Friday, November 4, 2011

Monterey, California the art of historical recreation...A Book Review

No More a Stranger  A Story of Robert Louis Stevenson  written in 1946  by Anne B. Fisher  is what she liked to call a "re-creation." She researched for six years to write this story of the four months in 1879 that Robert Louis Stevenson spent in Monterey, California.

I was almost put off by the romantic cover and already knew the basics and was not further interested in Stevenson's personal life, so I wasn't sure the book would hold me. 

 But ultimately this book is  a story of old Monterey, a town that is in many ways the belly button of  California history.   While this story is told in the third person and is a subjective narrative of  204 pages, the rest of the volume is sixty pages of chapter notes with photographs and sources, a bibliography, acknowledgements and an extensive index.

 I began looking at  the sources first and  saw  that the author  had worked hard to diligently unearth her chronicle and that she had faithfully annotated it with her written and oral sources and included contemporary photographs of many of the characters in the book.  It is a mark of scholarship standards of old to go to original source material and to truly show your source and I began to trust that a definitive picture of  cultural and historical significance was to be found in this story.

As the author says in her biographical notes:
Many readers of this book will wonder how much of the story is true.  It is all based on fact.  No character is imaginary-not even the horse.  Incidents happened as described, and anecdotes related were those actually told.  The only fictional episodes which enter into the story are some conversations which had to be filled in to retain the continuity. 

The people who encountered and helped RLS on his way were all hard working immigrant pioneers and the variety of people groups is well represented in this story.  In some ways this tale is about how much story itself is valued for quite a community had to rally around the twenty-nine year old "ink-slinger"  to keep him alive.  Even his $2.00 a week salary  at the local paper was from a secret hat passing  at the restaurant where RSL  found food, warmth and a friend in French proprietor Jules Simoneau.

No More a Stranger was first published in 1946 by Stanford University Press.


GretchenJoanna said...

I love your description of Monterey as the belly button of California! And this book looks like something I would like to read...someday. :-) Thanks so much for taking the time to tell about it.

Haddock said...

The photographs and the illustrations shows that its genuine and I should have a look at this book.
Will have a look at the local book store.

DavidDavid said...

Thanks for heads up...when I was in McDonalds thereabout (by 'David' Street ;), I was looking at the old photos on the walls, and thought, 'for sometime'!