Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

(Warning: This post contains language not allowed in my classroom.) Finally, vacation. I finished reading Charles Bukowski’s first novel, Ham on Rye, last week while taking a class on developing curriculum using an arts integration approach based on “Teaching for Understanding” which may mean something to you if you’re in elementary or secondary education.  If not, I would explain it to you but C.J. has banned me from … Continue reading Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

Jack London State Park, in nearby Glen Ellan, CA,  has been holding quarterly book discussion groups this year, hosted by professors Dr. Susan Nuernberg and Dr. Iris Jamahl Dunkle  who are working on a book about Charmain Kittredge London’s creative life. We missed The Call of the Wild, held earlier this year, but made it to yesterday’s discussion of The Sea Wolf, a largely forgotten classic that really deserves … Continue reading The Sea Wolf by Jack London

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Seven Places of the Mind by Joan Didion

Joan Didion was one of the best chroniclers of life in California.  The essays collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem make up the best portrait of California in the 1960’s that you’re likely to ever find. I hope people are still reading them fifty years from now.  The non-fiction essay is typically so tied up with its own time that it fails to remain widely read after its initial … Continue reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Seven Places of the Mind by Joan Didion

The World Rushed in by J.S. Holiday — Chapter 10 to the End — California and Back Home

Truth be told, once William Swain arrived in California, his letters became a bit dull.  The journey across the plains and over the mountains offered a wide variety of hardships, enough to fill his stories for the rest of his life, (His wife would refer to him as “My 49’er” when he died decades later)  but the mining camps featured day after day of digging, … Continue reading The World Rushed in by J.S. Holiday — Chapter 10 to the End — California and Back Home

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

I confess: I didn’t get it. I did read it, but there was more skimming towards than the end than is legally allowed in thirteen states. N. Scott Momaday’s story of a young Native American man named Abel who is torn between his ancestral homeland and modern Los Angeles, left me wondering what was going on most of the time. Though, strangely, it also made … Continue reading House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

L.A. Literary Match-Up: Skylight Books vs. The Last Bookstore.

I was in Los Angeles last week for the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs)  convention last week which was a lot of fun.  I attended three days worth of panels on writing and publishing, got more useful material for my classroom than I expected, and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of quality literary journals on display in the exhibit hall.  I knew … Continue reading L.A. Literary Match-Up: Skylight Books vs. The Last Bookstore.

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

This passage may contain everything I loved about M.F.K. Fishers memoir, The Gastronomical Me. The first time, on our way to Germany, we had sat downstairs while our meal was being made.  There were big soft leather chairs, and on the dark table was a bowl of the first potato chips I ever saw in Europe, not the uniformly thing uniformly golden ones that come out … Continue reading The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday: chapters 6 and 7

Sept. 13.  This morn while getting up the cattle, the men saw a catamount, but as they had no firearms with them they allowed the fellow to go off unmolested. So this is probably what comes from being over-educated. When I read the above entry in William Swain’s diary for Sept. 13, 1949, I thought ‘catamount?’  Isn’t that an archaic term for gay man? Were … Continue reading The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday: chapters 6 and 7

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I am one of Miranda July’s biggest fans–6’5″ and built like a line backer, okay, one and a half linebackers. I loved her wonderful strange movie Me, You and Everyone We Know.   I think her website/artsite is terrific and her short story collection No One Belongs Her More Than You is one of my favorites. Anyone who can come up with a story about a swim team … Continue reading The First Bad Man by Miranda July

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Does knowing an author’s biography affect reading his work?  It’s not possible for anyone who has seen the documentary Chris and Don: A Love Story to read Isherwood’s novel, A Single Man, without connecting its story to Isherwood’s own life.  Christopher Isherwood met the love of his life, Don Bachardy, when he was 48 and Don was just 16.  In spite of this eyebrow raising age difference, … Continue reading A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Benediction by Jim Arnold

Benediction is about Ben Schmidt, a forty-something gay man, living in San Francisco.  Ben is successful at work, promoting his first independent movie on the side, seeing his handsome younger upstairs neighbor, over  decade sober when his doctor tells him that he has a fatal form of prostrate cancer rare in men his age.  Because the fatal form of prostrate cancer typically strikes older men who are not expected to … Continue reading Benediction by Jim Arnold

The World Rushed In Ch. IV: Tracks of the Elephant (Ft. Kearny to Ft. Laramie)

Three things struck me from this section of William Swain’s account of his journey to the California gold fields in 1849.  The World Rushed In by J.S. Holiday compiled from the letters William Swain and his family exchanged, augmented with sections for the letters of other 49’ers to fill out the story. The firs thing that struck me this chaptert is how important it was to … Continue reading The World Rushed In Ch. IV: Tracks of the Elephant (Ft. Kearny to Ft. Laramie)