Avid Reader: A Life

Avid Reader book coverAvid Reader: A Life
Robert Gottlieb
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 13, 2016), 352 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $16.66

I have been a book person all of my life, as you likely know. I spent eight years at B. Dalton Bookseller in three states and four different stores. Six of those years I was a store manager. I was therefore very familiar with Robert Gottlieb as the respected head of the Alfred A. Knopf division at Random House. I wasted no time, then, buying this book when I read of its release.

Gottlieb describes when, as a recent college graduate, his career counselor told him that the only industry he appeared to be suitable for was publishing, and the only publishing house that might be able to cope with his personality was Simon & Schuster. Fortunately the company had a job for him.

This was when Simon & Schuster had a rather poor reputation, mostly publishing things like crossword puzzle books. As he worked his way up in the company his own reputation and that of S&S as a publishing house grew. He eventually was well-respected enough that after Random House bought the storied Alfred A. Knopf publishing firm, they turned to him to take the helm.

Gottlieb spent a number of years at Knopf, where he published many of the most distinguished and popular authors in the United States and Europe. At at time when Condé Nast owned both Random House and The New Yorker magazine, the head of Condé Nast, Si Newhouse, asked Gottlieb to take over as editor of the magazine. Gottlieb was agreeable, but after a few years Newhouse grew restless and brought in Tina Brown of Cosmopolitan fame. Gottlieb suggests, somewhat indirectly, that his settlement at The New Yorker meant that he had nothing to worry about financially.

After leaving The New Yorker Gottlieb returned to Knopf as an editor. He describes enjoying this role, not having the worries of running the whole division.

I have not given away the whole narrative here. What I have presented is simply the framework. There is a lot of detail about Gottlieb’s personal life and there are many insights into the publishing world and into the pleasure and pain of working with authors. If you enjoy that sort of thing you will love this book.


Sacred Music Friday: Abide with Me

The St. Olaf Cantorei and congregation sing “Abide With Me”. Words by Henry F. Lyte; music by William H. Monk. James Bobb, organist and conductor

good work in the community

Our regional newspaper published a heartwarming story recently.

Press Enterprise mastheadThe Press-Enterprise in its local section described the work of the organization known as EEK & Friends. The group is a nonprofit that offers art and music programs at Hemet High School for special needs students. I immediately paid attention to the article because Hemet High is my alma mater.

EEK & Friends has started a theater program for students with special needs. Special needs students often can’t participate in the regular theater program for a number of reasons. One of the Hemet High special needs teachers is quoted as saying, “Some of my students tried being in regular theater classes but there were a lot of after-school requirements they couldn’t meet due to transportation issues.”

The program is led by eighteen-year-old Hemet High graduate Mercedes Evans. Evans had been a theater student at Hemet High all four years. She is currently taking theater classes at the local community college.

The program is funded by the Soboba Foundation. The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has long had a reservation at the Northeastern edge of the San Jacinto Valley. They were a poor tribe until Indian gaming became legal and they built a casino. Now as a wealthy tribe the foundation has done a lot of great work, as I have learned through my participation in the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The full story is here. It’s worth your time.

English Grammar Boot Camp

English Grammar Boot Camp coverEnglish Grammar Boot Camp
Professor Anne Curzan, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $44.95 when on sale, Video download $69.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back – the sale price will come around again

This is one of the most enjoyable of the over 60 Great Courses series I have purchased.

I generally buy lecture series from The Great Courses to listen to on my iPod when I’m out walking. When I discovered this course, however, I knew I would be missing out if I didn’t get the video. So I did something that I have never done: I got the video download. The vast majority of my Great Courses purchases have been audio downloads, and I have purchased a few DVD sets, but this was my first video download. I’m glad that’s what I did. I downloaded the Great Courses iPad app and was able to stream the course while sitting in my comfy chair.

I know Anne Curzan’s work. I very much enjoyed her course The Secret Life of Words. And this course was an absolute delight. Don’t let the title fool you, however. “Boot Camp” should not, in this context, be construed to mean “basic training.” This course is anything but basic. In the first lecture Curzan says, “I’m a complete geek about grammar—and I have a feeling that you’re here, taking this course, because you also care a lot about language and how to use it well. You’re in the right place.” (I was so taken by this course that I did something else I have never done: paid for the complete course transcript.) There is definitely a lot of grammar geek stuff in this course.

Curzan is a linguist, which means she is as much concerned with how language is actually used as she is with proper usage. In fact more so. That’s not to say that anything goes. She very much understands the need for proper grammar in written English, and she tells her students (and us) that using certain constructions might cause the writer to be judged by certain readers, or that a certain usage might simply be distracting to the reader. At the same time she points out that certain rules, such as not splitting an infinitive or not ending a sentence with a preposition, were established more or less arbitrarily.

If you are a grammar geek you will love this course. While I included the price of the audio download, I highly recommend the video.

my own Marie Callendar San Francisco Burger

On a recent Sunday Terry had planned to go grocery shopping for her marvelous Gumbo, which she was going to fix for Sunday evening. For Monday we agreed to pull out our frozen burgers to cook on the NuWave, so I added Kaiser rolls to the list. After shopping Terry reported the Kaiser rolls were sold out. I grumbled. She suggested that we use our sourdough bread. I was not excited about that until I started thinking.

Frisco BurgerSourdough. Burger. Marie Callendar San Francisco Burger. Hmmm. (Yes, I know it’s really the Frisco Burger, but as a long-time Bay Area snob I refuse to use that F word.) That burger is pretty much the only thing I have ever eaten at Marie Callendar’s (other than pie) for as long as I have ever eaten at Marie Callendar’s. And our local Marie Callendar’s closed some time back. The closest location is now a half hour away.

So, I thought, a homemade version must be out there on the Internet, mustn’t it? It must. It was. I made it.

It was marvelous.



back to routine

front planterPart of my weekly routine is to do yard work on Tuesday. I do it on Tuesday because trash, recycling, and yard waste pickup is on Wednesday. For two Tuesdays in a row I had to cut my yard work short so I could shower, get dressed, and get to my church profile committee meeting. It was good work we were doing. It was important work.

We wrapped up the work we needed to do that required us to meet as a group, and so last Tuesday I was able to spend all the time I felt was necessary to do yard work. That was a good feeling. Aside from yard work simply being a necessity, it’s good therapy for me. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And it’s good exercise.

So it was good to be back to the routine.

Sacred Music Friday: Bind Us Together

I know you understand why I selected this song for this particular Friday.