Recently published for the 100th anniversary of Venice, A Sea Shore Memoir — Celebrating Venice, by Maryjane, is an amazing work, and although it is only a small part of the author’s archives, it captures the essence of Maryjane’s memories and archives of four decades in Venice.
The back cover aptly describes the book as a “private memoir of a public life.”
Reading this book is a little like peeking into someone’s diary or scrapbook.
Here, all the randomness and impulsiveness associated with a private journal — including idiosyncratic spelling and syntax and the occasional French word — are preserved, and this is part of the overall charm of the work.
Most of the over 250 large pages are enriched with graphics.
There are dozens and dozens of photos and nearly a hundred of Maryjane’s wonderful pen-and-ink drawings that provide a glimpse of old nooks and crannies — many now lost — of this seaside community so rich in history and tradition.
She has also included various historical documents, her reflections on whatever comes to mind, a lot of details of her own life and some of her own poems.
Maryjane has been a vital part of Venice life and “spirit” — her word — for nearly four decades and she captures the community through turbulent periods that saw drastic changes in Venice, touching on Venice as the scene of intense activism, a Venice devoted to the arts, and a Venice of civic-minded residents with a genuine interest in the fate of their town.
Always an activist, always an artist, Maryjane has known, has memories of and pays homage to scores and scores of friends, artists, artisans and activists who made Venice what it was during those years from the end of the Beat Generation up to the present — what she calls “pockets of sea shore people surviving for, and some living, their wishes that daily life be in joy, sharing, and with the gift of Arts, to express the Divine Virtues.”
Maryjane’s personal archives are vast and she did tireless research to complement them and substantiate details for this book, then made an editorial selection to give us the book she has published.
It is comforting to know that some of her archives are now safe with the Southern California Library for Social Research and that her videos are in various reliable hands.
But she is still looking for a home for her “Venice Archives Arts.”
The book starts with a brief accounting of Maryjane’s years growing up in a large family in the San Francisco Bay area, proceeds to her college years at Monterey Peninsula College, and her move to Venice in the mid-’60s when she was in her early 20s.
After a brief history of Venice, she moves on to random recollections of some of the households and houses she and others lived in. One could wish for more drawings of people.
Whole sections are devoted to a paragraph or so on various residents and friends, often accompanied by a Maryjane drawing of where they lived, complete with the address so one can go see if a building is still there and what it has become.
She captures all the intimate details of life in Venice in the late ’60s and ’70s, as well as anti-Vietnam War activism, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Free Venice Beachhead newspaper, and even the not-so-radical Argonaut and its brief Venice sister, The Ocean Front Weekly.
She documents the last decades, which have seen the gentrification of Venice, invasion by the well-off, and the erosion of — and attempts to preserve — Venice life as she knew it in her earlier years here.
She details the many years of effort to get the Venice Canals renovated, and the last section is a sort of personal photo album.
But the one “spirit” that permeates the diverse elements of this book — and indeed Venice history for the past generation — is that of the indomitable Maryjane herself, her devotion, creativity and integrity.
The book is priced at $60 but Maryjane says it will be offered for $35 in cash or check, including tax, at book signings scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays, June 10th, 17th and 24th, in front of the Pacific Resident Theater, 703 Venice Blvd., in Venice; and from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 28th, at the Venice-Abbot Kinney Memorial Library, 501 S. Venice Blvd, Venice.
The book is also available at Small World Books, 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice; the Craig Krull Gallery, at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, and other local outlets.