Author & Speaker

Theater of the Near-Real: Cop Chases in L.A.

It’s completely weird. They can go on forever, the only time Southern California TV stations never break for commercials.  The first one on Monday morning lasted more than two hours.  Later in the day, a second one lasted two hours. It sounds mind-numbing.  Helicopter cameras track a single car speeding down interstates and freeways while…

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Hamilton’s Pulitzer Prize: Listen to the Words

Now that he’s won the Pulitzer Prize for it, maybe we’ll pay attention to the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the genre-smashing Broadway hit that costs a monthly car payment to attend.  When we listen to the words – really listen – we can appreciate his achievement. Magic can happen when story and words and…

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Of Charles Sumner, David Donald, and Used Bookstores

The serendipity of the used bookstore — its ability to provide unexpected pleasures — is gaining attention recently.  Even the Washington Post (owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos) has noticed.   I offer Exhibit A in support. Last month, at the recently-expanded Rockville store of the Friends of the Library of Montgomery County, I snapped up…

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The Time Justice Scalia Caught Me Out

The death last weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brought to mind the time when he turned over a stone in the legal rockpile only to reveal an awkward bit of half-smart maneuvering by me — though until now my name was never publicly associated with it. The case involved the Equal Access to…

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Putting on the Show: Eight Rules for Book Talks

One of the surprising parts of writing books, for me, has been the amount of performance involved — I mean performance:  standing up and putting on a show. My experience is, of course, framed by the kind of writer I’ve become.  I’m “midlist,” which is a term that describes all the writers who fall between…

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Making President Clinton's Reading List

It’s not the best photo of me that’s ever been taken, but there are definite virtues to this one, particularly President Clinton’s savvy placement of the copy of Madison’s Gift that I presented to him. Our conversation?  I said that I imagined that he had not found time to read Lynne Cheney’s biography of Madison.  He smiled…

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Triumph of the Book!

The recent press accounts have been heartening to devotees of the book — which had been disdained as the “printed book” or “hard-copy book,” or even the “dead tree book.”  It turns out that lots of readers prefer reading old-fashioned books to new-fangled e-readers. That’s what college students say.  They want to read a “real”…

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Eight Knockout Reads from 2015

Year’s end brings a geyser of lists of the year’s “best books.”  I choose to modify this approach to report the best books that I read over the last year, since I get to few newly-issued books — pretty much only ones by friends or ones I’m writing a review of.  Otherwise, I’m either reading something…

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Even Woodrow Wilson? The "Purge Moment" Runs Amok

Over the summer of 2015, the argument over displaying the Confederate flag in public grounds galvanized public opinion.  Many conservative Southern Republicans agreed that such displays contradict our basic principles and publicly endorse bigotry.  Even South Carolina, birthplace of secession, relented on the Confederate flag. That argument swiftly metastasized into a full-throated uproar over public…

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Harper Lee, Misogynist

After all the fuss about the release of Harper Lee’s second/first novel, Go Set A Watchman, I broke down and read it.  My wife, after all, had purchased the book, so I was just maximizing the value of the family purchase. As I neared the novel’s end, my thoughts were in line with a number of…

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