Books acquired: “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto.
Books read: “Heart Like a Starfish,” Allen Callaci; “Empire,” Lewis DeSoto.
Only two books this month, neither one very long, but there are two unusual aspects for me: 1) both are local and 2) both were published in 2016. Who says I can’t mix it up?
“Heart Like a Starfish” is a memoir about a librarian/rocker’s heart transplant (at age 47) and his recovery (coming along excellently). It’s no Lifetime movie tie-in: Callaci, who lives in Claremont, purposely jumbles the timeline and he works in plenty of references to his passions, which include Springsteen and Star Wars. He’s a friend, one about whom I’ll be writing in my column, and this is published by my own publisher. But it’s pretty good.
“Empire” is a photo book about the Inland Empire by native son DeSoto, a professional photographer and artist, and published in collaboration with Riverside’s Inlandia Institute. The photos emphasize nature, desert and the less-lovely aspects of the Empire: dead grapevines, river washes, an auto scrapyard, the Salton Sea. I can imagine many people flipping through it and thinking, “What the hell?”
But I could appreciate his viewpoint, his single-frame photos and his panoramas, and his essays are arguably as strong or stronger than the images, as the longtime Napa resident recalls his San Bernardino boyhood. He writes of grid streets, stucco boxes, smog, asthma, mountains, canyons, the electrical feeling before the Santa Anas blow and the vineyards and orchards that were replaced by big-box stores, warehouses and parking lots.
“No place I have experienced,” he writes in the introduction, “offers the full range of elements that compel and inspire — the vast public works, the neighborhoods both grand and beat down, the air fragrant with citrus and acrid from smog and industry. Cool pine breezes waft off the snow, and hot blasts of wind are scented with creosote. It is the Empire. It is everything.”
Many photographers, by the way, can barely spell, so to have one in DeSoto who writes better than me is, frankly, discouraging. I may have to quit and go into retail.
Or maybe just sit home and read. As this two-slim-book month attests, my reading life is in a kind of lull. I’m 100 pages into a 500-page book, and 160 pages into a 300-page book, with hopes of finishing both this month. (Both are from the 20th century and have nothing to do with this area, putting me back on familiar ground, in a weird way.) Over the weekend I read a total of about 10 pages, in between CD and Blu-ray booklets, newspapers and comic books, all of which are reading but none of which count. Matters improved Monday, when I read 40 pages. Maybe I’m back on track.
How about you folks? How was your April, and did you read anything good? Or at least more than 10 pages over the weekend?
Next month: two books, if I get off the dime.