Centenary professor Earle Labor publishes memoir, plans book signing
SHREVEPORT, LA — For Centenary Emeritus Professor of American Literature Dr. Earle Labor, the post-World War II years between 1945 and 1950 were a time like no other, an incredibly formative period that he calls "The Era of Bright Expectations" in his new memoir, The Far Music. Labor will sign copies of The Far Music, along with his acclaimed biography of Jack London, on Saturday, June 18 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport.
"I call this period 'The Era of Bright Expectations' because there was a kind of euphoria at what we’d accomplished as a country," says Labor. "We had mobilized for a war almost overnight, and we had triumphed. There was a sense that we could do anything."
One hallmark of this optimism and opportunity was the GI Bill, which allowed many World War II veterans the chance to go to college and in turn transformed the culture of many campuses, including Labor's alma mater, Southern Methodist University. In 1947, during his junior year at SMU, Labor met former combat infantryman P.B. "Pink" Lindsey. A conversation over hamburgers and Cokes in SMU's Varsity Grill was the beginning of an enduring friendship between the two men, fueled by their love of American literature and a passion for adventure that would eventually take them on an epic journey that Labor chronicles in The Far Music.
In June of 1949, Lindsey and Labor set off on an expedition that they hoped would take them from the Texas Panhandle to Canada, working the wheat harvest as they made their way north toward a simpler, Thoreau-like existence. As Labor writes in The Far Music, "Our spirit reflected the optimistic idealism that distinguished the Era of Bright Expectations. Pink and I weren't the only ones who felt that all dreams were achievable. You just needed the right combination of toughness, luck, and will power. We hadn't a clue about our limitations. That would come later."
The pair ultimately did not make it all the way to Canada, ending their journey with a final harvesting job in Oklahoma at the end of June 1950. Labor dates the end of his 'Era of Bright Expectations' at almost the same time – June 25, 1950 - when the North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea and ushered in another era of war.
Labor explains that while the idea for the journey was his, it was "Pink" who kept a deeply personal and poetic journal and planned to publish a book based on their adventures. Lindsey died in 1993 without getting the chance to accomplish his dream, but his manuscript lives within Labor's memoir. The Far Music, which Labor describes as "a memorial tribute" to Lindsey and to the "Era of Bright Expectations," weaves together Lindsey's journal entries with Labor's own memories to finally complete a literary project begun more than 50 years ago.
Recognized as the foremost authority on Jack London, Labor first came to Centenary in 1955. His most recent book, Jack London: An American Life, won the Western Writers of America 2014 Golden Spur Award for the Best Western Biography. Labor will sign copies of An American Life along with The Far Music at the Barnes & Noble event on June 18.