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Reflections

'When I write, I approach it as a collage artist would.'

January 31, 1988|KATHIE BOZANICH

La Jolla resident Laurence McGilvery, 55, feels a sense of amazement that Ronald Reagan has governed this country for the past seven years. What did he do about it? He researched, wrote and published the "Ronald Reagan Countdown Calendar." The calendar counts down the final 366 days of the Reagan presidency by detailing a particular event or statement made by Reagan or his staff on each given day. While McGilvery is "of course" a Democrat, he says the calendar does not contain a single "loaded" word. When he graduated from Pomona College, McGilvery worked for a time as an engineer in a missile factory. He remembers "developing a sense of morals" about working for the defense industry, and eventually he left to open a bookstore with his wife. They moved to La Jolla, where his wife had family, and they ran the Nexus bookstore there for four years. They currently operate a rare and out-of-print bookstore in the same area, and McGilvery has edited and published several art books as well. As Reagan begins his final year in office, McGilvery says the calendar has created a lot of interest among Democrats and souvenir collectors, and even a few Republicans. While the calendar is not McGilvery's first publishing endeavor, he says it was his "surest bet" to attain success. He was interviewed by Times staff writer Kathie Bozanich and photographed by Times staff photographer Patrick Downs.

The idea came to me some time ago, and I cannot for the life of me remember when. I probably woke up one morning and had it like that. I've gotten ideas like this all my life, but this is the one I decided to act on.

I was literally waking up in the morning and having this comic strip experience of waking up and saying, "Oh no, that cannot be. That man cannot be President. It must be a dream." I was almost literally, and certainly figuratively, pinching myself and realizing: "It is true. Not only is he President, but he's been President the last five or six years and he's going to be President the next two or three years."

It was during one of those episodes that the idea for the calendar occurred to me.

For at least a year I used it as dinner conversation. If I needed to sparkle for someone, I would say: "Hey, I've got this idea for something. Wouldn't a Ronald Reagan countdown calendar be great?" Two or three people said: "Yeah, it would be. You should stop telling people about it, stop floating the idea around too much, and you should do it."

I guess I always knew I would do something successful. I'm kind of a late bloomer. I would have been better off following through on some of those other ideas 10, 15 years ago, although this is probably the surest bet of any of the ideas I've ever had. It was the most certain to succeed.

I started off life as an only child. I grew up in Hollywood with my wonderful English grandmother who was 60 years older than I was. I was a rather solitary child in many ways, but always with lots of ideas.

When I was about 20, I made the only long-term decision in my life up to that age, which was not to write until I had something that was worth writing. I somehow intuitively knew that at some point I would have something to say, and that when I did that would be the time to start writing.

When I write, I approach it as a collage artist would. I collect little bits and pieces, and gradually build them into a whole. I have to get an idea and flush it out a little bit here and a little bit there.

The big issue at my college when I was there was student apathy. It was right after the McCarthy period, and a lot of it had to do with the fact people were afraid. The mindset was: "If you went to college, you were probably pink, if you read a book, you were probably pink, and if you read Tolstoy or Dostoevski, you were an absolute communist."

I was not politically active. I always had the same values. My grandmother was a woman of impassioned beliefs, and she, without ever forcing them on me, instilled her values into me. I always had a strong feeling about injustice, a strong feeling about the value of the individual, the value of free speech.

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