Legacy and Memory: Guest Post by Doug
I've been thinking lately about legacy and memory. This was caused by a recent work project I was researching. We were looking for biographical information about various people, some I'd heard of and many I hadn't. One name that was new to me was Jose Yglesias. We didn't find enough about him to include him in the project, but I did find enough to make me wonder why information was so hard to come by.
Yglesias was a writer of fiction and nonfiction, and his work appeared in the highest-profile newspapers and periodicals: The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, et al. He died at age 75 not quite ten years ago. (I wonder if we'd have more information if he'd survived a little bit longer into the Internet age.) He was prominent enough that upon his death, he rated a mention in Time magazine's Milestones column, but he seems to have fallen into obscurity fairly quickly. He has left a bit of a trail behind: His son is novelist and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias (he adapted his novel Fearless for the Peter Weir/Jeff Bridges film), his stepson is author and Columbia film professor (and former SDS activist) Lewis Cole, and his grandson is American Prospect staffer and blogger Matthew Yglesias (who I'd add to the Blogroll at left, if I were Don). But except for suggesting that the elder Yglesias really did have writing in his genes (although any influence he had over Cole would've been of the nurture rather than nature variety), his descendants don't really tell us much about the man or his work. Jose Yglesias's father was a cigar-maker in the Ybor City section of Tampa, so I asked a friend of mine who works in Ybor City if he could nose around and find out anything about him. Even after checking with local libraries, he came up mostly dry (some of the info the reference librarian gave him was incorrect, to boot). I'm sure there's information to be had, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about getting it.
All this certainly begs the question of what legacy we leave behind and how we are remembered, but I'm more intrigued by how those of us who are still here remember. What do we owe to the memory of those who have gone before us? How can we make sure that people or things that are no longer with us remain in the public memory? Who are some writers, artists, or performers that you want to keep from fading into obscurity?
As for me, I'm intrigued enough about Jose Yglesias that I've ordered his first novel, A Wake in Ybor City. I'll let you know what I think.