Banned Books Week 2014


SUNDAY MARKED the beginning of Banned Book Week. I am starting with Flannery O’Connor. How about you?

For a list of frequently challenged books, please visit the American Library Association’s site here.


“A Nice Neighborhood to Have Bad Habits In”

The Big Sleep

“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.

I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

― Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

First published on this day February 6, 1939

“I promise, I swear, I won’t ever turn 10.”

THIS INTERVIEW has been on my mind since I heard it a week-and-a-half ago, driving home through thick, sludgy, rush hour traffic. Writer and illustrator, Maurice Sendak talks to “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross about his latest, Bumble-ardy, about an orphaned pig who has reached nine-years old and had never had a birthday party.

I fell deep into Sendak’s serrated personal narrative — about his own childhood, identity, loss, grief and the beauty of big trees and love. Reporters often despise phone interviews, they can create uncomfortable or unresolvable remove, but Terry Gross was able dissolve the distance between them. It reminded of why I love radio so much.

A pullquote from his interview:

On his life

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

The full interview is here:

(image of Maurice Sendak via

Voice (10)

“That night as I lay in bed, a June storm rolled in over town and it thundered loudly, sharp cracks like a series of detonations mingled with resonant booms above me, echoing again and again and again. Soon after came the rushing noise of thick, fast rain outside. I remembered the great winds of my childhood, remembered waking up in the morning to see that branches had fallen all over the street. I remembered the enchanted stillness that came before the twister or the tempest, as if the whole earth were holding its breath, and the eerie green color that tinged the sky. I remembered the immensity of the world.”

Siri Hustvedt
from — The Summer Without Men

photo via the guardian uk

Voice (9)

“Then the last two boys arrive, Coyle and a cousin of his from Mississippi. Anders has never met Coyle’s cousin before and will never see him again. He says hi with the rest but takes no further notice of him until they’ve chosen sides and some asks the cousin what position he wants to play. “Shortstop,” the boy says. “Short’s the best position they is.” Anders turns and looks at him. He wants to hear Coyle’s cousin repeat what he’s just said, but he knows better than to ask. The others will think he’s being a jerk, ragging the kid for his grammar. But that isn’t it, not at all – it’s that Anders is strangely roused, elated, by those final two words, their pure unexpectedness and their music. . . . . . . . . . . .”

from “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff
And a million thanks to Ann D., because now you can hear Wolff read it right here

My Other City

WELL, it’s certainly not a secret how much I adore San Francisco even though so many San Franciscans still feel it necessary to run L.A. through the mud — but still…. Anyway, I just finished tinkering with the kicker of a piece I’m writing about Rebecca Solnit’s beautifully, transporting new book, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas which peels back those passions we have about the cities we adopt as our own — we don’t just inhabit some quadrant on the grid, but how that place becomes part of us.

I lived in San Francisco twenty years ago — no, more than that — but it is a dynamic, living part of me. I feel as if I know it like my own city, particularly after many years of many visits annually. Learning it like a native would — its secret spots and its secret roads, its quiet spaces.

Solnit writes in her introduction:

“San Francisco contains many more than eight hundred thousand living maps, because each of these citizens contains multiple maps: areas of knowledge, rumors, fears, friendships, remembered histories and facts, alternate versions, desires, the map of everyday activity versus the map of occasional discovery, the past versus the present, the map of this place in relations to others that could be confined to a few neighborhoods or could include multiple continents of ancestral immigration routes and lost homelands . . . . .

A city is marked by us as much as we are marked by it.

Tom Waits ~ Poet

This will be worth waiting for.

This just up on the L.A. Times book blog, “Jacket Copy”:

The poetry of musician Tom Waits will see publication next year in the book “Hard Ground,” published by the University of Texas Press. “Hard Ground” is a collaboration with photojournalist Michael O’Brien and will be a visual and poetic look at homelessness.

It is not the first time Waits’ poetry has appeared in print (even if NME says it is). Waits attended a poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque, the literary center in Venice, Calif. A poem he read there — an early version of “Diamonds on My Windshield” — was printed in the Sunset Palms Hotel, an occasional early ’70s ‘zine (the cover featured a line drawing by Charles Bukowski).

The rest here.

The book is due next March. Waits fans know already that his lyrics are poetic, grainy “book movies” (as Jack Kerouac would say) on their own. It will be interesting to see the work on the page not accompanied by that incredible mouth-full-bottle-shards voice of his.

photo: via L.A. Times/Jacket Copy

“So it goes . . . “

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a sweet, small piece on the opening of the Kurt Vonnegut library in Vonnegut’s home town, Indianapolis, Indiana. The native son’s birthday was just a week and a half ago, November 11, Veterans’ Day — it would have been a fitting gift for a man who was once asked what book would he recommend to a child to get him/her interested in reading:

“Any damn book,” he quipped.

Vonnegut died in 2007. He was 84.

From the piece:

“All my jokes are Indianapolis,” Mr. Vonnegut said at a speech here in 1986. “All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”

Tourism officials hope the library will draw visitors from around the world to a city known more for auto racing than its literary scene.