Thursday, October 1, 2020

If you’re lucky, which you always hope to be, you read about something or someone that makes you glad you decided to read that. I decided I’d read about this guy in The Guardian this morning. Lucky me. I’m glad I know him now. Full of life. No kid anymore. But still young. He’s written many many children’s books. He’s recovering in London from Covid. You’ll like him too:

Monday, September 28, 2020

Because today is Yom Kippur, a noticeably quieter day than normal outside on New York City streets and sidewalks, here’s a passage from a memoir by the late Israeli writer and thinker and peace advocate Amos Oz:

‘Once, when I was seven or eight, my mother said to me, as we sat on the last seat but one on the bus to the clinic or the shoe shop, that while it was true that books could change with the years just as much as people could, the difference was that whereas people would always drop you when they could no longer get any advantage or pleasure or interest or at least a good feeling from you, a book would never abandon you. Naturally you sometimes dropped them, maybe for several years, or even forever. But they, even if you betrayed them, would never turn their backs on you: they would go on waiting for you silently and humbly on their shelf. They would wait for ten years. They wouldn't complain. One night, when you suddenly needed a book, even at three in the morning, even if it was a book you had abandoned and erased from your heart for years and years, it would never disappoint you, it would come down from its shelf and keep you company in your moment of need. It would not try to get its own back or make excuses or ask itself if it was worth its while or if you deserved it or if you still suited each other, it would come at once as soon as you asked. A book would never let you down.’ 
       ― Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness

Friday, September 25, 2020

‘The most fantastic thing you could film is people reading. I don't see why no one's done it... The movie you'd make would be a lot more interesting than most of them.’
                     ― Jean-Luc Godard

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

This volume just came out this week from The Library of America. I got one. 

Here is what Norman Mailer once said about Hemingway:

He’s a trap. If you’re not careful you end up writing like him. It’s very dangerous to write like Hemingway, but on the other hand it’s almost like a rite of passage. I almost wouldn’t trust a young novelist—I won’t speak for the women here, but for a male novelist—who doesn’t imitate Hemingway in his youth.’

Monday, September 21, 2020

said that today in 1964 ‘Herzog’ a novel by Saul Bellow was published. I’ve often said it’s best book I ever read. It’s certainly one of them. First line: ‘If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.’ I’m not the only one who thinks so highly of it. It’s a great American novel on most lists. You’d like it. It’s got everything. Told with an unusually smart voice. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

I JUST GOT BACK FROM FEDEX, I still call it Kinko’s, two blocks away, where I got a new sign made. The other one was bent and beat. This is my 6th one. I’ll go back downtown with it when schools are up and running and it seems safe enough to take the train, or a bus maybe. I have scribbled on an index card right by me here on this table a quote from John Lewis: ‘WE ALL HAVE BEEN CALLED TO DO SOMETHING.’

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I read this this morning online on OUTSIDE magazine’s page. I get the hardcopy of the magazine too. Maybe because I’ve been going out to Wyoming for 20 years to see my youngest daughter who lives there I’m drawn to such a magazine. One thing it has drawn me to is reading stuff by and about a guy who lives out there, Yvon Chouinard, who started and runs Patagonia. He’s a different guy. Not only is he inventive; he’s a radical in some good ways. You’ll see that here in this link:

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In the last months of mostly staying in the neighborhood I hadn’t been to my favorite bookstore, Three Lives, a half-hour walk away. It wasn’t opened most of the time anyway. I ordered books from them for those weeks/months. Yesterday I met a daughter and we went to the store. I bought three books. The big one by Kurt Andersen I started last night and read some more of today. I certainly recommend it. Google it, sample it, listen to him on youtube. Use it as an excuse to go to your favorite bookstore.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

‘What if there was a disease in Alexandria, she thought, and everybody died but me? 
I’d go live at the library, she told herself. The notion was cheering. She saw herself reading by candlelight, shadows flickering on the ceiling above the labyrinth of shelves. She could take a suitcase from home–peanut butter and crackers, a blanket, a change of clothes–and pull together two of the big armchairs in the Reading Room to sleep on…’
            ― Donna Tartt, The Little Friend

Thursday, September 10, 2020

‘An English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, ‘What’s your alma mater?’ I told him, ‘Books.’
                           ― Malcolm X

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

School for our kids and all kids is on our mind this fall more than any other fall. 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’
                               —Nelson Mandela

Monday, September 7, 2020

Summer’s over. The sign has been sitting in my apartment for months, seen by no one but me. Signs want to be seen. It needs me to hold it. When schools start here in a couple weeks, I’d like to be in my spot in front of the Dept. of Education. I don’t know what the sidewalk traffic will be like. And what about the subway to get me there? I’ll be going in rush hour. I’ll have to see. It’s too far to walk. I can’t take cabs five days a week. For seven years I’ve held that sign. I’m going to try. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The poet and playwright Claudia Rankine talks to Afua Hirsch about power, race and class, and her experience of being a first-generation immigrant living in the US today. I’m going to get her book this week. Here’s a discussion she had in today’s Guardian:

Saturday, September 5, 2020

James Fugate has run the Black author-focused Eso Won Books in LA since 1990, and he's never seen a sales surge like the one he's experiencing now. Here’s an article in ‘Inc.’ on him in this unusual year:

Friday, September 4, 2020

Not many books were published this spring or summer. They’re coming out now. Tomorrow I’m going to walk over to the West Village with my middle daughter to Three Lives Bookstore, my favorite, which she told me about years ago when she lived close by it. TIME magazine put together a list of the top 42 books coming out. Here it is:

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Writers Rebel is a group of London artists who stand against those who minimize the dangers of climate change. This piece was in today’s Guardian. Here’s the link:

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

NPR had a panel pick the 100 best books for young readers. You’ll certainly recognize some of the titles and dust jackets. They all look good. Of course there are those books that are just the right ones for just the right kid. We each had such a book or books that worked for us. Here’s the list they made:

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Saturday, August 22, 2020

‘First paycheck I get, I thought, I'm going to get myself a room near the downtown L.A. Public Library.’
                            ― Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Friday, August 21, 2020

‘You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught. The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.’
                                           ― Ray Bradbury who would be 100 on Saturday, August 22.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The rural town I grew up in had only 2,000 people, so the Catholic grammar school I went to right across the street from my house (from my 8th grade classroom window I could see my mother hanging clothes on the line) was small. Some rooms had two grades. We didn’t have a real gym. No backboards to play basketball. We had nuns who I didn’t love or hate. Some years we had to take our lunch. I had a Roy Rogers lunch box. There was a big newer public school on the edge of town that kids from neighboring little towns came by bus to. They not only had a gym, they had a pool. I had some friends who went there. One friend was two years older than me. He was a great athlete. He hit home runs over the fence in Little League. We were on the same team. He also read a lot. That fascinated me. He had books in his room. Paperbacks that he got at school. They were his, not library books. They were from a Scholastic book club. I’d never even heard of such a thing. The books looked cool to me. They meant a lot to him it seemed. I envied him going to public school where he got such books. 

I was thinking about book clubs this morning when I read in the paper that maybe school kids in the city will have to stay home and do more remote learning, more online school, if the schools here aren’t in shape for them. What about the kids who don’t read well? How will they practice reading? How will they find a book that might turn them on to reading? The libraries are not really open yet. They need books from those Scholastic book clubs. I wonder if anyone is giving them that opportunity. I wonder if any rich guys or any foundations are paying for kids to get books to read from those clubs. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

It’s maybe 1962 or 63 and I’m a high school kid at a Catholic boarding school outside Washington, D.C. I’d always read a lot but it was almost exclusively sports pages and ‘Sport’ magazine and ‘Sports Illustrated’ and whatever got my attention in ‘Time’ or ‘Life’ or ‘Look’. The books they assigned at school weren’t chosen or presented in a way to make you love them. Latin was the most important subject. The English anthology was like from St. Thomas More Press. One Saturday in D.C. with another kid, killing time in a record store that had paperback books, waiting for the city bus back to school, a book in a rack got my attention. Something Wicked This Way Comes by someone named Ray Bradbury. I bought it and looked at the front and back covers on the bus the whole way. My life was different from that day on. That book and all the books Ray Bradbury wrote led me right up to the books I’m reading now. I guess I could say he’s the most important guy in my life. Once maybe 25 years ago I went to LA to the national book convention. I had an idea to start a book magazine and I went out there to talk about it with anyone I could and I maybe talked to no one, such are my business instincts. The big conference was held in a bright LA convention center. Different authors gave readings. The biggest author was Ray Bradbury. You had to have tickets to get into his reading. I didn’t have a ticket. But I was in the big crowded lobby when he went through with his thick horn-rim glasses on people scurrying around him. They maybe loved him like I did.

There’s going to be a virtual reading by well-known people of his Fahrenheit 451 on Saturday, August 22. It’d be his 100th birthday. This piece in ‘Rolling Stone’ tells about it:

Monday, August 17, 2020

I WAS ENGAGED EARLY THIS MORNING READING THIS ABOUT A NEW SCULPTURE at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville honoring the names of enslaved laborers who worked at the school. It’s in today’s Times. The link is down below.

‘The memorial’s enclosing circular wall slopes upward to a height of eight feet. The inner surface is carved with single and paired words identifying slaves at the school, some by name (Ishmael, Jenny, Zebray, Eston Hemings), others by jobs (stableman, laundress, gardener, cook), still others by social roles (sister, husband, grandchild, friend). Each word is underscored. About halfway around the wall, the words stop but the underscores continue, place-savers for names yet-to-be-uncovered through research. When light rain or mist washes the wall, water gathers in the incisions and runs down like tears.’

Sunday, August 16, 2020

‘A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.’
                                                    -Arthur Miller 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Every night I set the alarm on my phone for 5:55 and 6:00 a.m. The two rings get me out of bed if I’m not already up because I couldn’t sleep well enough to sleep that late. Some mornings during this pandemic when you live alone you’re not sure what day it is. This morning I turned ESPN radio on as I do every morning first thing and I was miffed over the announcer’s voice. Where are the regular guys? I wondered. Then I realized it was Saturday. 

I opened my door and there was The New York Times. Saturday’s home-delivered edition comes with some Sunday sections. Arts, the Magazine, the Book Review. I sat down and started going through the big paper on the couch. I’d make breakfast later. I kept the radio talkers on not very loud. I spent almost two hours with the paper. Perfect start to the morning. When I was a kid I’d get up and go right out to the kitchen to look at the sports page. I get almost the same rush today.  

‘I believe in the power of books and how they shape young people for the future,Thomas declared. ‘I’m very hopeful that we’re giving them better tools so that they could be better leaders than any of us ever imagined.’
From TIME magazine. Author Angie Thomas. Here’s the link:

Thursday, August 13, 2020

I’ve been in a newspaper-loving trance for a few weeks now since I resumed getting The New York Times delivered after some months off. I’m not sure why I stopped then. I think it was to be, in my mind, right on top of things. There was so much news, so much serious stuff going on. I felt like I had to be sitting in front of my computer screen all day. I didn’t watch TV. Oh maybe an hour at night streaming on my computer. I don’t have a TV. I listened to NPR and sports talk, but that was off to the side, coming in my right ear. Right in front of me was the screen. I read columnists mostly. In the Times, in the Washington Post, in The Guardian. The LA Times sometimes too. I probably read them fast. There were so many. I had to ingest so much. And there was Facebook too. Lots of stuff to read fast on there too. Getting the newspaper dropped outside my door by 6:00 every morning again gets me up. Not the sound of it hitting the floor. But the early quiet anticipation of opening the door and bending down to pick it up. It feels like an old habit of 60+ years, and it seems new again. Maybe I’m just grateful that they’re still putting out a great thing like the Times when so much is closed down. I went looking for a quote tonight about newspapers. I found this one by Pete Hamill:

‘Quite simply, I love newspapers and the men and women who make them. Newspapers have given me a full, rich life. They have provided me with a ringside seat at some of the most extraordinary events in my time on the planet. They have been my university. They have helped feed, house and educate my children. I want them to go on and on and on.’
                                 from News Is a Verb

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

I have five grandchildren scheduled to return to their public school grade school classrooms. Four actually; one is in private school because her NYC public school wasn’t a fit. I haven’t seen them since this pandemic filled the air. The two New York kids went outside the city like a lot of kids who could did. The other three live in Wyoming near Yellowstone, so mobs of eager national park tourists have filled their town, not all with masks on. All five kids have plenty of books and they have computers at home, four have their own phones. Not all kids even have many books at their home, if any. School is the one best chance for kids who don’t have all the stuff to get on equal footing with the others. At least their desks will all be the same. And their teachers. And their subjects. School is where they can be helped and encouraged to read well. That can make all the difference in their lives. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Newspaper Business. The New York Times’ revenue source is mostly digital right now.

‘Over a three-month period dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and a slowdown in advertising, The New York Times Company for the first time reported quarterly revenue that owed more to digital products than to the print newspaper.’ Here’s a link to the explanation of how it’s going in this new news world:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Times piece today about a bookstore on the 10th floor of a building in Taipei, Taiwan where people find books and other people like themselves. There’s a link below.  

‘Many people come to catch a glimpse of Lam Wing-kee, the owner and manager, a bookseller from Hong Kong who fled to Taiwan last year. Mr. Lam was one of five booksellers who were abducted by the Chinese authorities in 2015 for selling books critical of the ruling party. He was detained and spent five months in solitary confinement.’

Friday, August 7, 2020

‘Over the past month, about 1.9 million Americans have tested positive for the virus. That’s more than five times as many as in all of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia, combined.’

A lengthy full look at the virus in our country. A front page story in The New York Times by David Leonhardt. The best overall look at it I’ve read. If you were a teacher you’d have your students read it. Which is why kids need teachers, and why we need The New York Times and the other good daily newspapers. Here’s the link:

Thursday, August 6, 2020

In today’s New York Times a story about the schools in Kenya deciding to stay closed. It’s a look at something beyond our shores which is stimulating and expansive and liberating to do right now. Things there seem so essential. The link is here. I’ve started getting the daily Times delivered again after a few months of reading only online. Reading a newspaper online is a hurried activity like flipping through vinyl albums in a used record store. There’s a franticness to that racing that once you get back to reading the real paper you don’t want anymore.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

‘The truly great Pete Hamill died this morning,’ tweeted Dan Barry, columnist at The New York Times. ‘Newspaperman, novelist, mentor to so many, citizen of the world. I once wrote that if the pavement of New York City could talk, it would sound like Pete Hamill. Now that city weeps.’ Here’s what Hamill’s paper The Daily News said:

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Jane Brody has written her ‘Personal Health’ column in the New York Times since 1976. It’s a gift to all of us. This week’s column seems especially valuable. Here it is:

Sunday, August 2, 2020

LA rapper NONAME has started a book club.Since its founding in August 2019, Noname’s book club has grown to nearly 10,000 Patreon subscribers, who pay at least $1 a month for membership. Others follow her book recommendations on Twitter and support the club by buying merchandise.’ Here what the ‘Times’ wrote about it today:

Saturday, August 1, 2020

‘When J.F.K. ran for President, a team of data scientists with powerful computers set out to model and manipulate American voters. Sound familiar?’ A ‘New Yorker’ piece by Jill Lepore. Here’s the link. I found it stimulating and familiar to read about that era again.

Friday, July 31, 2020

‘I remember back in the 1960s – late ’50s, really – reading a comic book called ‘Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Story.’ Fourteen pages. It sold for 10 cents. And this little book inspired me to attend non-violence workshops, to study about Gandhi, about Thoreau, to study Martin Luther King, Jr., to study civil disobedience.’
                                                                                                                   – John Lewis

Thursday, July 30, 2020

‘The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country on Earth, with overincarceration a cruel and unjust reality of the American penal system. Disproportionately, people of color bear the brunt of systemic inequities in our conception and application of the law. The Million Book Project creates a rhetorical and functional response to this specifically American fact, and offers the book as both a resource and a symbol of freedom, restoring hope, dignity, meaning and purpose to those incarcerated.’ Here’s the link:

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The books people have sought out to read during the pandemic. It’s been a time for readers to binge on books:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

After yesterday’s post of the cafe window, here is an essay about writing in cafes. Will the habit return after the pandemic? I’ve always taken notes in cafes. I used bar napkins as notebooks when I used to drink. Nothing was finer than sitting in a quiet tavern in the afternoon scribbling notes that way. This is a good piece on writing and places some people go to do it:

Monday, July 27, 2020

The coffee shop THiNK a block from where I live has good people working there and good coffee and food, and they try to do more. It just reopened for takeout. There are a few other shops of theirs in the city. Each one fits where they are. Regulars are waiting for it to fully open up again. It was a great place to read and write. Art students drew things in notebooks. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

This morning I was listening to WNYC the local NPR station. ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett came on. It was a show from 2013, a conversation with John Lewis. You think you’ve heard all you need this week maybe. Well, this is better than that. Click on it below. He mentions the African proverb above:

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The New Yorker today posted the review they did in 1974 of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s All the President’s Men.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I can still see the big TV in front of me. I was lying on the floor my head propped up on one arm. Maybe I was smoking a cigarette in the other hand. It was 1968. June. I was home in our family living room. My father was behind me in a chair. There wasn’t tension between us that day. But there was often tension between us then. Like a lot of fathers and sons then, we saw things differently. Why don’t you guys at school get a haircut? I think the army might do you some good. Not that day though. Bobby Kennedy, our New York Senator Kennedy, was on the train to Arlington. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

‘I loved going to the library. It was the first time I ever saw Black newspapers and magazines like JET, Ebony, the Baltimore Afro-American, or the Chicago Defender. And I’ll never forget my librarian.’
                                     ― John Lewis, March: Book One