Notable writers talk candidly about their lives and work.
Lamb (co-editor: The Supreme Court: A C-SPAN Book Featuring the Justices in their Own Words, 2010, etc.) and his C-SPAN staff have selected interviews from the past 25 years of Q&A and Booknotes, two long-running shows featuring conversations with authors of nonfiction. Edited into the form of cogent essays, these conversations reveal writers’ motivations for choosing their subjects, challenges in doing research and their own surprising discoveries. Readers are likely to recognize some of the more famous writers—e.g., historian David McCullough, who discusses 19th-century American artists who moved to Paris at a time when Europeans were flocking to the United States; British writer Simon Winchester, who talks about his first visit to America in 1963 and the “amazingly hospitable and generous” people he met; and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who recalls the quiet, circumscribed childhood in southwest Ontario that fueled his insatiable curiosity. “When I got to college,” he says, “I realized that there was a virtually limitless amount of cool things to learn about the world.” Christopher Hitchens, in his final interview before his death, talks movingly about having esophageal cancer, the disease that killed his father, and his hope for bold new treatments. Several writers—Michael Lewis, Bethany McLean and Gretchen Morgenson—reflect on the financial crisis of 2007. Journalists Roger Mudd and Ken Auletta are among the writers who discuss the responsibilities of the media in contemporary society. In a section on post-9/11 America, Kenneth Feinberg, who worked to mediate claims from veterans exposed to Agent Orange, talks about his similar role as “Special Master” with authority to delegate funds to victims’ families. The experience, he says, changed him dramatically: “I’m much more fatalistic after 9/11. I don’t think I’ll ever plan more than two weeks ahead.”
These richly detailed and forthright interviews offer unique perspectives on the inspirations and creativity of writers.