From the Archives: Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is almost here, and we would like to give thanks to all who have taken part in one of the Library Foundation’s educational or cultural programs over the last 20 years. To keep you company as you hunker down in the kitchen this week, here’s a selection of free podcasts from our ALOUD archives that reflect on themes of gratitude. And if you want to get a jumpstart on your gift giving this season, consider our commemorative USB drive, which has over 20 hours of audio podcasts from some of ALOUD’s most memorable programs, now available from the Library Store.


Salman Rushdie
Freedom, Literature, and Living on the Run





Terry Tempest Williams
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice





Eric Overmyer
Catastrophe, Survival, Music and Renewal: New Orleans Culture Post-Katrina




Father Gregory Boyle, Luis J. Rodríguez
An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing 


Celebrating the Champions of the Los Angeles Public Library

On Sunday supporters of the Library Foundation gathered at the downtown Central Library to kick-off an evening celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Foundation. The Library was festively illuminated with pink lights growing brighter as the sun went down. After cocktails in the Maguire Garden, a marching jazz quartet led (some dancing) guests over to the California Club for dinner. For the last 25 years, the Library Awards Dinner has honored authors, philanthropists, individuals, foundations, and corporations who share a commitment to the Los Angeles Public Library. This year the Literary Award went to Salman Rushdie and the Light of Learning Award went to Sharon and Nelson Rising.

Salman Rushdie with author and board member Attica Locke and City Librarian John Szabo.

Before guests heard from honorees, the Library Foundation’s chair of the Board of Directors, Carla Christofferson, enthusiastically welcomed everyone, and reveled in the news that the dinner had raised over $1 million in funds to help support technology, educational, and cultural programs offered in all 73 libraries in the Los Angeles Public Library system.

Ken Brecher, the president of the Library Foundation, gave a touching tribute to Veronique Peck, who passed away last month. Veronique, along with her husband Gregory Peck, began the Gregory Peck Reading Series that has brought together renowned actors to read from beloved literature on the library stage. Veronique received the Light of Learning Award in 2009, and Gregory in 1996.

For this year’s Light of Learning honor, former California Senator John Tunney presented the Risings with their award for years of service to the library. Nelson, a real estate developer, first became involved when he helped with the plans for restoring the Central Library after the 1986 arson fire. Sharon, who has always loved to read and to volunteer for causes that benefit the greater good, has long been a champion of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Before the new City Librarian John Szabo presented the Literary Award, actor Bill Pullman read from Rushdie’s new memoir Joseph Anton. It did not go unnoticed that Pullman, famous for playing the President in the film Independence Day and giving a spirited monologue about freedom, was chosen to bring to life the words of a man who was forced to wage a real-life battle for his freedom of speech. Rushdie was very touched by Pullman’s performance, and joked about how his own writing (and life) seems like a plot for a Hollywood script.

In his acceptance speech, Rushdie defended the importance of libraries as the keepers of literature, although the form that books take may change, the need for stories will always exist. Even as a kid checking out comics from his lending library in Bombay, Rushdie recognized how special that exchange was—getting to learn about kryptonite was fascinating! He credits those experiences making him into the writer he is today, joining the ranks of Carlos Fuentes, Tony Kushner, Harper Lee, and Norman Mailer as past Library Literary Awardees.

Stay tuned for the video of Salman Rushdie’s ALOUD conversation with Louise Steinman, where he discusses his new memoir on his time in hiding when a fatwa had been issued against him for his novel The Satanic Verses.

Thoughts On Salman Rushdie’s JOSEPH ANTON

This Sunday the Los Angeles Public Library will honor Salman Rushdie with the 2012 Literary Award for his commitment to literature, and on Monday he will sit down with ALOUD’s Louise Steinman for a conversation about his recently published memoir Joseph Anton. His memoir reflects on his time in hiding when a fatwa had been issued against him for his novel The Satanic Verses. Rushdie tells his own story from the 3rd person to reflect on the surreal magnitude of this time—his life turning into the plot of a spy novel. As readers will most certainly be captivated by his extraordinary memoir (buzz is brewing this week on The Daily Show and in The New Yorker and the Los Angeles Times, to name a few), Louise Steinman, below, grapples with his new book as she prepares for the upcoming ALOUD event.

On Living in Hiding

He couldn’t know how long he would be in hiding. He had to find a way to preserve his sanity. He had to find a way to maintain and even re-discover his “authentic self.”  Events that unfolded a continent away affected his everyday life, in a much more drastic way than it does our own. A tsunami in Japan? Debt crisis in Greece? We feel the after-effects when a cargo container washes up on shore, or the stock market jitters. But Rushdie felt the spasms in Tehran in his own home, in his own family, in his own mind.

On Literature in Hiding

Open any section of the book and you are plunged into matters of conscience, tales that will make you think and wonder. In 1986, before the fatwa, Rushdie attended the International PEN Congress in New York City.  He was “dragged into the heavyweight prize fight between Saul Bellow and Gunter Grass.”  He listened to Eastern European writers like Danilo Kiš and Czeslaw Milosz, Gyorgy Konrad and Ryszard Kapuscinski who were “setting their visions against the visionless Soviet regime.” He listened to Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, “articulating views not often heard on American platforms.” Listening to Vonnegut critique American power, and Bellows and Updike critiquing “the American soul,” Rushdie writes, “In 1986 it still felt natural for writers to claim to be, as Shelley said, ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world,’ to see literature as a lofty, transnational, transcultural force that could, in Bellow’s great formulation, ‘open the universe a little more.’”

Can we still believe in the force of literature to do just that? In this frightened world of ours, can we make such exalted claims for mere writers?  I agree with Rushdie that it is more difficult to do so, “but no less necessary.”

–Louise Steinman