Monday, July 28, 2008

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Los Angeles Times:

My wife and I are distressed by the reports concerning the Times' plans to scrap the Sunday Book Review and downsize it to a few pages in the Calendar section.

While we understand the economic difficulties the Times and other print media are suffering through, the Sunday Book Review is not only a joy to read, but represents, in many ways, the cultural and intellectual health of our city.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles and my parents knew that the way their five children would make it in this world was through education and books. My parents introduced us to such writers as Mark Twain, Miguel de Cervantes, Willa Cather, and Ernest Hemingway. My fondest memories concern our frequent visits to the public library. Because of this emphasis on reading, my parents planted the seeds for their children's success. Four of us finished college, and three of us went on to earn advanced degrees. The schools represented in our family include Stanford, UCLA, Harvard and Loyola University. My parents went through tough economic times but they never denied us our dreams. Today, I'm a government lawyer and the author of four books of fiction.

Instilling in us the love of books was key to this success. My wife and I have filled our house with books which has been a perfect environment for our teenage son. In fact, he has been working on a novel and has written some very beautiful poetry.

We urge you to reconsider your decision regarding the Sunday Book Review.

Thank you for consideration.

Daniel A. Olivas
West Hills, CA

[If you wish to write to the Times regarding this issue, you may send your e-mails to: readers.rep@latimes.com and letters@latimes.com. For up-to-date news on the Times’ apparent collapse, visit Kevin Roderick’s LAObserved.]

◙ Award-winning author Montserrat Fontes has a new website. Fontes is the author of First Confession and Dreams of the Centaur, winner of the 1997 American Book Award for Fiction. Fontes is currently working on her most important novel to date, The General’s Widow. Her next appearance is at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, November 5-7, 2008.

◙ Interested in Latino urban literature? If so, visit Urbano Books.

◙ Mil gracias to Thania Muñoz for her wonderfully vibrant and informative reports from La Semana Negra these last couple of weeks. If you missed Saturday’s post, go here. Thania is back in Los Angeles now and I’m sure her head and heart still back in Spain.

◙ Over at the San Antonio Current, Gregg Barrios writes about “stellar boxing cards promoter Tony Padilla…” Check it out.

McCain Snubbed Arizona's Hispanic Flyboys.

◙ Gustavo “Ask a Mexican” Arellano is getting rave advance reviews for his forthcoming memoir, Orange County : I've Been Taking Notes (Simon & Schuster). Go here for the complete story. More on Arellano's book soon.

◙ Nicholas Thomson of the San Francisco Chronicle writes about the untimely passing of Alfred Arteaga, a celebrated poet and professor of Chicano and ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, who died July 4 of a heart attack at a hospital in Santa Clara. Arteaga was only 58. Thomson’s piece, which includes one of Arteaga’s poems, notes, in part:

Professor Arteaga was considered a pre-eminent academic in postcolonial and ethnic minority literature studies. He was well versed in Shakespeare and studied the Renaissance.

He combined his knowledge of Western thought with a fascination for indigenous traditions in the Americas to teach his students about contemporary Chicano literature's influence on American culture and write poetry that juxtaposed different cultural ideologies, according to a statement from the university.

He was a prolific poet who conjured up philosopher kings in postcolonial America, ensnaring both his characters and their landscape in the web that he called the "fabric of language," the statement said.


◙ Tomorrow, 826 Valencia will host a discussion of Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. Speakers will include Peter Orner, Dave Eggers, along with Daniel Alarcón and other guests. WHERE: 826 Valencia at 19th Street in San Francisco. WHEN: Tuesday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m. NOTE: Space is limited, so registration is recommended; RSVP to press@mcsweeneys.net. NOTE: 826 Valencia opened its doors to the public in April 2002 and, since then, it has enlisted help from hundreds of qualified volunteer tutors eager to teach students in the area. 826 Valencia also has seen the interest in its programs — from teachers and students in the area — steadily increase. 826 Valencia is thrilled to see the nod of approval from the community as it strives to provide free services to Bay Area teachers, students, and families. To see how you can help, visit here.

◙ All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

5 comments:

Thania said...

The LA times downsizing the Calendar section! I cant believe it, I'm a writing a letter too. I just got back from an event where literature plays the main role and reading that our city's newspaper its doing this, it just breaks my heart.

Lorna Dee Cervantes said...

Thanks for posting about the recent passing of my dear dear friend, Alfred. BTW, the photo of him you have posted is one that I took. I love this foto. Gracias.

Daniel Olivas said...

Thania: The Times is doing away with the Sunday Book section altogether...and collapsing its Sunday book coverage into a few pages in the Sunday Calendar. It's heartbreaking.

Lorna: It's a beautiful photo...sadly, I never met Alfred but I feel as though I knew him. So much love has poured out from those who did have the incredible luck of knowing him.

msedano said...

Unexpected consequences, or planned? What's to become of the renowned LA Times Festival of Books next Spring? Will it be moved from UCLA to Skid Row as a reflection of Book Review's disappearance?

Yokel (TKS) said...

Daniel, yours is a well-articulated treatise on the plummeting value of reading and thoughtful discourse in our country. I hope your words strike a chord with the folks at the LA Times. Thanks for taking the helm on this one.