Tom Larson and the Reader

Seagulls, Nathanael West, pit bulls, poor babies, child loss

First-Winter Western Gull, our only resident gull. “Why would anyone ever want to leave San Diego?”
  • First-Winter Western Gull, our only resident gull. “Why would anyone ever want to leave San Diego?”
  • Image by Joe Klein

How Larson came to write for the Reader:

I have written before about how the brilliant literary editor, Judith Moore, who died in 2006, encouraged my submissions to the Reader and brought me into the fold as a staff writer, 21 years ago. Here I want to say that in the 1990s, as a long-time reader of long-form features and literary journalism in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, I said to myself, I can write pieces like that—given the time and the money. And I did—buoyed by a prompt check from the Reader, by Judith’s unwavering guidance, and by Heather Goodwillie’s uncannily skillful copy editing.

Since then, the weekly magazine has evolved under the print/online/advertising steamroller of the Internet, which has meant I and others have had to shorten our novella-length stories. Still, every day I am grateful to Jim Holman and Ernie Grimm for giving me a place to publish my critical and creative turns on the peculiarity of San Diego’s rarefied culture, unheralded history, and second-city (to L.A.) identity. We live in a community ever unsure of itself, which is both its charm and its enigma, especially for a nonfiction writer such as I.

Larson's favorite stories he wrote for the Reader:

1) “To Fuse Wind and Its Motion”: a meditation on the seagull in 14 parts;

2) “Almost Beautiful”: the death in El Centro of Nathanael West, one of America’s most mordant authors;

3) “Grrrrrrrrrrrr”: on the pit bull, loved and abused: all dogs go to heaven, their owners do not;

4) “We Wish There Were Fewer”: the death and burial of indigent babies;

5) “Jenna’s Dad”: Ken Druck and the grief of losing a child.

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