Category: ALOUD

  • Time Regained: Reading Józef Czapski in Billings, MT (about Marcel Proust, the Gulag, and reading as salvation)

    Time Regained: Reading Józef  Czapski in Billings, MT  (about Marcel Proust, the Gulag, and reading as salvation)

    He carried with him to Moscow letters of introduction from General Anders to the most influential people in Stalin’s inner circle. After waiting for many days at the Hotel Metropole, he was finally summoned to a waiting room at the notorious Lubyanka building, the headquarters of the Soviet secret police, where he was met by a “well-fed official” in a gray lambskin hat and collar who “looked a bit like Chichikov from Gogol’s Dead Souls.”

  • Dreaming in Russian

    [drawing: Vlada Ralko] News from Ukraine trickles into my weekend haven in Ojai Valley. I peel an orange fresh from the tree, exulting in the scent. A woman in Maidan grates beets for borscht for weary protesters, her fingers stained blood red. The crisis keeps Russia in the headlines and the nerves on alert. It’s […]

  • Being Heard

    It’s been an emotional and gratifying week, giving my first book talk on The Crooked Mirror, being interviewed by the wonderful Jack Miles at ALOUD (video, podcast to be posted soon) and receiving two deeply thoughtful and beautifully written reviews– one by poet Piotr Florzck in the Los Angeles Review of Books (and thank God […]

  • What a Freedom Fighter Looks Like

    Justice Albie Sachs, a veteran of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, perches on a table in the lecture hall in the law school at USC. He’s a thin handsome man with an expressive lined face and drooping eyes, wearing a patterned black and white silk long-sleeved shirt. The right sleeve dangles empty. He begins his […]

  • Thinking about Exits

    So many leave-takings in a life; some go unnoticed, some shake us to our foundations. Sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has long been fascinated by exits, from saying goodbye to her children leaving for school to the cataclysm of leaving a marriage. “We are taught to start our stories at the beginning, “ she writes. “We open […]

  • Woke Into Heron

    (heron dream drawing by Beth Thielen, c. 2012) Matilija poppies are blooming along the L.A. River… bright yellow and white, like fried eggs. I’m grateful to have an hour to ride my bike in what’s left of the morning overcast, to let my thoughts whir with my wheels while I inhale the unique salvia-sewage tang […]

  • Spring on Crete: An Appreciation of James Hillman (1926-2011)

    During the seventies and eighties my long-time friend, a painter, lived in Greece, on the island of Crete. In 1981, when spring beckoned after a long dark New York City winter, I scraped together the money to visit her there for the first time. My friend lived with her Greek husband, a musician from Athens, […]

  • The Song the Poet Sang: Remembering the life and times of Lew Welch

    [Forty years] have passed since the winter we hosted Reed College‘s poet in residence. We were living then on Southeast Schiller, in a tiny two-story house set back from the street behind three towering European birches. Dan had just graduated from Reed, and I was a sophomore studying American lit. Our friends lived in Reed […]

  • Paradise on Hope: On the 25th Anniversary of the Central Library fire

    “I have always thought that Paradise was a kind of library.” -Jorge Luis Borges On a November morning, a crowd soaks up the wan sun in the Maguire Gardens in front of Central Library. The lucky ones sip coffee out of paper cups, others slump in the stupor of the unslept. A black feral cat […]

  • Brian Turner reading at ALOUD

    Poet Brian Turner—a veteran of Iraq– read at the library as part of ALOUD last night. He read about exhausted Scheherezade falling off the Al-A’imma Bridge, about desert winds, and soldiers bleeding out. He read about child sobbing that his father was a “good man,” he read about headless Iraqi translators who appear in his […]