Second in my new only-on-literary-lotus series of interview is Arthur Rath, author of Lost Generations: A Boy, a School, a Princess, a personal memoir and autobiography about Rath’s upbringing and education at Kamehameha Schools. (See my 2006 review here).

Arthur is a voracious reader, so he’s no doubt plowed through these and many more books, so this is really a glimpse of what he was reading.

What I’m Reading | Arthur Rath

Q&A with Christine Thomas
especially for Literary Lotus

Q. What are you reading these days, Arthur?

A. So much to read, so little time—how can one decide which to tackle next?

Thank goodness for book reviewers; The Sunday New York Times “book section” is my motherload along with this on-line service, and suggestions from fellow members of local reading clubs—I belong to two: Aiea Public Library’s (first Thursday of each month, 7:00 p.m. at the library), and the Friends of the Library’s (first Monday of each month at 11:00 on the couches and easy chairs at the Bambu Bar in Restaurant Row).

I’m always on lookout for new and old books that’ll broaden my perspectives. Here are examples:

Our Aiea Library reading club selected “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” by Barack Obama. This led me back to “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” by Alex Haley (learned of him when he was writing it in Upstate, New York). Then came “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin—this helped put us in step with some of the wisdom of our new President. We experienced some counterpoint with this month’s reading of “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” by Jonathan Alter. This led me to “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” by Jon Meacham. Along the way we read “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery—a child’s story that helps put some of today’s quandaries into perspective.

Chatting with others brings new thoughts to mind. My belonging to two book clubs means a list of a minimum of 24 books a year to discuss in addition to those receiving “thumbs up” reviews that seem to fit me mood. With “Boston Legal” and “Prison Break” off the air I now have more time to read.

Q. What in that long list of books stood out as being the best, or at least one that you liked best?

A. “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” is the most significant to me of all in this list and that is probably because it relates to what I lived then what we are experiencing now. I like the writing and pace as well. This book caused me to think about the President whose thinking may have reflected the attitudes of whites who came to early Hawai’i.

Of course there is relevance to all of these divergent books; reading helps to put your mind to work, and once your mind starts working all sorts of correlations creep in. Such experiences are almost poetic: they awaken emotional insight to what is occurring.

Q: Are any presidential or current civilian stories making it into your next book–and what is your next book going to be?

A. Yes. My next book is titled “Being Menenhune, Inside Supernatural Hawai`i.” My “I hope” launch date is Spring 2010, in time for the Honolulu Book and Music Festival, unless things go astray. There are lots of Presidential stories in my book–Roosevelt, Truman, J. F. Kennedy, and Nixon and the almost candidate Arthur Vandenberg. I have some sort of personal tie to each–mostly indirectly or through friends and relatives.