Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Al Martinez Holds A Book Party, And Hugs His Talented Grandson

Any college admissions director can tell you that one of the most important, perhaps the most important, factor in deciding which students to admit is proof of their writing ability. Just study Yale's admissions, and you will note that high school newspaper editors have a leg up. The school knows that they will be among its best scholars.

I thought of this on Sunday while attending the book party at Dutton's in Brentwood for L.A. Times columnist Al Martinez's 11th book, about his late dog, Barkley. It is published by Angel City Press.

Martinez read from his eloquent prologue to the book and signed copies for attendees at the party, and there were some other speakers as well, including the illustrious Norman Corwin, now 96 years old.

But certainly a high point of the gathering, under cloudy skies on a rather chilly day, was Martinez's loving introduction of his 12-year-old grandson, Jeffrey, and the big hug he gave him.

Jeffrey, who Martinez has written about in his column, is the author, as a 10-year-old, of a poem about the dog that Martinez runs on the last page of his book.

I don't want to steal the thunder from either Martinez or his grandson, but the concluding stanza of Jeffrey's "If Once You've Had A Dog," reads:

"Oh, you won't know why
And you can't say how
Such a change upon you came
But once you've had a dog
You'll never be the same."

I've known other children who could write, sometimes as easily as they talk, and it is a blessing. Indeed. I knew a young girl of eight who wrote a story printed in the London Times entitled "Reporters Are Too Nosy." It was my daughter, Kathy, who had gone with me to the Lake Placid Winter Olympics and met London Times reporter John Hennessy there. He invited her to write it.

The secretary to my great doctor, Ray Matthews, the cardiologist who brought me safely through my recent illness, tells me she has a 13-year-old daughter who can write better than she can.

This is a wonderful sign of future academic prowess, and it is worth cultivating when teachers find that a student has that ability in this age of television and the Internet. Perhaps, it's not easy to teach. It has to be some innate ability to communicate.

It usually also goes with fine reading abilities. A child who can write is usually a child who reads extensively. And it can be a mark too of the parents' love of education, and reflects a desire on their parts to open their child to a variety of early experiences.

Martinez is appropriately proud of his grandson.

Also, since we're talking about him, I should not lose the opportunity to say that Al Martinez is indefatigable. In his late 70s, after heart surgery, he is not only still writing, but he's traveling. He told me, while signing my book, of his plan to travel to India next January or February with his wife, Cinelli.

It reminds me of the great New York Times writer, Harrison Salisbury, who traveled to China and wrote the book, "The Long March," I believe in his 80s. Al Martinez is truly a wonderful man.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful tribute to Al, Ken, and I completely join in your hope that we can find a way to encourage children like Kathy and Al's grandson. That stanza you quoted is quite extraordinary. Looks like you're feeling better. I'm delighted.
Dennis Britton

5/23/2006 8:04 PM  

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