Just to give you an idea as to Graham's frame of reference, let me give you her opening paragraph:
If email had existed in the 1940s, Ayn Rand and Taylor Caldwell might have been friends. Both born at the turn of the century in different countries — Ms. Rand in Russia, Ms. Caldwell in England — they became celebrated American novelists who told stories to advance conservative ideals and extol the primacy of the individual.And then there's this a paragraph later:
While Ms. Rand published just 10 books in her lifetime, her legacy endures and expands. Ms. Caldwell wrote more than 30 novels (many set in Pennsylvania), but her influence dwindles. The Taylor Caldwell Appreciation Society, a cached Web page says, is defunct. The domain name taylorcaldwell.com is offered for sale by a domain squatter. Ms. Caldwell’s books, which just four decades ago topped The New York Times bestseller list before publication, populate the shelves of thrift stores and sell for pennies on Amazon — proof that a thing’s cost has nothing to do with its worth.Safe to assume she's both a fan of Caldwell and disappointed at the depreciation of her literary worth.
There are, of course, a few issues with the column. Take, for example, this:
In her memoir, “On Growing Up Tough,” Ms. Caldwell details a childhood bereft of both love and leisure, a life in which she became a conservative by observing the hypocrisies of the liberal. At 16, she owned two dresses and one pair of shoes and worked 12 hours a day in a factory. At lunchtime, she had to decide whether to spend her allotted 15 cents on either a sandwich or car fare home. (If she ate, it was an 8-mile walk home.)See, this is one part that confuses me. Caldwell was born in 1900 in the UK and by the age of 7 she was living near Buffalo, NY. And so wouldn't at least some of the harsh working conditions she endured in the United States in 1916 have been mitigated by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938?
Of that act we learn from Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez that:
The minimum wage is now 75 years old. It became the law of the land with President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The night before he signed the bill, this is what FDR said about it in one of his storied fireside chats:And yet, Graham praises Caldwell in her very next paragraph with this:
"Except perhaps for the Social Security Act, it is the most far-reaching, far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted here or in any other country. Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory."
She decried “The Dolt” who thinks the world owes him a living and whose favorite expression is “I gotta rightta …” and “Big Mama,” worse than Big Brother because she carries the “stupefying and poisoned syrup” of tender, loving care. Big Mama, Ms. Caldwell said, “is infinitely more dangerous to the national character, infinitely more demoralizing.”Someone will have to someone to me how this points to "the hypocrisies of the liberal."
Unless, of course, Caldwell wasn't complaining about her tough life. Or perhaps she was complaining that other people had it somewhat easier than she did (because, you know, of Big Mama guv'ment) and that's just so unfair!
But deeper than that, what sort of person was Jennifer Graham's literary heroine, Taylor Graham?
Thirty-three of Ms. Caldwell’s sold enough to be considered best-sellers. In those, and a rollicking memoir, she defended a worldview so conservative that she was embraced by the John Birch Society, the group William F. Buckley Jr. denounced as overly radical.This requires some clarification. Taylor Caldwell's ideas weren't just "embraced by" the Birchers. She wrote for the Birchers. And how do I know this? From the John Birch Society website:
One of Caldwell’s most fascinating works, however, was not a novel but an autobiographical collection of condensed articles originally appearing in American Opinion (the journal established by JBS Founder Robert Welch) entitled On Growing Up Tough. [Italics in original.]I wonder why Jennifer Graham didn't say that.
But hey, did you know that Taylor Caldwell had an FBI file??
Did you know that in February, 1942 (just 3 months or so after the Pearl Harbor Attacks) Taylor Caldwell wrote a letter to local NY Congressman James W. Wadsworth? He forwarded the letter to the FBI and the FBI put it in her file.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the removal of Japanese and American-Japanese away from strategic areas along the west coast, a discussion sprinkled with revillings such as "dirty Japs," "filthy little yellow men." Much suspicion has been directed against Japanese-Americans, and their loyalty doubted. However, if, after due investigation, it seems best to remove these people from strategic areas, it must be done.And then a paragraph later:
If Japanese are to be removed, what about German and Italians also? I live in the suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., which is the third largest Italian population. The German-Americans of Buffalo and vicinity and especially in this German suburb are vicious Nazis.And then on the second page of this letter we can read:
From personal experience, only recently, I discovered it is dangerous to denounce the Axis in Buffalo. One of the rumors going around, and believed seriously, is that the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor were British planes piloted by Jews!To their credit the Hoover FBI (THE HOOVER FBI!) knew enough to add a few warnings in the file. For example this one dated 7/10/62:
This office is aware of the fact that Miss CALDWELL is a world renowned novelist who has produced twenty outstanding books. However it is apparent from her rather involved letters that she is possessed of a vivid imagination which tends to exaggeration.And this from 1968:
...although previous experience with Miss CALDWELL demonstrates she has a penchant for intermingling fact and fiction indiscriminately, and has, in the past, published an article bearing on the internal security of the United States representing it to be factual whereas it was completely fictional.Right about now, I am wondering if Jennifer Graham is rethinking her devotion to this Bircher-published, rightwing-paranoid, not-taken-seriously-even-by-Hoover's-FBI, literary giant.
And if she's not, then why the heck not?