When I began the UNDERGROUND USA project, everyone told me I had to talk to Maurice Isserman. Maurice worked for the Willamette Bridge, 1968-1971, and the Portland Scribe, 1972-1974. He combined his underground newspaper career with a night gig proofreading at the Oregonian, and managed to fit in a BA in history from Reed.
Another Reedie who copyedited at the Oregonian? Gary Snyder.
Another parallel with Snyder? Maurice has fallen in love with mountains. Maurice will be reading from his latest book, Continental Divide: A History of American Mountaineering, at Powells on Friday Oct. 14, 7:30 PM.
I settled at Cold Mountain long ago
Already it seems like years and years.
Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams
And linger watching things themselves.
Men don’t get this far into the mountains,
White clouds gather and billow.
Thin grass does for a mattress,
The blue sky makes a good quilt.
Happy with a stone underhead
Let heaven and earth go about their changes.
Gary Snyder’s translation of Tang dynasty poet Han-Shan
As an historian, Maurice writes about American political life. He did this in America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s and If I Had a Hammer… The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left, and in his biographies of socialist Michael Harrington and Communist Party activist Dorothy Healey, two impassioned individuals committed to social change.
For UNDERGROUND USA, Maurice and fellow Scribe contributor Norman Solomon will reunite on the White Stag Auditorium stage for an onstage conversation. I asked them to tell us about the culture and politics which led to the underground press in Portland, 1968-1978. First time they have seen each other in 40 years!
UNDERGROUND USA is a public history/art education event made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. It is presented by Oregon Cartoon Institute in partnership with UO Comics & Cartooning Studies and PSU Comic Studies, with support from Oregon Historical Society and McMenamins.
Comic City USA, the first exhibit to look at Oregon print cartooning history, is at Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Avenue, through Jan. 31, 2017.
“People who read them when they first came out remember the initial impact — like getting whacked in the head with a two by four.” Patrick Rosenkranz, on underground comics