A Career to Remember: Keith Chaffee

Tina Lernø, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
Central Library tower on a mosaic collage of Keith Chaffee's blog posts
From all of us at the library, thank you Keith, for your years of informative and creative writing!

One of our most prolific writers for the LAPL Blog will be retiring soon. We thought it might be a fun and fitting send-off, to turn the tables and ask Keith some questions before he rides off into the sunset.

First of all, can you tell our readers about your career with the library? How long have you worked for us, and when did you start writing for the blog?

I started at LAPL in June 1990, fresh out of library school, and started writing for the blog in 2015. What began as a series of short “On This Day” posts eventually transformed into a pair of weekly posts, “A Week to Remember” and “Music Memories.”

When the library started its blog, you were writing a daily post. Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us on how to keep up writing?

People who write for a living often say that it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing it. In that way, I suppose it’s like any other job; there are occasional days when the thought of summarizing yet another author’s life and career seems like the most boring thing I could possibly be doing, but there’s always some surprising little tidbit or detail that perks me up and keeps me going.

I checked, and it looks like you wrote a very prolific 1173 posts! How important is writing to you?

Those occasional “not this again” days notwithstanding, I enjoy writing. I’ve always had a fondness for trivia and odd facts, and I’ve learned so many odd little things from writing these posts. Not a week goes by that I don’t get two or three extra answers right on Jeopardy! because of something I wrote about.

Follow up question: Have you ever tried out for Jeopardy!?

I have, several times, and I've made it into the contestant pool five or six times now but never been called to be on the show. They always tell you during the audition that it's not at all unusual; so many more people pass the test than they actually need that people may get into the pool seven or eight times before they're called.

You've written posts about a variety of musical genres, artists, and authors. What are your personal favorites?

I was surprised and delighted at how much there was to write about bananas for a post about National Banana Lovers Day, and it was always educational to write about something I didn’t know anything about, like the history of the National Hockey League. On the music side, the story of Tony Burrows is one of my favorite odd little corners of pop music history. And I had great fun writing a pair of April Fools Week posts about literary and musical hoaxes.

Is there a fun fact, which stood out to you, that years later you are still thinking about?

The last new music the Everly Brothers recorded together was a song from an Andrew Lloyd Webber/Jim Steinman musical. None of those names feel like they belong in the same sentence.

What are your plans for retirement?

My bookshelves are filled with a ridiculous number of books I haven’t read and CDs I haven’t listened to, and I hear there are entire TV channels that do nothing but show old movies all day long. And when such things are safe again, I look forward to returning to movie theaters and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I’d like to do some traveling.

Is there a Subject or Person you didn't get to write about that still piques your interest? We'll do our best to get it written.

The mystery of Jean Sibelius interests me. He was a Finnish composer who wrote prolifically and productively until the age of sixty, then produced almost nothing for the last thirty years of his life. And we don’t know why.

Can you give us your top ten favorite books/authors? Or musical acts? Or both…

I tend not to be a completist where music is concerned; I love individual songs more than complete bodies of work. But it’s hard to go wrong with The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, The Mavericks, k.d. lang, ABBA, Roy Orbison, Pink Martini, Big Daddy, Stephen Sondheim, or the impeccable parodies written for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And I’m a sucker for a clever a cappella arrangement.

On the books side, I enjoy the science fiction of John Scalzi and Ted Chiang, the mysteries of Tana French and Julia Spencer-Fleming, the farces of Joe Keenan, the novels of Howard Frank Mosher and Katharine Weber, the unpredictability of Matt Ruff and Charles Yu, and the cheerful ickiness of Mary Roach’s science writing.

From all of us at the library, thank you Keith, for your years of informative and creative writing!