The best book ever written about American poetry is American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, published in 1971 by the poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982). Rexroth is remembered today chiefly as a member of the post-World War II San Francisco counterculture, a mentor to the Beats and the author of numerous translations or recreations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Born in South Bend, Indiana, he was a genuine bohemian, who in the course of a long life and global travels met and befriended many of the leading figures of European and American literary circles. This makes his book a sort of Secret History of American poetry, told by an insider who knew many of his subjects. More… “The Best Book on American Poetry Ever”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.


In San Francisco, there are more marijuana shops than McDonald’s, bongs are considered medical devices, and apparently the local legislators believe that tiny Shrek action figures are a leading cause of heart attacks. In November, the city’s Board of Supervisors passed a law that effectively makes Happy Meals illegal. Any restaurant that wants to give away toys to its customers must now adhere to nutritional guidelines of hilariously oppressive exactitude. There are caps on calories and sodium, saturated fat ratios to maintain, vegetable quotas to meet. If asked to conform to such tyrannical dietary correctness, every chef at every foodie temple in the city would sooner flee to Bakersfield.


San Francisco’s Happy Meals ban is just one of many recent efforts to inoculate the public against the plague of McDonald’s marketing: Militant nutritionists advocate at least… More…

On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, in the middle of a patchy square of lawn that fronts a fading seaside motel, a plywood sign emblazoned with orange spray-paint letters announces the motel’s latest amenity: free Wi-Fi. A continent away, in the gray outer reaches of San Francisco, in a part of town where tiny, dingy laundromats outnumber Starbucks by a ratio of about five to zero, the tiniest, dingiest laundromat in the neighborhood displays a similar notice in its smudgy front window. This sign is fashioned from laser paper rather than plywood, but the slapdash aesthetic and straightforward message are the same: free Wi-Fi.


In between these two down-market outposts of communitarian idealism, approximately 42,361 other establishments — including a truck stop in Gila Bend, Arizona; the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and the oldest strip club in… More…

When I was a teenager in Los Angeles and newly licensed to drive, my friends and I began to tentatively road trip up and down the California coast, ostensibly looking for surfing breaks, parties, girls, but really just driving as far as we could on the $25 it took to fill a gas tank and the few dollars more we could scrounge for food. We would head south to San Diego and, when we were adventurous, beyond that to Tijuana, Mexico. To secure parental approval we assured our mothers and fathers that our trips had a purpose: to visit potential colleges.

San Francisco represented the outside range of the voyages possible for unchaperoned, Southern California minors. Eight hours by car along the 5, past the other university towns of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz, it was always a mysterious destination for Angelino boys like us. For one… More…