cover image My Country ’Tis of Thee: Reporting, Sallies, and Other Confessions

My Country ’Tis of Thee: Reporting, Sallies, and Other Confessions

David Harris. Heyday, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59714-515-2

Journalist and antiwar activist Harris (The Genius) offers a vibrant, career-spanning collection of essays and articles written for Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. Harris started his journalism career after nearly a decade spent organizing resistance to the Vietnam War, and many of the pieces—including an eye-opening rundown of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s business ties to the CIA—showcase his deep knowledge of the era and its politics. “The Vampires of Skid Row,” which details the trade in blood and blood plasma drawn from homeless people on L.A.’s Fifth Street, is one of the book’s many stories about the darker side of life in California. In “What Makes David Harris Run?” which exemplifies Harris’s blend of world-weary skepticism and patriotic idealism, he offers lessons for potential candidates drawn from his own 1976 congressional campaign. “Politics is full of coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, tension, chocolate chip cookies, and very little sleep,” Harris writes, and even those who win will find it hard to make a difference. Still, “our future is at stake in the laws Congress approves and the budgets it initiates,” and campaigns “give a lot of people looking for more meaning in their existence something to do and someone to share it with.” This wide-ranging and incisive anthology conveys the spirit of the 1960s and ’70s. (Nov.)