After graduate school, I moved from Berkeley to New York to pursue a career as a poet and novelist. I got my first job at McGraw-Hill Book Company, and wrote at night. A few years later I had occasion to travel on business to Los Angeles. Needing to do some research, I obtained a temporary library card and visited a local branch of the public library. After gathering the materials I needed, I went to the checkout desk, where an elderly librarian examined my card.
“Albert Litewka,” she said looking up at me. “Are you the Albert Litewka who many years ago attended Manchester Avenue grammar school?”
“Yes,” I responded. “Why do you ask?”
I had attended Manchester Avenue, deep in South Central (now called South) Los Angeles, after my Holocaust refugee family moved from New York to Los Angeles due to my mother’s poor health.
“My name is Miss Smith,” the woman said. “I was the librarian on the book mobile that came to your school every two weeks. The limit on the number of books a person could check out from the public library system was 14 books. Every two weeks a little boy would climb up into the book mobile and check out 14 books. He took historical novels, biographies, histories, science and sports books, and mysteries. He would stagger off the book mobile behind a stack of books as tall as his head. I would go back to the librarian’s headquarters and tell them about that boy. I used to say, ‘I wonder what that boy does with those books.’ And I always hoped that someday I would find out what happened to that boy.”
Well, I was that boy, and today it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the Los Angeles Review of Books. Along the way, I have been President of Macmillan Publishing Company, among other companies, and enjoyed considerable business success. I didn’t wind up winning the Nobel Prize for literature, which was my first and most deeply felt ambition, but being able to help guide and build LARB has been the next best thing. All of us associated with it have poured ourselves into making LARB what Richard Brody in The New Yorker called, “One of the instant jewels of the Internet,” and playwright Jon Robin Baitz called, “The best literary magazine in the country.”
For LARB to have come so far in less than three years would not have been possible without the pooling of skills and energies from our many contributors, editors, volunteers, contractors, and staff. Nor would it have been possible without the generous support of our readers. As a nonprofit public benefit corporation, LARB is reader supported. Everything we are doing is for you, and can only be done with your support.
Please help us continue our good work by donating as generously as you can to our end-of-year matching grant fund drive. The Goldhirsh Foundation and an anonymous donor have put up $75,000 to match your donations.
LARB is independent, provocative, timely, and free-of-charge. We publish digitally, in print, in podcasts, on the radio, and in short films the best thinking and writing about books and culture today. We are read in all 50 states and some 150 countries worldwide. With your help and support, we will continue to fulfill LARB‘s mission, always with you, our reader, in mind.
With warm best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season and a healthy, productive New Year.