Saturday, February 07, 2009

"A Citizen's History" Review

D.J. Palladino reviewed Carmen's book in the latest edition of the SB INDEPENDENT:

"Carmen Lodise and Friends Release Isla Vista: A Citizen’s History," SB INDEPENDENT, February 5, 2009, By D.J. Palladino

... Lodise, an activist and newspaper editor during the ’70s and ’80s.. [gives] a political history beginning with Spaniards landing on the Chumash, segueing into the grandees of ranching, early (futile) oil explorations, and a conspiratorial-tinged saga of development, a story that fingers some big dead white men, like editor T.M. Storke, oil mogul Samuel Mosher, and former chancellor Robert Huttenback [no, it was Cheadle]. Though its zoning and financing scandal accusations are surprisingly inconclusive, the story nonetheless feels both juicy and fishy.

Lodise offers essays on various uprisings, the bank’s demise (by Das Williams’s dad Malcolm), and, more scrupulously, limns I.V.’s political climate following the riots, a tale of much woe, in which the university, despite its own sponsored report’s recommendations, balked at fruitful involvement. It does slightly better today, Lodise admits...

In the book, Lodise invokes the hard work that produced, if not an incorporated city, fervent citizen involvement lasting more than two decades, a record of activism that created parks, public health facilities, a food co-op, and big fun, like nude-ins and joint-rolling contests. He also revives the voices of people we needed and still need: like playwright, professor, and activist Bob Potter; politically committed journalist and candidate Carrie Topliffe; artist and shopkeeper Al Plyley; and Lodise himself.

What his book doesn’t manage well, however, is the city’s complicated cultural life, ignoring things as disparate but important as off-beat cultural destinations like Biko House and public traumas such as the actions of David Attias, a disturbed young man who drove into a crowd of Isla Vistans and tragically killed four, but awakened, finally, the conscience of the university. Surfing, rock music, theater, poetry, even businesses born in I.V., like Kinko’s, get little shrift. The worst sleight, however, is Halloween, which, it has been well argued, did as much as firebrand Yippees to create the culture of protest there. With roots back to the late 1950s, Halloween bonfires, suspended during the psychedelic years, are truly the strongest tradition most I.V.ers remember. Lodise gives it one page.

It’s crucial to recall that Isla Vista is an adopted city. It’s a transient pleasure, partly because absent landlords rent 96 percent of the town out to students who spend maybe four years there, then leave. Though the town looks much as it did in the late 1960s, except the I.V. Bookstore, it is completely different. Few businesses last, and fewer citizens remain, including Lodise who lives in Mexico and Arizona today. The world he describes was what he saw; his adopted era.

You can’t blame Lodise for encouraging youth to continue speaking truth to power, to band together before I.V. becomes a theme park. But I can’t help thinking about Fellini’s sailors [in Satyricon (1968)], offered the corpses of their elders to chew. Ironic that it’s now the boomers providing the eat-or-die flesh. This generation needs to know the past, sure, but not just 1970s legacies. A more balanced book may help us all move forward on all the available winds.

For full text, please go to:

The Santa Barbara Independent New History of I.V. Published

Carmen replied:


Thank you for the mostly positive review of our book. I acknowledge my "citizen's history" does short the vibrant cultural aspects of Isla Vista. However, I recall a piece you wrote in the Independent a couple of years ago on that topic, which leads me to believe that it may be you, not me, who should write that history.

A couple of other reviews:

“The book is gorgeous and vividly authentic, a grass-roots people's history in the tradition of Howard Zinn."
-- Bob Potter, Prof. Emeritus, UCSB
Co-author, The Campus by the Sea Where the Bank Burned Down

“This is outstanding! The legacy of Isla Vista owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude and on a personal level, so do I.”
-- Cloe Mayes Yocum,
UCSB student, mid-1970s

"The book reminds me a lot about how much I owe Isla Vista. I think someone could never really know me without knowing what our community was/is like."
-- Glen Lazof,
Isla Vista Community Council, 1983-84, I.V. Park District GM, 1985-93

Incidentally, the book is available at Chaucer's Books, the I.V. Food Co-op, both UCSB and Isla Vista book stores and, within the next couple of days, at


Carmen Lodise

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