Too Soon To Tell

From the Introduction, by Thomas Farber:

During late 1979 and early 1980, I wrote and recorded a series of "commentaries" for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, eight of which are included here. If I understood producer Deborah Amos correctly, each week I was to discuss some aspect of life in California for approximately three minutes.
I did my taping at KQED FM, under the patient eye of Gene Parrish, who never showed dismay when I stumbled over a penultimate polysyllable and so had to begin again. Finally exorcising a piece, I'd add my signature: "This is Tom Farber in San Francisco." The tape would then be shipped the three thousand miles to Washington for use on the show.

Since 1964, when I ftrst came West, I've suffered many an attack of bicoastalitis, my chief symptom a terrible need to span the distance between Massachusetts and California. My early stories, I'm quite sure, were in effect letters home, a description of what I thought I'd found, rendered in the tongue of what I imagined to be the world I'd left behind.

It turns out that the past stayed right with me, if only because it was too far away to take for granted. I say this though now, late in the second decade of my life in California, I frequently think that geographical distance is too sheer a level of explanation, no more than an intervening variable, so to speak. And yet. Rereading these sagas of life on the material plane, I'm struck by how often I return to the theme of two coasts/two worlds. I insist on the differences, if only in the name of reconciliation. Perhaps, years ago, I should have headed for Paris or Peoria.

A final note. When I taped these stories I often found that cadences viable on the page proved murder to read aloud. I got in the habit, each time I recorded, of altering what I'd written-simplifying sentences, cutting words. Here, however, I've presented the original text. I say this only in case you happen to read one of these pieces aloud and­- terror of terrors-- find yourself stumbling over a penultimate polysyllable.

This is Tom Farber in ....

Berkeley, California


©Thomas Farber, 1981

Critical Praise

[Farber] was asked to write a series of commentaries on life in California to read on National Public Radio. This small book includes eight of those essays, ranging in style from storytelling to introspection to political commentary. The best are Farber's anecdotes, mini-short stories on falling in and out of love with a stranger during a flight from Boston to California; on comforting a neighbor whose wife has grown cold; and on religion and dental floss (yes). "I have written my dentist a letter with several essentially religious questions I hope to have answered," he writes. "Will my good works, I ask him, be rewarded. Will my gum descend? Will virtue pay off?

-- San Francisco Chronicle