Final Jazz and Blues Concert of the Season in Library Park Coming Up Tuesday, August 12, “Groovin’ –A Smooth Jazz Party,” with Pat Loomis and Friends
The four themed concerts are sponsored by the Boston Public Library and the Friends of the South End Library. A generous grant from the Ann H. Symington Foundation last year helped pay for the events then, as well as this year. All concerts start at 6:30 PM.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12:
Groovin’ — A Smooth Jazz Party: featuring Pat Loomis (alto and soprano sax); Antonio Shiell Loomis (guitar); Frank Wilkins (keyboard); Christoff Glaude (bass); Joaquin Santos (drums).
The first concert was held Tuesday, June 24, with the theme of Groovin’ High — The Music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. It featured Pat Loomis (alto
saxophone); Scott Aruda (trumpet); Antonio Shiell Loomis (guitar); Jesse Williams (bass) and Tom Arey (drums). The second, on July 8, was called Back at the Chicken Shack, a Soul-Jazz Retrospective, with Pat Loomis (alto saxophone); Antonio Shiell Loomis (guitar); Ken Clark (organ); Benny Benson (drums). The most recent show took place July 29, with the title of Impressions: The Music of John Coltrane, also with Pat Loomis (alto and soprano saxophone); Antonio Shiell Loomis (guitar); Jesse Tate (piano); Dan Winshall (bass); Dave Fox (drums)
Bill Landay, Author of the Thriller “Defending Jacob,” about a Son Accused of Murder, Says ‘What Makes a Good Father’ is Constantly on his Mind
When Bill Landay presented a draft of his third novel to his agent a few years ago, provisionally called The Combat Zone, she trashed it. Landay, who had written two award-winning crime novels, Mission Flats and The Strangler, went home with “my tail between my legs,” he told the South End Library’s audience last month. And proceeded to “cannibalize” the manuscript for what he could salvage. One of the draft’s characters was based on a case he had heard about when still a Middlesex district attorney under Tom Reilly, the state’s attorney general at the time. It involved a homicide detective in a seaside town on Long Island, NY, whose father had been executed for murder, and whose son was accused of killing a drug dealer in self defense. It was made into a movie starring Robert de Niro, City by the Sea. The generational shuffle between murderers and practitioners of law enforcement also became the central theme in Landay’s crime novel, Defending Jacob, which has now sold 1.3 million copies, with sales –especially through book clubs where the thriller is a favorite selection– still going strong.
Leaning comfortably against a library’s oak table, Landay explained to the more than fifty listeners who came to the last author’s talk of the season on June 10 that when he was a Middlesex DA, he always felt “the action was elsewhere.” You only learn about it through the witnesses,” he added. When he turned thirty, he decided to take a stab at writing about that sort of action. He cashed out some of his retirement money, moved into his mother’s basement and tended bar on the side. His first two crime novels were well received but had meager sales. Defending Jacob took off quickly, even though it was his third novel, often a hard sell. Set in Newton, MA, where devotion to family life, professional success and the drive for student achievement reigns supreme, the novel describes in excruciating detail the emotional toll exacted by the community on a family whose son is accused of murdering a classmate who bullied him. The father was a respected DA but, during the trial, it’s revealed his father was in jail for life for murder, something he had not even told his wife. Does one ever know one’s spouse, one’s child, is the theme running through the novel, a question Landay holds up and dissects in this gripping thriller, while not giving away the answer, even if there is one.
Landay’s personal life includes raising two young sons and having an estranged relationship with his own father. He said he constantly asks himself what it means to be a good father, physically and emotionally. He finds it a ‘sobering’ thought that everything he does is watched by his kids, who learn from it. “It’s like having a spy in the house,” he said. The author also commented that, when a couple is expecting a child, everyone hopes nothing goes wrong physically. “But what if it is a difficult child,” he asked: “Emotionally and psychically is where the high stakes are because you can’t divorce your child. You can’t meet the baby first. The personality and temperament of that child will be in your life forever.” Calling himself not so much a writer as “an ordinary guy who writes books,” Landay likes to go to schools and show kids “how it is done.”
It was important for Landay to avoid what’s often the case in crime fiction, namely that it’s formulaic and stale before the words hit the page. So he decided to start off with the scientific angle, namely the possibility of what is called the murder/warrior gene which, at the time, he thought was fictional but which has since become “a developing science.” However, unlike the case central to Defending Jacob, the so-called murder gene, a common mutation carried by many, is carried through the mother, not the father. Another role reversal in the novel was that Jacob’s mother suspected early on her son Jacob could have killed his classmate, while the father decided to stick with the child, right or wrong, trapped perhaps by his having reinvented a life for himself where his personal rules precluded any other option.
Landay did not read from Defending Jacob but generously spoke for more than an hour and-a-half about its genesis and did not stop until the last question from the audience was answered. “This is my last night out for this book,” he declared. “I’m now concentrating on Page One of my next novel.”
Writing about Food, Crime and Every Subject In-between: the South End Library Hosted More Than Fifty (Mostly Local) Authors in Four Seasons, Bringing in Thousands of Patrons Who Love to Read
After four seasons of organizing authors readings at the South End library, it’s a good time to take stock of the literary richness of the South End, the extraordinarily welcoming attitude of the South End library’s staff, and the tremendous response to both by you, South End residents and library supporters. Starting next fall, novelist Sue Miller and FOSEL board member Rhys Sevier will take over this program and curate a once-a-month reading for the South End Writes program. In addition, head-librarian Anne Smart and her staff will always be able to book other writers, and those sponsored by the BPL at Copley.
The facts are that since 2011 more than fifty authors who either live in the South End today, or did so in the past, came to our small library branch on Tremont Street to talk about their work with thousands of local residents. They often read from their recent books, and always answered questions from what they often described afterwards as an extraordinarily engaged group of people. When did you begin to write? How do you start? What do you read? What is your writing day like? How do you get published? What are you working on now?
What better venue than a local public library to bring together those in our neighborhood who labor to write with people who like to read, think and, perhaps, write one day themselves? The authors who came ranged from culinary lights (Chris Kimball and Joanne Chang) to crime writers (Police Officer John Sacco, Barbara Shapiro, Bill Landay) to literary luminaries (Sue Miller, Leah Hager Cohen, Andre Dubus III, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve) to outstanding poets (Steve Birkets, Henri Cole, Pablo Medina, April Bernard, Collin Halloran, Danielle LeGros Georges); we hosted acclaimed journalists and non-fiction authors (Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, Steven Kinzer, Stephen Davis, Phil Gambone) and nationally recognized award-winners like Megan Marshall (Pulitzer-prize winner for her biography, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life), Edith Pearlman (PEN/Malamud Award for Binocular Vision), Doug Bauer (PEN NewEngland award for What Happens Next: Matters of Life and Death) and Chris Castellani (a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction). Many others we hosted can be found by scrolling through our South End Writes tab.
No doubt, chroniclers of local lore have drawn some of the biggest crowds, even in snow storms, as was the case with Alison Barnet and Richard Vacca. But regardless of weather conditions, other writers about local subjects, like Susan Naimark and Hope Shannon found the same large audiences: South Enders love to hear about the South End. New local writers with debut collections always were warmly received as well (Wendy Wunder, Mari Passananti, Sara DiVello and Maryanne O’Hara). No doubt, the beautifully designed posters for each reading created by long-time library volunteer Mary Owens made it even more enticing to check out what’s up at the library. And without our fantastic webmaster, P.K. Shiu, very little of our library programming would have been broadcast by means of this web site.
Authors were invited to talk at the library in a number of ways, both formal and informal: through library staff, FOSEL board members, neighbors and friends of neighbors. Occasionally, someone would yell from a car window, “I have a friend who…” and he/she would get a date to read. Nationally acclaimed novelist Sue Miller, a long-time South End resident, generously brought many of her award-winning colleagues to the branch for readings, and conveniently arranged to bring books for sale and signing through a local book store. She will read in September from her upcoming novel, The Arsonist.
It’s been a remarkable ride for authors, library staff and the Friends of the South End Library. We’re lucky to live here and have such a great little library within walking distance of our homes, surrounded by so many talented writers and thinkers. With your support, interest and feedback, the authors series will continue to enrich us all.
Mahoney’s Garden Center Spruces Up Library Park to Support the June 21 South End Garden Tour and Thank their Much-appreciated Local Client Base
Last year, South End library supporters managed to get the city’s Parks Department to trim the dangerously neglected dead and dangling branches of Library Park’s oak trees which, as it turned out, was only a prelude to further improvements in the park. Thanks to a recommendation by the South End Garden Tour Committee, James Hohmann of Mahoney’s Garden Center of Brighto, brought in a landscaping crew last Friday and created three entry-point gardens in the park. Hohmann had expressed interest in doing something for the South End Garden Tour and the neighborhood, where the nursery has a large and beloved customer base. A former Concord Square resident, Hohmann immediately liked the Tour committee’s suggestion to spruce up Library Park. “It still has the beautiful bones of the original design,” he said. “I walked through that space every day many moons ago.”
Based on the park’s ‘old bones,’ Hohmann created three gardens with shade-tolerant perennials at the South End branch and Rutland Square gates. In the next few days, Mahoney’s will add flowering plants to bring in more color. Hohmann said he aimed for “the greatest visual impact while protecting the park from the daily wear and tear of how the park is used.” It is the first phase in what he hopes will be a multi-step process over the next few seasons to develop a relationship between South End neighborhood and library associations around the park to maintain the plantings Mahoney’s installs. “If all goes well, we could start phase two in the fall,” Hohmann said in an email to local park supporters. He referred to the park’s grassy areas as “meadows” where weeds are welcome” and which could, with good care, become “a very appropriate and good-looking asset.”
But this is not all the good news: according to testimony by BPL president Amy Ryan before the City Council on May 12, the proposed FY 15 library budget has an appropriation to fix the broken pavement between the South End branch and Library Park. State Rep. Byron Rushing (who also is a BPL trustee) had brought the matter to the BPL’s attention. Ryan testified she’s in talks with the Parks Department to repair the deteriorated bluestone surface inside the park, as well. The testimony was in response to a question by at-large City Councilor –and South End resident– Michelle Wu about renovating and repairing the South End branch.
At the May 12 Library Budget Hearing, City Councilor Charles Yancey Presses BPL President Amy Ryan on Diversifying the Library’s Work Force
The demographic make-up of the nearly 500 employees of the Boston Public Library is of great interest to long-time City Councilor Charles Yancey, who represents Mattapan and Dorchester. He is a courteous man who doesn’t like to create waves, but he keeps chipping away at issues that matter to him. Such as libraries and diversity in libraries. He asks BPL executives about it every spring, year after year, when they come to the City Council’s hearing on their proposed library budget for the upcoming fiscal year. His inquiry can be called “the Yancey question.” Surprisingly, after being asked the same question year in year out, BPL executives still don’t seem to know the answer right away: they fumble through their three-ring binders looking for the statistics, and don’t always find them. Sometimes they say they “have to get back to you on that.”
According to the BPL, the top ten executive positions at the library are 9o percent white, 10 percent Asian. Of the roughly 500 employees, 60 percent are white; the remaining ones are 18 percent African American; 16 percent Asian; 6 percent Hispanic.
President Amy Ryan has maintained during the last few
years’ budget hearing that the difficulty of diversifying the BPL’s staff can be laid at the feet of the professional schools that grant library science degrees. They graduate too few students of color, she asserts. This year, at the library budget hearing of May 12, Councilor Yancey was prepared for that explanation of yore: Does the library’s CFO need to have a library-science degree, he wanted to know? Or does the Manager of Human resources? Or the Director of Operations? President Ryan acknowledged they did not. “You obviously get my point,” Yancey said. “What other steps can we take to increase the diversity?”
“We need to redouble our commitment on that,” Ryan said. “Union and management have already teamed together to work on something called a career ladder committee and we can certainly include diversity in that. We can also work with the city’s human resources department to see if we can improve our numbers.”
Nevertheless, in January, when a position of clerk at the BPL’s Board of Trustees became vacant, it was quickly filled by the —Caucasian– former legal assistant to the chair of the board of trustees at the library, Jeffrey Rudman. President Ryan said she had been in charge of the process and that the job had been advertised.