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BOOKS & AUTHORS

Buscaglia Looks at Family, Self in Latest Effort

March 24, 1990|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He came, he saw, he hugged.

Best-selling author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia, the former USC professor of education who once taught a course on love, appeared at the Round Table West author-luncheon last week at the Balboa Bay Club to discuss his most recent book, "Papa, My Father."

But Buscaglia, christened "Dr. Hug" by his fans, could never get through a personal appearance without dispensing a few of his trademark clinches.

He hugged Round Table impresarios Margaret Burk and Marilyn Hudson; he hugged a member of the press; and he hugged just about anyone else who came within hugging distance. He even did requests.

"Will you hug me?" a young blonde shyly asked, after having him autograph a copy of his book.

"Of course, are you kidding?" a beaming Buscaglia exclaimed, jumping up from the book-signing table and giving her a big, Buscaglia-style bear hug.

During his talk, the ebullient author conjured up his "Mama" and "Papa," Italian immigrants who moved to Los Angeles where Buscaglia grew up in an extended family of 11--and only one bathroom: "Try that sometime!"

In writing "Papa, My Father," which he described as the most personal book he has ever written, Buscaglia said one thing he learned about writing it is "that if you ever want to learn about yourself, write about your parents. It's amazing."

Mama, he said, "was a great, rotund woman, and she loved to laugh and loved to eat." Papa, a waiter most of his life, was "always giving."

"He felt a responsibility with whatever he had to share with others," Buscaglia said. "He always had a glass of cold water or wine for the mailman, for the delivery person, for everybody. The teacher would come over and, much to our horror, he'd give her a bottle of wine. You'd say, 'Papa, teacher doesn't drink!' Then we were amazed when she drank it."

As children, he said, "we were brought up in this environment where really laughter and joy and dancing and a lot of music was always there. We were extremely poor, and there were times when we didn't know if we were going to have a meal. But it's very strange, and I've never been able to understand this, but we never knew that we were poor."

Although Papa had only a fifth-grade education, Buscaglia said, "he had a great reverence for education, and he would say, 'Nobody in this world should go to bed as stupid at night as they woke up in the morning, and so you've got to learn something every day.' "

Each night at the dinner table, the children were required to share what new things they had learned that day.

"Everything happened around the dinner table," said Buscaglia, lamenting that "I think one of the great losses in the world is the fact that we don't use that wonderful space and time to share" anymore.

To Buscaglia, his childhood home with Mama and Papa "was a splendid place to grow up, and we were always learning. As an educator, I've learned over the years that you learn best by modeling: If you want people to learn, do it.

"It always amuses me that parents scream to children, 'You've got to read more!' And they don't read. 'You've got to stop watching television!' And they sit in front of the tube for four or five hours every night.

"If you want your kids to read, read! If you want them to turn off the television set, turn it off! If you want them to dance and sing, you dance and sing!

"If you want them to celebrate life, you celebrate life and watch what happens."

Book Signings: Robert Ferrigno ("The Horse Latitudes") will sign from 1 to 3 p.m. today at Book Carnival, 870 N. Tustin Ave., Orange. . . . E.M. Nathanson ("A Dirty Distant War") will sign from 1 to 4 p.m. today at Crown Books, 30912 Coast Highway, South Laguna.

Lit Mag: Orange Coast Review, a new literary magazine, is now accepting submissions. The magazine is sponsored by Orange Coast College and run by students. Editors will consider poetry, short stories, essays, art, photos and interviews. The deadline for submissions is April 16.

Send submissions to Orange Coast Review, English Department, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92628-5005. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. For more information, call Raymond Obstfeld at (714) 786-7062.

Reader's Theater: Steve Mellow's Reader's Theater will present the works of South American writers at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Newport Beach Public Library, 856 San Clemente Drive. The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real.

Poets Reading: Poet Carine Topal will read at 8 p.m. tonight at Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton.

More Poetry: Metaphorgasm will present an open poetry reading at 8 p.m. March 29 at the Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams, Anaheim.

History Book: An updated, hardback edition of historian Pamela Hallan Gibson's 1976 illustrated paperback "Dos Cientos Anos en San Juan Capistrano" will be published by the city of San Juan Capistrano, the city's Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce.

The limited edition book will be available in August. The pre-publication price is $29.95. Aftear the books are published, the regular price will be $34.95.

Troubled Teens: Joseph White, a UC Irvine professor of comparative culture and psychology, has written a new book, "The Troubled Adolescent," in which he details the problems contemporary young people are experiencing and presents some solutions.

"We know young people are going to run into problems," White says. "Therefore, we have to teach problem-solving and decision-making skills just as you would another class in school."

"The Troubled Adolescent" (Pergamon General Psychology Series) is White's second psychology book. His first, "The Psychology of Blacks," was published in 1984.

Send information about book-related events to: Books & Authors, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Deadline is two weeks before publication.

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