Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Books and Authors on Tape

On Tuesday evening, I -- along with hordes of other readers and booklovers -- attended the National Press Club’s 32nd Annual Book Fair and Authors’ Night in Washington. I ended up spending almost $200 on books (some for me, some for gifts) but, even better, I was able to speak with some of the authors and get a few of them on videotape.

I told former National Press Club president Frank Aukofer that I had already read his book, Never a Slow Day: Adventures of a 20th Century Newspaper Reporter, and that I enjoyed it enough that I would like to purchase a new copy with his autograph in it.

In the course of our conversation, I noted our shared history of growing up in Milwaukee. Aukofer is year younger than my father would be, and the two of them lived within about 10 blocks of each other as children, though they attended different schools and had very different careers.

Like me, Aukofer became a transplant from Milwaukee to Washington, where he eventually became bureau chief of The Milwaukee Journal (before it merged with the Milwaukee Sentinel to create a single morning daily and end one of the last afternoon dailies in the country). I mentioned that I live in Charlottesville, and he said his "little sister" lives there, too. It was not until that "V8 moment" that I put two and two together and realized that he meant Claire Aukofer, the theatre critic for the Daily Progress. (I should have figured it out a long time ago, having known that Claire Aukofer attended UWM [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee], but I simply never made the connection.)

In any case, here is what Frank Aukofer has to say about his memoir:

Speaking about shared histories, I surprised linguist Deborah Tannen when I told her I had read her first book. She thought I meant, That's Not What I Meant!, when in fact I was referring to the book based on her dissertation, Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends. She seemed shocked when I mentioned that I had seen a play, loosely based on that latter book, when it was performed at the Kennedy Center's College Theatre Festival almost 25 years ago.

Tannen was at the National Press Club with her latest book, You Were Always Mom's Favorite!: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives. In this brief video, she lists her books and the trajectory they took from topic to topic.

One of the most powerful people on Capitol Hill, U.S. Representative Henry Waxman is author (with Joshua Green) of The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works. Here he gives a brief description of the book, and comments on my left-field question about how today's Congress compares to that of the time of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Writing about the third branch of government, legal correspondent Joan Biskupic took some time to chat about her new book, American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Of course, I had to talk to somebody about a representative of the second branch, so I found two.

First, historian Harlow Giles Unger has written a book about our neighbor from Ash Lawn-Highland called The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness. Here's what he said:

At the other end of the timeline, veteran journalist Haynes Johnson has written a new book (with Dan Balz) about the election of Barack Obama. It's called The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election and this is what Johnson had to say about it:

Going back much further in history, James Reston, Jr., has written four books -- he calls them a "quartet," I'd call them a tetralogy -- about the clash between Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages. His latest book, Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536, was on display.

I asked Reston to describe the sequence of the four books.

After I turned off the camera -- and I am sorry I did that! -- we chatted briefly about what Reston thought about Frost/Nixon, the Peter Morgan play and Ron Howard movie adaptation in which he is a major character. (In real life, James Reston, Jr., was a researcher for David Frost in the months leading up to the famous series of interviews with disgraced President Richard Nixon.) He said both the play and the movie were great experiences for him.

When Richard Nixon resigned, he probably could have used advice about finding a new job. Perhaps he would have found it in a new book by Brad and Debra Shepp called How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Other Social Networks. Here's what the pair of authors had to say:

Finally, in what is probably the shortest clip I got over the course of the evening -- but no less entertaining for its terse nature -- pundit Ann Coulter offered a few words (including the words "George Soros") to persuade people to read her book, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and Their Assault on America. Coulter was signing hardbacks as well as the paperback edition of Guilty, which just came out on November 10.

See her comments for yourself:

There were many other authors at the National Press Club last night, and I wish I could have met and interviewed them all, but I feel satisfied in what I was able to obtain over the course of about 90 minutes of wandering through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd.

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