  It was a solid effort which was easier to read than its predecessors.

Road & Track Exotic Cars 7

The regular magazine looked a little dowdier, but that impression only lasts until you flip open the front cover.

Once you do that, you are transported to different world.  Not the world of 1988, though.  Road & Track in the late eighties bore little relationship to the universe of Gordon Gecko and the Coca-Cola Wardrobe (remember that piece of eighties awfulness?).  Instead, you’re almost transported to the Scottish moorlands somewhere around 1975.

This might not have been seen as a good thing in 1988, but it’s certainly wonderful reading these old pages today.  The words flow comfortably, and the reading never becomes a chore.  It’s a warm pleasure from cover to cover, like conversation with an old friend.  It was literally one of the most pleasurable reading experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.

Of course, in the eighties, warm and fuzzy was on its way out and, as I’ve mentioned, December 1988 was the last month under John Dinkel, the man who edited this issue.  The January 1989 issue had adopted the design of the specials and looked bang up to date.

The writing, however, was still essentially the same.  It would take a few years to iron out the quirkiness that made 1988 a vintage year.  Bryant was an excellent editor who brought the magazine upscale while keeping its personality alive.

So, for some time, we lived in the best of both worlds.  And I was luck enough to be thirteen in January of 1989…

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose most recent book is entitled Ice Station: Death.  You can check it out here.

Exotica Continued

Last week, we looked at the beginning of Road & Track‘s Exotic Car Specials.  As you’ve probably surmised from our long-running project to watch the 1001 films you must see before you die, in order, we don’t do things halfway here at Classically Educated.  So today, we continue the Exotic Cars series with numbers 3 and 4.

Road & Track Exotic Cars 3

Our main criticism of 1 and 2, read so close together was that the editors seemed to be severely limited in the menu of cars they could choose from, which caused some repetition.

This is also true, to a much lesser extent in volume 3, although it’s clear that the editors made a conscious effort to minimize the effect.  They began to add German tuner cars, which I suppose is reasonable, but also included a couple of sedans that, even though they were a Mercedes and a BMW, I’m not entirely convinced qualify as exotic.

A lot of what is good about this issue has more to do with the fact that they had two new Ferraris to discuss, which is always a boon to people putting together a magazine dealing with exotica, than to the efforts of the staff…

Nevertheless, a hat must be doffed to whoever decided to include the Morgan (probably Simanaitis) and especially to the lunatic who decided to road test a Lola race car modified for street use.

The result, though still not quite mature, showed signs of steering the series in the direction that I remembered from my youth.

 

Road & Track Exotic Cars 4

In volume 4, the process extends even further.  Despite the inexplicable fact that the Maserati Biturbo, a car that was later reviled by almost everyone (I like it, but I think I’m the only one) was included again, making it a perfect four-for-four in these magazines and the head-scratching decision to include a Ford Scorpio, this one is the best yet.

Even though they didn’t have any major launches, the editors managed to juggle the usual suspects, mixed in with tuners and obscurities like Marcos and TVR to create a well balanced issue that is the best of the lot so far.  Another good decision was to drop the Road Test section.

But beyond the critical discussion of what is good and bad about these magazines, the fact that, just after the fuel crisis of the late seventies, and in the midst of regulatory upheaval that was making cars worse each year instead of better, Road & Track had the balls to launch a magazine celebrating cars whose only purpose was to go fast, look good and be enjoyed is laudable.

And among todays rash of humorless responsibility where any display of excess or wealth is frowned upon, these magazines are a joyful reminder that life exists to be enjoyed.  These cars are an expression of that fact, and should be celebrated, even if only by reading magazines devoted to them more than thirty years ago.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine writer best known for his far future science fiction novel Siege.  You can check it out here.

Exotica!

On Wednesday, we looked back at the very first Road & Track magazine.  It was an interesting start to a publication that later became an icon in its field, and if I can find the second volume, I’ll be having a look at that, too.

But in the meantime, I’m moving through a stack of Road & Track publications and came across the first two volumes in yet another innovation that they tried.  Namely, a Road & Track Special entitled Exotic Cars.

Now, most people wouldn’t have given these mags a second glance if they’d encountered them in a used bookstore, but I have a history with them.  Back when I was thirteen or so, and an avid R&T reader, I came across an edition of this special (I think it was number 8 in the series).  To my teenage eye, it was to the regular magazine what the Big Mac is to a regular McDonald’s cheeseburger (I was going to make an analogy involving the Moulin Rouge and today’s adult film industry but I stopped myself because I don’t want to give too much away about my teenage years…).

It was an object of pure desire, mainly because it held absolutely no news about economy cars or stuff your mother might drive.  It only held cars you lusted after, or utterly hated (continuing the Big Mac theme, those would be the pickles), gloriously photographed and described by people who, like yourself, couldn’t care less about the socially irresponsible message this kind of excess sent.  In your world, cars that went a bazillion miles an hour and cost a bazillion dollars were perfect, and why such a miserable vehicle as the Toyota Tercel existed was a mystery.

Long story short, I bought the magazines, and a bunch of others which I might discuss some other time.

Road & Track Exotic Cars 1

The first of these, released in 1983 was a very nice first effort and showed just how far R&T had come since its humble and unprofessional beginnings.  29 articles showcased 30 cars.  Sure, there were a few road tests culled from the pages of the magazine itself, but, for the most part, the articles were pure celebration of exotics with gorgeous color photography (most of the regular magazine was black and white in 1983).

I’d give this one near top marks for a first effort, and apparently the market responded well, because a second volume was soon to follow:

Road & Track Exotic Cars 2

This one landed on newsstands in 1984 and it was a mistake.  A beautifully produced and probably successful mistake, but a mistake.

The reason it’s an error was that, being released a year after the first, the editors had little time to dig for new veins of exotica.  Remember that, 35 years ago, you couldn’t go onto the internet to look up whether some little cottage industry in Denmark was building the vehicle you needed to beef up your magazine.  Also, coming out of the fuel crisis, there were fewer companies building amazing cars.

So there’s repetition… a lot of repetition. Of the 27 cars featured in articles or road tests from the main magazine, fully 14 were either tests of the same car as one that had been featured in Volume 1 or slight variations (perhaps a convertible version or a model-year upgrade) of the same.  Another couple were basically the same car with significant differences, so I didn’t count them.

To be fair, the editors seem to have realized this and created a segment about the carrozerias of the City of Turin, a nice little segment, but it wasn’t quite enough to mask the issue.  They also dug up a couple of new cars and some stuff they’d neglected the first time around… but the sense of “I’ve seen this before” was predominant.

Now, I read these in the space of three or fur days, which is not the way they’re meant to be read.  That year between editions should have been enough for people to forget what they’d read about where and make the content seem relatively fresh… but it didn’t hold up well over the years.

In spite of this, readers apparently enjoyed it and the series continued for several more years.  I’ll return to the subject soon.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is Ice Station: Death.  You can check it out here.

The Beginning of a Classic Magazine

Road and Track June 1947

Those of us over about thirty years old will remember a time when a lot of our information about hobbies and interests came from reading magazines.  Today, magazines still often give us information that we can’t get online, so imagine how much more we relied on them in the early days of the net or even in pre-internet days.

Those of us that like cars will likely accept that, until fairly recently, Road & Track was the magazine of choice for the most discerning enthusiasts.  On one hand it was had a high-class, globalized outlook with one eye on Europe and Japan, while on the other it also commented on the American auto industry in depth.  In this sense, it achieved the best overview of the world scene… and it was the 500 pound gorilla in the room regardless of whether you were American, European or, as in my case, from  South America.

Yes, magazines like Car & Driver in the US or any number of local mags in Europe might have had more readers in their respective countries… but no one did it better globally.

So it’s interesting to pick up the first ever issue of the publication and see where it started from.

It’s surprising to say the least.

In 1947, many publications were less sophisticated than they are today, but Road and Track’s first issue is…

Well, it’s terrible.  You could tell they put the thing together on a shoestring and grabbed whatever articles and pictures they could find.  A nationalistic technical article by the great Laurence Pomeroy kicks it off–impeccable credentials, but the article itself was useless–and then a hodgepodge of other things, including a race report of a very minor hillclimb, the description of a foreign car dealership and a few photos.

These last are interesting, especially as they include pics of the Wilmille production car, but the overall effect gives the impression that they knew the starved postwar audience would pay for any kind of content, and grabbed what they could get, published it and called it an issue.

Interestingly, the mix of street and race cars continued into the 21st century… and probably contributed enormously to the publication’s success… interesting to see that it came about almost by mistake.

BTW, if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, these mags are still pretty reasonably priced on Ebay and similar, and the first few issues were reprinted in facsimile editions (keeping everything, including the original advertisements, which are wonderful windows into the time), which makes it even cheaper to study a piece of history.

I’ll be looking at a few more of these over the next couple of weeks, as I find it interesting.  Hope some of you will come along for the ride.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer.  His novel Outside deals with the possible ultimate consequences of the current transition from physical media to digital…  You can have a look here.