Sunday, May 29, 2016

“Vista Del Mar: A Memoir Of The Ordinary”

Magalia resident Neal Snidow, who teaches English at Butte College, grew up in the Redondo Beach area of Southern California. He was an only child, and “well acquainted,” he writes, “with tropes of loneliness—the compulsive blank gaze at walls, window boxes, sea light, and the desert pleasure of empty sights and sounds.”

In 1996, in throes of mutual grief after his wife’s miscarriage, he took a tripod-mounted camera and black-and-white film and began photographing his old hometown, the commonplace “surfaces that, like the suburbs themselves, seemed ‘blank’ at first glance but on which could be seen a subtle patina of history as well, a trace of lost time within which some sort of answer to the present might wait.”

Thus begins an exploration of his family’s history and in mesmerizing words, by turns sublime, funny, and wise, mingled with dozens of images, the story is told in “Vista Del Mar: A Memoir Of The Ordinary” ($18.95 in paperback from Counterpoint; also for Amazon Kindle; for more visit

Time in the book is never tame, swirling and jumping as Snidow pieces together a life of meaning. Family stories “gave me associations that lit the intertwining of memory and space until something called ‘history’ seemed to occur.”

“Somewhere in my mid-thirties,” Snidow writes, “in the 1980s, I began to get lost. … I drank too much, didn’t sleep well, and started to have blood pressure spikes….” But time “now looped on, doubled back, left the impression of its meander. ... For a period it was the fall of 1996 and we were beginning the adoption process. …”

The end of the book loops back to the start, only this time it is heady with an extraordinary coincidence surrounding the birth mother and a man who one lonely day decided to take black-and-white pictures of home.

A launch party and book signing will be held Thursday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at 1078 Gallery, 820 Broadway in Chico. The event is free. In Southern California he will be interviewed on the art of memoir by his editor, Jack Shoemaker, at Café Society in Point Richmond on Friday, June 24 from 7:00-9:00 p.m.

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