A cup of heaven
Café Life San Francisco (Interlink, 2012) teams up veteran writer Joe Wolff ’67, M.A. ’72 and photographer Roger Paperno for a delectable guidebook to the places in the City by the Bay where one can sip, savor, even work (a cup of coffee, a laptop, and thou beside me), or escape the e-rat race and sit and soak in the ambience of one of two dozen special spots: from North Beach to the Mission, from Downtown to the Sunset. To wit: steaming mochas, artisanal pastries, an organic bison burger, gelato, and coffee brewed especially for you. Wolff offers verbal sketches of the people and the places, always with an eye for the telling detail. There are the stories behind the places—reaching back into history, or following a more personal journey, as with café proprietor Pat Maguire who, after his years of drinking harder stuff and hanging out in bars, transformed “a boarded (and infamous) bar” into Java Beach Cafe. Certainly I found a few of my favorite haunts here. And I found a few words of wisdom. “There is something sacred in drinking coffee,” the owner of Ritual Coffee Roasters tells Wolff. “No matter how often I do it, or how distracted I am, when I take the first sip of my coffee, I’m grateful to be drinking it—grateful for all the hands that went into making it and getting it to me.” Steven Boyd Saum
Truth will out
Mohandas K. Gandhi knew his killer.
In fact, writes scholar and veteran peace activist James W. Douglass ’60, historical records show that Gandhi had actually invited Nathuram Godse, the shooter, to live with him in his compound for a week after an earlier, failed assassination attempt. Gandhi begged for mercy for his attackers, though Godse was to succeed in his murder the second time. Extreme Hindu nationalism threatened India’s fragile new independence, and Gandhi believed he might convince Godse and his co-conspirators that nonviolent action—satyagraha—was a better path.
Godse was a follower of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar—the central villain in Douglass’ gripping, intensively researched history, Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth (Orbis, 2012). Savarkar found nonviolence “perverse [and] bound to destroy the power of the country. It is an illusion, a hallucination, not unlike the hurricane that sweeps over a land only to destroy it. It is a disease of insanity, an epidemic and megalomania.” Ringleader of the assassins, he was imprisoned for years after conspiring in the 1909 assassination of a British politician. Savarkar won release after promising to acquiesce in his fight against British occupation; meanwhile Gandhi, famously, was leading a national protest by gathering salt and defiantly marching on factories, leading nonviolent demonstrations in which not a single protester struck back at the armed guards who clubbed them down like swatted flies. Douglass convincingly argues that Savarkar planned Gandhi’s murder. Yet when triggerman Godse, who was later executed for Gandhi’s killing, came to trial, Indian law enforcement, aware of the influential Savarkar’s role, looked the other way.
Savarkar never paid a price for his crime; in fact, his portrait hangs in parliament in New Delhi. Unspeakable indeed.
What fascinates Douglass most is Gandhi’s radical demand for unflinching truth. In January 1948, during his last week on Earth, Gandhi told his admirer William Sheean, “It might be that it would be more valuable for humanity for me to die.” Much like his American follower Martin Luther King Jr., did Gandhi understand that this night or the next, his life would be required of him?
In Douglass’ vivid telling, we see Gandhi’s final self-sacrificial steps as an illuminated path, shining with what Sheean called “divine pity,” each step more heart-breaking than the one before.
It’s a path Douglass himself has practiced since his student days on the Mission Campus, where he heard the legendary Dorothy Day speak. An active leader in the Catholic Worker movement ever since, Douglass’ writing demands engagement with what his friend Thomas Merton called “the Unspeakable,” a moral void we must confront with “truth as the inner law of our being.”
Douglass and his wife, Shelley, who together founded the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Wash., worked for years to call attention to the immeasurably violent threat of submarine-borne nuclear weapons. Since the 1980s, they have lived in Birmingham, Ala., where they founded Mary’s House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. Douglass’ books include The Nonviolent Cross, The Nonviolent Coming of God, Resistance and Contemplation, and JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. John Deever
A fish tale
The tale told in Along the Corkline (Gorham, 2012) begins in the summer of 1948, when 8-year-old Gary Keister ’62 signs on as cabin boy on the Veribus—a purse seiner skippered by his grandfather. In those days, salmon were plenty and deals were sealed with a handshake. Then, in an autobiography that reaches from childhood across years of commercial fishing in Puget Sound and off the coast of Alaska, Keister summons the landscapes and seascapes of the Northwest. Keister later skippered his own ship, acquired a law degree from Gonzaga, and worked international jobs that eventually led him back to fishing. But that all came to a halt in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Nick Carrillo ’12
Music and Theatre
Performing Pain: Music and Trauma in Eastern Europe (Oxford University Press, 2012) by Maria Cizmic ’95 is a book of history and memory, spirituality and morality, exploring classical music from the 1970s and 1980s that mourns and bears witness: to the unburied Stalinist past and new spiritual awakenings in the Soviet bloc’s later years. Cizmic is an assistant professor of humanities at the University of South Florida. SBS
In The Latino Theatre Initiative/Center Theatre Group Papers, 1980–2005 (UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2011), Chantal Rodriguez ’03 writes about the history and impact of Latino theatre in Los Angeles—amid shifting political and social context. Danae Stahlnecker ’15
For children and teens
When a grandparent is suddenly faced with spending time alone with grandchildren—yet hasn’t a clue how to pass the hours with them—a very imaginative lion named Grand Paws imparts some unconventional advice. In If I Had as Many Grandchildren as You ... (Palmer Press, 2011), by Lori Stewart ’71, the shaggy-maned narrator takes readers on a winding, rhyming journey to real and imagined places, to chase rainbows, create a parade, go fishing, and even fix creaky floorboards—after a rooftop meal of turkey pancakes and fluffernut sandwiches, that is. Colorful stock images add another layer of whimsy, allowing the imagination to soar in Stewart’s first children’s book. Marisa Solís
Teen Truth: Why Youth Have Something to Hide (CreateSpace, 2012) is the latest installment of the Teen Truth project that Eraham Christopher ’98 and JC Pohl ’98 launched in the wake of the Columbine high school shooting in 1999. Having used film, print, and live programs to address bullying, drugs and alcohol, and body image, here they explore ideas about the power of groups and individuals and the importance of relationships, beliefs and values, and responsibility. DS