history

E.L. Doctorow (1931-2015)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was (and still am) a huge fan of E.L. Doctorow. One of the first “adult” books I ever read was his. I picked up a paperback copy of Ragtime at a library book sale back when I was a kid, and was blown away—more by the novel’s narrative technique than by the story. Doctorow did things in that book that I didn’t know you could do in fiction. He eschewed quotation marks. He blended fictional characters with real-life figures doing fictional things. He presumed to speak as narrator for an entire period in history in a fearless manner.

I was never in love with history class at school, but I probably learned more about America and Americans by marching my way through Doctorow's bibliography. He was clearly fascinated with U.S. history, and how a writer could exploit and subvert the expectations of using historical material. In every book, you could almost feel him saying, “Yeah, I know this is supposed to be history, but it’s fiction first. Get out of the way—I’m writing here."

One of the best profiles of him I’ve ever read appeared in the New York Times Magazine back in 1985. You can read the whole thing here, but I’ve always liked this quote:

"Henry James has a parable about what writing is,'' Doctorow says. ''He posits a situation where a young woman who has led a sheltered life walks past an army barracks, and she hears a fragment of soldiers' conversation coming through a window. And she can, if she's a novelist, then go home and write a true novel about life in the army. You see the idea? The immense, penetrative power of the imagination and the intuition."

 

Celebrating F. Scott Fitzgerald's Birthday in Asheville, NC

Every year in the week of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday, the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, opens his former lodgings to the public. Here are some pics I took on my visit last Saturday.

Fitzgerald stayed here in 1935 and ‘36, both for lengthy stays to visit Zelda when she was recovering in a nearby sanitarium—the same one where she later lost her life. These weren’t happy visits for Fitzgerald. He was always destitute, trying to write, and trying to avoid hard drinking. (To stay off liquor, Fitzgerald drank as many as thirty bottles of beer a day. People then had the notion that beer wasn’t really alcohol. The same assertion crops up in the works of Norman Maclean.)

I’d like to say I’m “proud” of my town’s connection to great writers, such as Thomas Wolfe, Fitzgerald, and Zelda Fitzgerald, but sadness and tragedy dogged all three while they were here that it doesn’t seem like much to celebrate.

Autographed and Personalized Books for the Holidays

I know posts have been light here lately. No excuses except to say that I’ve been diligent about focusing on work and writing first, social media last. I have some free time coming up, and hope to catch up soon. In the meantime, I’m running my wife Denise’s post about how to get signed copies of her books for the holidays. Since I co-authored four out of the five books she highlights in her post, I figure I can swipe her post entirely. 

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Denise writes:

It’s gift-giving-buying season once again. I am, as always, working with my fantabulous independent bookstore Malaprop’s to offer personalized, autographed copies of The Girls of Atomic City and other titles. Signed books always make great gifts and autographing eReaders simply hasn’t taken off yet. I work with Malaprop’s year round, but during the holidays I get lots of questions about wrapping  and shipping and so forth.

Here’s the skinny:

The easiest way to get an autographed book is to call Malaprop’s directly at 1-800-441-9829 or 828-254-6734. The store is chock full of helpful, cheerful folks. Once one of these charmers answers the phone, just tell them…

  1. Which book you want to order and the author’s name. 
  2. How you want the book personalized. To you? To the mother-in-law you’re always trying to suck up to? Do you want it to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “For a history buff,” or nothing at all?
  3. Give them your payment information and shipping address.

That’s it! Malaprop’s will get me in to sign and will ship your book out to you or to the person of your choice, autographed and ready to go.

But what about gift wrapping?

Yes indeed, they gift wrap. I told you they were wonderful. So, you can have that autographed book gift-wrapped AND have a gift card slapped on it. That package of holiday reading cheer will be shipped wherever you want and will arrive ready to be shoved under a tree, stuck in a (larger than usual) stocking, placed next to the menorah, or swapped at an office party.

Can I order online?

Technically, yes, but calling is much more efficient and, in the long run, will take up much less of your time.

Which books of yours can I order?

Any of them, really. 

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Constitution

Stuff Every American Should Know

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed

Happy shopping, and thanks for supporting a local independent bookstore!

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Denise at September Book Fairs

Denise @ September Book Fairs   My wife Denise Kiernan will be attending three events in September, beginning this weekend. At all three, she’ll be discussing her book  The Girls of Atomic City.  The events are:   AJC Decatur Book Festival   Sunday, Sept 1, 2013, 3:45 PM  Marriott Conference Center, Ballroom B  Decatur, GA   Southern Home Front During WII Symposium   Saturday, September 21, 2013, 9 AM  National Archives at Atlanta  Morrow, GA   2013 National Book Festival - Library of Congress   Sunday, September 22, 2013, 2:45 PM  History & Biography Pavilion  National Mall  Washington, DC  If you need more info, leave a comment or visit her website at Girls of Atomic City.

Denise @ September Book Fairs

My wife Denise Kiernan will be attending three events in September, beginning this weekend. At all three, she’ll be discussing her book The Girls of Atomic City. The events are:

AJC Decatur Book Festival

Sunday, Sept 1, 2013, 3:45 PM

Marriott Conference Center, Ballroom B

Decatur, GA

Southern Home Front During WII Symposium

Saturday, September 21, 2013, 9 AM

National Archives at Atlanta

Morrow, GA

2013 National Book Festival - Library of Congress

Sunday, September 22, 2013, 2:45 PM

History & Biography Pavilion

National Mall

Washington, DC

If you need more info, leave a comment or visit her website at Girls of Atomic City.

Girls of Atomic City — National Tour in May & June

Girls of Atomic City — National Tour in May & June   My wife Denise Kiernan is hitting the road May and June to promote her book,   The Girls of Atomic City   .  Here’s the list of cities, bookstores, and events. The first half is a driving tour through the Southeast; the second half will see her bopping around the U.S. to various bookstores. The list is finalized except for three cities, marked  to be determined.    SOUTHERN DRIVING TOUR      Charlotte, NC    Thursday, May 2    Park Road Books 7 pm   4139 Park Rd.  Charlotte, NC  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Greenville, SC    Friday, May 10    Fiction Addiction 12 pm    Venue:  City Range Restaurant  615 Haywood Rd.  Greenville, SC  *Lunch Event & Signing     Nashville, TN    Tuesday, May 14    Parnassus Books 6:30 pm   3900 Hillsboro Pike  Nashville, TN  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Raleigh, NC    Thursday, May 16    Quail Ridge Books 7:30 pm   3522 Wade Ave.  Raleigh, NC  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Southern Pines, NC    Friday, May 17    Country Bookshop 4:30 pm   140 NW Broad St.  Southern Pines, NC  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Chapel Hill, NC    Saturday, May 18    Flyleaf Books Noon   752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  Chapel Hill, NC  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Knoxville, TN    Tuesday, May 21    Union Ave Books 6 pm    Venue:  The East Tennessee History Center Auditorium  601 Gay St.  Knoxville TN  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Atlanta, GA    Tuesday, June 4    A Cappella Books 7 pm    Venue:  Carter Presidential Library  441 Freedom Parkway  Atlanta, GA  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     August 30 - September 1, 2013    Decatur Festival of Books   Details TBD     Sylva, NC    Saturday, June 29    City Lights Bookstore 6:30 pm   3 East Jackson St.  Sylva, NC  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     * * *      *NATIONAL TOUR      Milwaukee, WI    Saturday, June 8    Boswell Books 2 pm   2559 N Downer Ave.  Milwaukee, WI  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Chicago, IL    Sunday, June 9    Chicago Tribune Printers Row Festival    Solo Presentation   Details TBD     Lexington, KY    Wednesday, June 12    Joseph-Beth Booksellers 7 pm   161 Lexington Green Circle  Lexington KY  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Denver, CO    Friday, June 14    Tattered Cover 7:30 pm   2526 East Colfax Ave.  Denver, CO  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Los Angeles, CA    Saturday, June 15    Vroman’s Bookstore 4 pm   695 E. Colorado Blvd.  Pasadena, CA  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     San Francisco, CA    Monday, June 17    Book Passage 6 pm   1 Ferry Building  San Francisco, CA  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Seattle, WA    Wednesday, June 19    Elliot Bay Book Company 7pm   1521 Tenth Ave.  Seattle, WA  *Talk, Q&A, Signing     Albuquerque, NM    Friday, June 21    Bookworks    Albuquerque, NM   Venue TBD

Girls of Atomic City — National Tour in May & June

My wife Denise Kiernan is hitting the road May and June to promote her book, The Girls of Atomic City. Here’s the list of cities, bookstores, and events. The first half is a driving tour through the Southeast; the second half will see her bopping around the U.S. to various bookstores. The list is finalized except for three cities, marked to be determined.

SOUTHERN DRIVING TOUR

Charlotte, NC

Thursday, May 2

Park Road Books 7 pm

4139 Park Rd.

Charlotte, NC

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Greenville, SC

Friday, May 10

Fiction Addiction 12 pm

Venue: City Range Restaurant

615 Haywood Rd.

Greenville, SC

*Lunch Event & Signing

Nashville, TN

Tuesday, May 14

Parnassus Books 6:30 pm

3900 Hillsboro Pike

Nashville, TN

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Raleigh, NC

Thursday, May 16

Quail Ridge Books 7:30 pm

3522 Wade Ave.

Raleigh, NC

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Southern Pines, NC

Friday, May 17

Country Bookshop 4:30 pm

140 NW Broad St.

Southern Pines, NC

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Chapel Hill, NC

Saturday, May 18

Flyleaf Books Noon

752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Chapel Hill, NC

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Knoxville, TN

Tuesday, May 21

Union Ave Books 6 pm

Venue: The East Tennessee History Center Auditorium

601 Gay St.

Knoxville TN

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, June 4

A Cappella Books 7 pm

Venue: Carter Presidential Library

441 Freedom Parkway

Atlanta, GA

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

August 30 - September 1, 2013

Decatur Festival of Books

Details TBD

Sylva, NC

Saturday, June 29

City Lights Bookstore 6:30 pm

3 East Jackson St.

Sylva, NC

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

* * *

*NATIONAL TOUR

Milwaukee, WI

Saturday, June 8

Boswell Books 2 pm

2559 N Downer Ave.

Milwaukee, WI

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Chicago, IL

Sunday, June 9

Chicago Tribune Printers Row Festival

Solo Presentation

Details TBD

Lexington, KY

Wednesday, June 12

Joseph-Beth Booksellers 7 pm

161 Lexington Green Circle

Lexington KY

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Denver, CO

Friday, June 14

Tattered Cover 7:30 pm

2526 East Colfax Ave.

Denver, CO

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, June 15

Vroman’s Bookstore 4 pm

695 E. Colorado Blvd.

Pasadena, CA

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

San Francisco, CA

Monday, June 17

Book Passage 6 pm

1 Ferry Building

San Francisco, CA

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Seattle, WA

Wednesday, June 19

Elliot Bay Book Company 7pm

1521 Tenth Ave.

Seattle, WA

*Talk, Q&A, Signing

Albuquerque, NM

Friday, June 21

Bookworks

Albuquerque, NM

Venue TBD

C-SPAN: 'The Girls of Atomic City' at the National Archives

Denise spoke about her book at the National Archives on March 13. The talk was finally aired by C-SPAN over the weekend. The clip is not embeddable, but you can watch the whole thing HERE.

For fun, you can try spotting me in the audience. I’m the dude with the bald spot in the front row just in front of the rostrum.

THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY book tour report

Girls of Atomic City - Book Tour Report

It’s been going well. Really well. About 150 people showed at our hometown bookstore Malaprop’s Saturday to hear Denise talk. I assumed this would be heavily attended because we live in town, but only about 10% of the crowd were friends and neighbors. Quite a few were former residents of the Atomic City who had come out to hear about the book. One woman made a point of saying in the Q&A portion that she’d brought all her kids so they could hear the story of their heritage. A few other listeners thanked Denise for telling their town’s story. 

I did not expect a bigger crowd in New York, since both writers and publishers have told me that book signings are just not a draw these days in the big town. But the official head count at NYU, Denise’s alma mater, was 300 people. Again, I thought many of these would be my or Denise’s pals, but the majority were NYU alums. Again, as she signed books, Denise heard a lot of them share stories of their connections to the story: one guy had clients in Oak Ridge, another was born there, another woman was the last surviving woman air pilot from WWII, and so on. Yes, the stories got increasingly tenuous, I suppose, but I chalk up the success of this talk to the alum association’s efficiency at getting the word out and people still being fascinated by the lingering secrets of that war.

After, we went with friends to one of our old hangouts. Great to see so many people after all these years. So thanks, Jack, for putting the word out. Thanks Matt and Elisa for coming to the talk. Thanks Karen, Satellite, Jill, Tracey, and everyone else for coming out. Thanks, Drevmo, for the hilarious RSVP’d regrets.

Lunch talk at the National Archives in DC tomorrow.

The Girls of Atomic City makes editors' lists on Amazon

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I have no idea how significant this is, but my wife’s The Girls of Atomic City was chosen for two three nice lists on Amazon:

Editors’ Picks for Best Books of the Month (History)

Editors’ Picks for Best Books of the Month (Nonfiction)

Big Spring Books 2013: History

Photo: Cubicle operators — aka “Calutron Girls” — unwittingly enriching uranium for the first atomic bomb. Photo by Ed Westcott courtesy National Archives.