I interviewed for a position on the library board.
I like to read, and I know two people who have been on the board and liked it.
I wondered, “Will the school board ask me what books I’m reading?” (The school board oversees the library board.)
In 1967 at Johns Hopkins’ admissions office, I talked about my Holocaust reading. The Holocaust wasn’t yet the “Holocaust.” I made a good impression in Baltimore, I think. (I was pre-med.)
Re: the library board interview. I recently read How Music Works by David Byrne and Shit my Dad Says by Justin Halpern. I have also read to page 100 in Malamud’s A New Life, a novel about a college instructor. For the first fifty pages, I was interested in the goings-on of a 1950s college English department. Then less so.
Nevertheless, “I’m reading Malamud” might be the ticket.
The members of the school board sat on a dais at the board of education building, and I took the “witness stand” in the center of the room. Only three school board members — out of five — showed up. One MIA board member was a playwright; the other, a guy from my synagogue. My A-team was absent!
Question 1: How would you make the library better for students?
Students? They are the species who play computer games and horse around in the teen room? I’ve been in that room, like, never. “I would maintain the library as a first-class multicultural, multimedia center,” I said.
Question 2: What do you do at the library besides take out books?
Question 3: What would you do to help the library’s finances?
“I vote for the levies.” What about Malamud?
Question 4: Are you willing to commit to a seven-year position?
“Yes, but actuarially speaking, who knows.”
A chemist beat me out for the job. In an email, the library director thanked me for applying and encouraged me to apply again.
First I need to walk through the teen room and get a better feel for the young adults’ needs. I’ll do that right after I finish Malamud’s A New Life.
I got a call from Oo (rhymes with “boo”), looking to open an Asian food market.
I said, “How do you spell that?”
“O, O, 7?”
“Is Oo your first name.”
“No, that’s Kyawswar.”
“No, I’m from Burma.”
“Close enough,” I said.
“Yes, very close.”
“Is this going to be an American mini-market or an Asian market?” I said. “I don’t want 40-ounce malt liquor and cigarettes.”
“Asian market, sir. Our people like rice, the vegetables, avocados. Maybe cigarettes. The high school boys from the school [across the street] buy the fruit juices.”
I told my wife, “Oo had a nail salon.”
“Who?” she said.
Footnote: Consider “U Thant,” the former UN secretary general from Burma. Thanks to Ted Stratton for this U/Oo connection.
Byliner chose my essay “The Landlord’s Tale” (City Journal) as one of the top 102 nonfiction journalism pieces of 2012. Read the essay here.