I like writers who take chances.
Writers like Aaron Bobrow-Strain (White Bread) and Christina Cogdell (Eugenic Design) and Jeffrey Meikle (American Plastic).
All three did the long hard work to tease out the incredibly subtle and unconscious ways that very powerful (and powerfully weird) intellectual memes became incorporated into the ways our grandparents thought about seemingly ordinary things like bread , dinner plates and the design of toilets.
I have much less respect for writers who gets an unique chance to plod for years through a hundred linear feet of documents from an un-studied institution or individual and comes up with fascinating and important studies.
I mean I love to read this stuff and I know that converting it all into a coherent narrative is very hard work .
But no where as hard as writing so well that even skeptics come to feel what these writers felt when they first sensed that there just must be some sort of a connection between the twin 1910s obsessions for all-white bread and for an all-white America.
Rendering intangible gut feelings into tangible limpid prose is never easy.
I feel my own book (Manhattan Natural) is a sort of part two to Bobrow-Strain's book in particular.
Bobrow-Strain's book shows the 'with it' Modern people of the 1930s priding themselves that they only ate factory made, pre-sliced, bleached white bread.
Just as their equally 'with it' post-Modern grandchildren today are applauding themselves - with just as much vigour - for only eating un-store-sliced whole wheat bread kneaded by bare hands in a small corner bakery.
I want to suggest why and exactly when that consensus among the intellectual elite began to change --- how it changed with (or caused ?) the change of eras from Modernity to post-Modernity.
And it too involves a busily fermenting little fungus : but penicillin's penicillium chrysogenum rather than bread and beer's saccharomyces cerevisiae.....