Friend of the Library


I did something new today! I rearranged my schedule so I could volunteer at our local branch of the County of Los Angeles Public Library.  I’ve been a member of the Friends of the Library for several years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to do more than pay a membership fee.

A dozen or more volunteers showed up to set up for this weekend’s used book sale. It was a lot of fun, really.  We set up tables, labeled them with some broad categories, and started opening boxes of donations that have come in over the months. There were a couple of boxes that, if they came from one household, made me think I’d like the people who gave up these books. People criss-crossed the big room pondering categories and giving each other advise as to whether something was general fiction or a classic, etc.

When I saw that the non-fiction table was getting too full, I started organizing it into subcategories like military history, politics, science, film, etc. Some subcategories moved off to their own tables, like animal stories, biography and business.  I also organized the cookbook section and had to keep myself from picking up some of the older titles, like a couple of vintage books issued by the Mushroom Council or on party foods.

Our reward was snacks and beverages, and a big order of pizza at noon. Also the opportunity to take a couple of books home. I didn’t go looking for trouble on the other tables. I brought home two books with a promise to myself that I can donate them next time around: The Name Above the Title by Frank Capra and 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Women’s History by Constance Jones.

I was so happily busy that I forgot to take a picture. This shot is of the books that Hydra donated. I added some more. It’s funny how unpacking his books and shepherding them to the science fiction table or elsewhere tugged at my heart. I almost sneaked Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell–a book about a man and his relationship with some Scottish otters–back home. I hadn’t seen it in years.

Really nice break in my work week.  I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Soap Is Political by Ruth Goring (book review)

Soap Is Political

Soap Is Political by Ruth Goring

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In “Soap is Political,” Ruth Goring lead me to the beautiful scarred heart of Columbia with grace and compassion. I stopped often to savor the linguistic gems she left along the trail, but I also felt compelled to keep moving along, like walking to the center of a contemplative labyrinth and back.

Many of the poems include dates below their titles. The book is organized not chronologically, but with emotional continuity. I felt I was in good hands, that I would be shown things only when I was prepared to see them.

I don’t want to tell you too much, but some of my favorites were “Flood,” “Arithmetic,” and the title poem, “Soap is Political.” “Incursion” brought tears to my eyes.

This is one of those books I will keep on my shelf to read again and again.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (review!)

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spoiler Alert: I don’t reveal plot points in this review, but I might blow some thematic discoveries you might like to make on your own. I will say that it satisfied everything I want in a novel…Good story, thought provoking, a vivid sense of its time…I could go on and on. You may want to read it beforey full review and then tell me if you agree or not!

Oh, how I love this book. Anthony Doerr spins an intricate, gripping story while inviting us to meditate on the nature of time and chance vs. destiny.

I adore a book that asks me to think big thoughts. It made me reflect on my own experience, the vast number of turns and choices I made–some consciously, some not—in order to meet the man I married, to live where I do, work at my job.Tracing it backward, it tends to feel like an impossible sequence of coincidences, or like fate.

Having just finished the book, I’m also pondering the many mysteries we live with. The things we can never know about the lives of even those with whom we are intimate.

Some of my smart, well-read friends love this, and others it didn’t grab. Just another example of the puzzle of literature.
I was so moved by the end, I teared up.

I want to read it for the first time all over again.

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Visit to The Last Bookstore


Don’t panic!  Not really the only remaining bookstore.  It’s a really cool bookstore in downtown Los Angeles called The Last Bookstore and it’s also a venue for music and readings, and there are artists’ studios and shops on the mezzanine. Wow.  We visited on Saturday.

It’s in the Spring Arts Tower, which I didn’t realize was as cool as it is until I Googled to write this post.   Check out this video about The Spring Arts Tower.  A restaurant on the 9th floor!?  What!?


The obligatory shot from the second floor balcony.  Stage platform on the bottom left. Artist’s shop above it.


It’s housed in an old bank building, complete with vaults, some of which you can enter.


On the way up to the labyrinth.  Translation: Our Lady the Queen of The Last Bookstore of Los Angeles.


Enter at your own risk.  Beyond this area is a section of $1.00 each used books, sometimes organized by spine color.


There’s cool artwork hiding in many nooks and corners, so it’s fun to just walk around and experience the store as well as to search for books.


Real working fire extinguisher.  Why not?


Tunnel made from books. There are several book sculptures around the store.  Simultaneously wonderful and mildly horrifying to a bibliophile.

I bought a graphic novel, a graphic non-fiction book and a couple of blues CDs.  Sweet!

Old Dog Learns New Trick Thanks to Ex Libris Anonymous


Treacy Colbert posted on Facebook about this company Ex Libris Anonymous that recycles old book covers into new journals, and I was charmed.  They not only sell journals made from books that they find ($14.00 each), but they’ll make your old book cover into a new journal for $11.00.

I bought this book for $1.00 at a junk shop a couple of years ago. It was coming apart and some of the illustrations had been cut out. I thought I might cut some of them out myself, but never did.  Better!  I mailed the cover and some choice pages it to Ex Libris Anonymous and about two weeks later I received my new journal.

Email communications with Jacob at Ex Libris Anonymous were a lot of fun, too.  What a cool product and company!  They have a storefront in Portland which I would definitely stop by if I were up there: 916 SE 29th avenue, Portland, Or 97214



Adorable, right?


Originally a gift from good friends of the family?  Honorary aunt and uncle?


More salvaged pages.


Ah, the blank pages await!  I’ve kept a journal since I was 12, but I have never used an unlined one before.  I am the old dog. This will be my new trick.

Maybe it will encourage me to sketch more in my notebook.   Now I can relax and use up the last one, which is a gorgeous leather Martin Guitar journal Hydra gave me. Many of my old journals are hardbound legal notebooks that cost about $30.00 each these days and are hard to find.  For years I decoupaged them with interesting images.  There are a few blanks in the closet, because I’m like that about some stuff.

Buy A Book in 2012– It’s Not Too Late!


There’s still time to buy a book for yourself or someone you love, like or admire.  Even if that someone is yourself, books are the greatest gifts.  In my family, Christmas wouldn’t really be complete without a book under the tree.  It’s not only the thing itself, it’s also the promise of spending some of the winter holidays wrapped up in a story.

And I’m asking you, yes, to buy a book from a bookstore.  A new book.  And pay full price for it.  Just one, okay?  The rest you can find deals on, I promise.

Some of the most avid readers I know pride themselves on buying only used books and then passing them around endlessly.  I’m right with you. I shop the library book store, the bargain shelves, deals on Amazon, etc.  But I do try to buy at least a few full price books every year.

Because if I don’t, who will?  The answer to that question is, the people who define what will be published next year.  If everyone buys The Help, whatever you think of that, publishers will look for something else along those same lines.

Stumped for a gift?  Don’t know what they’d like?  I always like it when someone gives me a book that they really enjoyed in the past year. It’s a good way to find things I wouldn’t usually find.

What books did you buy this year?

How’d I put my money where my mouth is this year?  I bought the following books at full price. Rather more nonfiction than in years previous because I was feeling a little burned by fiction.  I was actually surprised in going back over my Good Reads list to find so many I paid full price for.

Frozen by Carla Tomaso

Jack 1939  by Francine Matthews

We Were Stardust by Kathrin King Segal,

Naked, Drunk and Writing by Adair Lara

The First Twenty Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The Memoir Project:  A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marian Roach

The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

The 90-Day Rewrite both by Alan Watt.

Happy Sad Art at Amoeba

We went to the amazing Amoeba Music on Sunday to pick up a gift for a friend and of course found some things for ourselves.  Including the latest/last? Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar CD, Little Blue Egg.

This painting is cool and happy-making, but it is a little sad that it’s done on the spines of stacks of books.  Yipes.

We were on our way to possibly the coolest surprise party ever.  The birthday girl, a wonderful playwright, thought she was going to be on a panel discussing the collaboration between playwrights and actors.   What actually happened was a reading of excerpts from her plays, done by terrific actors.  We laughed, we cried, we ate cake.

There’s Got to Be a Morning After

The color’s weird in this due to my tinkering with the camera settings, but you can see how cozy it was this morning.    I had my Christmas books around me, and my new Kindle in my lap (more on this soon!) and the just delivered Los Angeles Times in my hands. Pot of tea made with the hand blended chai my sister sent.  Heavenly!


I seem to recall that it was just yesterday that I thought I would never have to eat again, ever.   But then the cinnamon crisps CuzP brought caught my eye.

And Dodger’s.



He spent a good part of the day looking out the window.

The view from the outside when I went out to get the paper.  Sweetie!

Just hung out at home all day, playing with new toys and reading a lot.  I’m going to head out for a quick hike before it gets completely dark.

Can I Interest Anyone in a Nice Book of Tea?

I need to get rid of some books!   I’m going to donate a bunch to the Acton/Agua Dulce library, but first I thought I’d see if anyone is interested in tea books.

Right after I went to China in the 90’s I was intent on learning everything I could about tea.  There is a lot of interesting lore behind a cup of good tea.

The Republic of Tea’s The Book of Tea and Herbs is a quick, light introduction to varieties of tea, and it’s apparently out of print.  The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura is considered a classic; this is a first paperback edition printed in 1964.   James Norwood Pratt’s of The Tea Lover’s Treasury is considered a modern classic.   Alexandra Stoddard’s Tea Celebrations delves into the uses of tea as a community-building drink as well as a way for an individual to separate from the busy world for a few moments.

Let me know if you’d like any of these.  It’s hard to part with books, but I’d feel better knowing they’re going to good homes.

12) The Republic of Poetry

Oh my gosh. How can so few words be so intensely moving?

I was trying to read these poems one by one, but gave in this morning, started over from the beginning and read them in a single breathtaking session in front of the fireplace.

The title poem is a writer’s fantasy. When I read “The God of the Weather Beaten Face” to my husband (Vietnam vet, Wilfred Owen fan) we both teared up. “The Poet’s Coat” moved me similarly. “General Pinochet at the Book Store” dropped my jaw. “Rules for Captain Ahab’s Provincetown Poetry Workshop” made me laugh. I could go on and on.

I want to send a copy of this to every disheartened writer who fears our words don’t matter. This book is living breathing proof that they do.