In my 15 years working at the Library of Congress – my previous stop before AARP – one particular date stands out: Sept. 8, 2001. That was the day of the inaugural Library of Congress National Book Festival.
Is it fair to separate "commercial" novels from "literary" ones? If anyone can answer that question it's 10-book author Meredith Maran, whose new anthology Why We Write features essays by everyone from Sue Grafton and David Baldacci to Ann Patchett and Walter Mosley. "I chose the authors to include as if they were wines being paired," Maran told me. "If you like Jennifer Egan [ A Visit from the Goon Squad], for example, you might also like to read Jodi Picoult."
Is the book experience displacing the book review? Someone wondered that recently on Twitter, and it got me thinking about the differences between reading an author on the page and hearing his or her words in person.
Back in the 1980s, I moved to California to work at the Orange County Register , where, at the time, the real estate beat was covered by a woman named Jane Glenn Haas. I never knew her very well, but she seemed like one of those old-fashioned newspaper reporters, the ones who'd been cultivating sources for so long that she could dig up more insights by thumbing her Rolodex than I probably could from Google today. On one of my first shifts she was kind enough to give me a few pointers about California architecture for a story about a new housing development, which saved me from looking like an East Coast rube.
Jacques Barzun was one of the great thinkers of the past century - a scholar who, in a remarkable eight-decades-long career, wrote dozens of books and analyzed subjects ranging from classical music to detective fiction, and from Jonathan Swift to baseball.
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