Beginning of a memoir

My wife often importunes me to finish a writing project, any writing project, so that I can bring in money and keep her in the manner into which she’s accustomed.

I have my novel, which I’ve been working on for longer than I care to remember. And I have another project which began to take shape after the Las Vegas massacre.

But, last night, I began to formulate yet another project, something a bit light, a bit jaunty, a bit devil-may-care, about a topic on which I know much: being a modern librarian.

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On “Between the World and Me”

I have discovered the joys of audiobooks. As an Angeleno, who spends some time behind the wheel, an audiobook streaming on my Bluetooth stereo is a veritable boon. I always resisted them, as I didn’t want someone else’s voice in my head. But they’ve made the reading experience so much easier and efficient.

The first audiobook I listened to was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. A book aimed at his son, in the line of De adminstrando imperio, it is a tour de force, detailing what it’s like to be black and American.

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Confessions of an Anglophile: Of Roman emperors and naked boobs

Captain Lucius Aelius Picard, or, a hairy Patrick Stewart

OK, look, I was a weird child. My brothers were 10 and 12 years older than me, which had positives and negatives. They had already been through what I was going to go through, so I had an idea of what to expect. But they were also almost autonomous adults, so even though we were a household of two parents and three children, I was pretty much on my own.

But my oldest brother Tony acted as a surrogate father at times, and the one main thing he shared with me was a love of all things British. PBS—back when it was good and would show wonderful programming—was on constantly in my apartment. And this was a time when independent television channels were actually “independent”, and combed far and wide for programming to fill their schedules.

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So of course I make my return to blogging on Bloomsday.

For those who don’t know what “Bloomsday” is: June 16, 1904, the date on which the story of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” takes place, starting with plump Buck Mulligan having his morning shave and ending with Molly Bloom’s mind unfolding in wonderful, ecstatic language. In between, the main protagonists—Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom—crisscross Dublin, missing each other, until near the end they come together, our 20th century Odysseus and Telemachus.

In high school I read “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. I held off on “Ulysses” until I took a seminar at UCLA. And then, I was hooked.

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.

“Ulysses” is nothing short of life. The life of people. The life of a city. The life of a nation. The life of history. There had been nothing in the Western canon like it before it, and, aside from “A la recherche du temps perdu”, nothing like it since. (“Gravity’s Rainbow” comes close, but Joyce still pips Pynchon.) It is a meditation on history, destiny, the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other. It is a story of outsiders in a world made up of outsiders. (Even the people who think they are of the elect are in fact as exiled as the rest of us.) It is a story about finding your way home, or at least finding the beginning of the path towards home. It is a love story: of a love for humanity, and of a love for that other person without whom you cannot live. Its comedy is of the sort found in just living life. Its tragedy is of the same type. Continue reading “Bloomsday”

Authors reading picture books

So, I’m a children’s librarian. I’ve been one for 6 years. I didn’t start out as one, but life has a funny way of putting you where you need to be.

My library mostly has toddlers and slightly older kids. So I don’t read too much juvenile fiction. But I devour picture books.

Here are a few awesome picture book authors reading their books for your afternoon moment of Zen.


Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Jennifer Black: We Are One

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A taste of my novel

So, my previous blog, Novels in Progress, was supposed to be a virtual fiction workshop, where I posted my novel and got feedback. I soon realized that this might not be the best idea, if I wanted to actually publish. So, I’m not going to post every chapter of The Genealogies on this brand spanking new blog either. But, for a Sunday diversion, here’s the first chapter, “Opening” (with a nod towards Philip Glass for the title).

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On “The Sense of an Ending”

I read Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending early last year. And it still lingers in me. Its brief 163 pages belie the universe it packs in them. And that universe is one of loss and disappointment, which, now that I’m a middle-aged man, seem to speak to me: roads not taken, decisions made or not made, an entire alternate life—a better life?—left to some other reality.


This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.

I so often, growing up, thought my life would be like a book. Don’t we all? I’d be successful, prosperous, among the gliteratti. My best friend once had a dream that I had just returned to Los Angeles from a meeting with a New York publisher in time for her wedding. That’s the way we thought.

I’m not saying that my life is awful. Far from it. I have a loving spouse. I have wonderful fur-kids. I have a job I love. I have friends and family I adore. I’m happy with the path I chose.

But did I choose it? And how much of this path I’m on was determined by my youthful fantasies, the idea that my life should be like a great story, unfolding, with a neat, happy ending? Surely at age 20 I thought I’d be a securely published writer by age 45. (Actually, I always had an idea that I’d die young. I didn’t want to age. Age was where fire died.)

Literature is plotted. It is laid out. Even when it seems without plot, there is an intelligence putting one word after another, one scene following upon the previous.

Life, if you’re lucky, sometimes bends to your will. More often it careens wildly, throwing up hardships and joys, rain on the just and unjust. As Don DeLillo said, “all plots lead towards death’; but you don’t even need a plot for that. Life will, eventually, end the same for all, by ending. With the end of a book, the reader can imagine a vista opening up past the last page. I assume some of the religious reading this say the same happens for life. I’m not holding my breath on that one.

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