I've been sort of obsessed this year with a couple of specific times in American history. The first is the 1920s-30s, and the Golden Age of Aviation. I find the style and class of those days enthralling and engrossing. Beyond that, I love the designs that happened then. I guess this could extend a bit more forward into the early 40s and the beginnings of WWII. Hence, the way this blog is designed (more in the British fashion than American, however).
I love the typestyles and rounded motifs. I love the music and the clothing and hairstyles of that era. I love the shapes airplanes took during that time and cars and travel posters. The idea of wireless radio being pretty novel and prohibition causing raids on night clubs. The glamour of the cities... Indiana Jones. It all brings out a strange sort of longing in me to be on the cusp of the new. It tends to bring out the adventurer in me... and makes me long to create... for some reason. The stories and imagery of that time serves as a muse for me.
But I am fairly positive that many of those feelings stem out of the nostalgia of it all. If I lived then, I'm sure my feelings toward the world would be much the same as the ones I have now. Hopefully not, but probably.
The other time period in American history I am currently engrossed in is the mid-1800s. Our larger cities were growing up and the the West was being settled. The Mexican-American War was fought, the California Gold Rush filled the hills and territories of the West coast with people from all over the world, and what has become a patchwork quilt was still a melting-pot with immigrants arriving to start new lives in the throws of a young nation that was 'free'--a truly novel concept at the time.
I've been reading a book this past week called Heydey by Kurt Andersen that deals with these issues and it is absolutely addictive.
The story follows four different people; three of them are New York natives while the fourth is a recent English immigrant. As their lives become too confined and ordinary for their tastes, the group heads West to see what they can make of their fortunes.
I haven't finished the novel yet but I love it so far. I always enjoyed the old cowboy stories and the legends of cowboys and Indians. Having grown up in Southern California, I heard a lot of California history in school. That included our rich Mexican history and heritage and all of the wars fought out West during the 19th century.
But I have to confess that after moving out to the Midwest for college, I kind of started to forget all of that. Or at least to not pay any attention to that time period. I never liked Westerns -- though I once cruised on a boat formerly owned by John Wayne, I never enjoyed his films (except for The Quiet Man, excellent film), I always found them hokey or just kind of boring. But the stories and books were my favourite. They were just exciting to me. I still love the tales of Zorro and the old cowboy songs my grandpa used to play on the guitar.
The history of the California Gold Rush always made me happy--learning about Sutter's Mill and then seeing the ghost towns left behind where mines were. I was lucky to have many of those nearby when I was a kid. We'd travel to Calico Ghost Town a lot and even our amusement parks were western themed.
In any case, I was inundated early on with the legends of the Old West and today those recollections create a nostalgia that makes me yearn for excitement and adventure and change.
So, what am I going to do with all of this? I'm not sure. But I think I've got the beginnings of my NaNoWriMo novel for this year. It's going to have to do with a Soviet spy who wakes up in the American Midwest during the 30s. Haven't got particulars down, but I've got till November.
And that is what has been interesting me lately.