A Literary Introduction to Washington
We couldn’t get enough of this awesome Washington Post article, and although maybe you’ve already read it, did you obsessively check back for comments like we did? Some of them were as good as the published article’s suggestions. For your pleasure, find some of our favorites below:
Louis Halle wrote, in our town, truly one of the most eloquent observations about nature unfolding anywhere — and it’s set not only against the backdrop of Washigton and environs, but specifically against the frenzy, tragedy, and growth spurt for DC that was World War II. I never felt like I knew the ‘real’ Washington until I read Louis Halle’s 1947 “Spring In Washington.”
“Washington Confidential“, by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer (1951) A guided tour to the low-life parts of the city, written in breezy tabloid style. With all due respect to our literary comedians, this is far and away the funniest book ever written about Washington, even if the humor is mostly unintentional.
“Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.” by Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, 1994.
Marvin Caplan’s “Farther Along: A Civil Rights Memoir” (1999). Caplan was a longtime Washington neighborhood activist who formed “Neighbors, Incorporated” in the mid-1950′s in order to put a stop to the then-common practice known as “blockbusting”, a sleazy tactic used by real estate companies to scare white home owners into selling at fire sale prices, and then selling the same houses to blacks at inflated cost. Blockbusting was one of THE key factors in much of the racial turmoil we went through in the 1950′s and 1960′s, and as far as I know, Caplan’s book is the only one that really describes it as it was practiced in northwest Washington. It’s one of the key books that tell us how, as a city, we got from “there” to “here”.
I’d add David Brinkley’s “Washington Goes to War.” It came out about 25 years ago. A charming, funny, and yet highly informative snapshot of a transformational moment for DC. An endless series of anecdotes reveal an earlier, more innocent America and the dawn of a more jaded place. Pre-war, you could actually pull off PA Ave and under the White House portico and put your car’s top up if it looked like rain!) Plus, it has the late journalist’s inimical dry wit. You can’t understand today’s DC without reading this.