Re: RARA-AVIS: Long Haul by A I Bezzerides

From: Mark R. Harris (
Date: 14 Oct 2008

  • Next message: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled financial?"

    More information regarding the rather obscure novel by Bezzerides, There Is a Happy Land (ironic title, of course):

    Because it deals with migrant workers, *There Is a Happy Land.* when it was published, drew comparisons with *The Grapes of Wrath.* But the book might better be seen as one California's hanging-out novels, in which the main characters have little interest in earning money or joining the middle class. So a more appropriate comparison would be with *Cannery Row *or
    *Tortilla Flat.* Bezzerides, incidentally, is better known for his other two novels, *Long Haul *(1938), which was made into a Humphrey Bogart movie, *They Drive by Night,* and *Thieves' Market<>
    *(1949), a noirish tale that has been reissued by the University of California Press.

        *There Is a Happy Land by A. I. Bezzerides.* Henry Holt and Company
    (1942), 279 pp.
        A clever but lazy migrant laborer, then working in the San Joaquin Valley, decides to give up the transient life. He talks his way into setting up camp in the yard of a poor but kind-hearted rancher. The migrant espouses a philosophical aversion to working for other people. But his real issue is with work itself, since he leaves all the domestic chores around his tent to his pregnant wife and young son. Although usually he'd rather be fishing, he's not antisocial. He becomes friends with the rancher and his family, even at one point promoting a romance between the rancher's son and a pretty cannery worker. He seems satisfied with his life, but with another child on the way he may need rethink his future.
        In Vern Cope, the hero of this tale, Bezzerides creates the libertarian answer to Tom Joad. Cope opposes predatory agribusiness not by fighting the ranchers but by dropping out of the system. Bezzerides depicts the deprivations suffered by Cope's family (and indeed by everyone in the story) as mundane rather than shocking. It seems that the author must be making a political point, but it is not clear what the point is. The narrative itself is like its protagonist. It drifts along pleasantly, providing little to get excited about. Even so, because of the prospective comparisons with Steinbeck, writers of term papers might find the book worth exploring.

    Mark R. Harris
    2122 W. Russet Court #8
    Appleton WI 54914
    (920) 470-9855

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 Oct 2008 EDT