Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Post: Behind the Table by Brooke Stoddard

Today's guest post is from author, editor, and speechwriter Brooke Stoddard. His latest book is World in the Balance: The Perilous Months of June–October 1940. Find him online at Archon Editorial.

One of the premier events in the Washington, D.C., literary year is the annual National Press Club Book Fair and Authors' NightIn addition to being an enjoyable social event, the Book Fair raises money for the Club’s Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library and the SEED Foundation, which educates at-risk youth. Eighty or ninety authors sit behind a table stacked with their books and make themselves available to chat with Club members and the public strolling by. The books on display are selected by a committee of the Club, and all have all been published within the calendar year. There are books from a broad range of genres, including business, history, politics, food, children’s, lifestyle, literature, memoir, and sports. 

I’ve been a member of the Club for years, and I attend the Book Fair whenever I can, but this was my first time “behind the table.” It was a delightful time. I got to rub elbows with fellow authors Ron Suskind, Ann Coulter, Jim Lehrer, John Farrell, Joe Lieberman, and dozens of others. My publisher, Potomac Books, sent a stand-up foam board of the cover of my newest book, World in the Balance, and Barnes & Noble supplied stacks of books for me to sell and sign. I was in good company, surrounded by Laurence Bergreen (Columbus: The FourVoyages), Stanley Weintraub (Pearl Harbor Christmas), and Marvin Kalb (Haunting Legacy). 

Not having had the publicity or the renown of some of the other authors, I expected the space in front of my table to be relatively calm, but I was mistaken. Shoppers, many looking for holiday presents, stopped by in a fairly continuous stream, sharing stories, asking questions, and happy to buy. Some bought multiple copies; four was my record. I signed books eagerly and wished good reading to all.

C-Span sent a crew to tramp the floor between tables, and they interviewed a number of authors, TV camera lights flashing when an author was ready. I was interviewed for a few minutes, although I have yet to see any results.

Next year will be a whole new crew because not many authors publish a book within twelve months of the last. Not having planned a tome for 2012, I will still be at the Book Fair next November -- but on the consumer side of the tables.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brooke, this is a comment about your recent review of the 1960s classic conspiracy drama "Seven Days In May".

I read “Seven Days In May” soon after it came out, when I was in high school, and, yes, it was the Kennedy era. I was quite fascinated by the book at the time, in no small part because of the natural intrigue associated with conspiracies. I remember discussing the book with my father, who — because of the publicity surrounding the book — had decided to read it as well, in part so that he could discuss it with me.

I was interested to read Mr. Stoddard’s review, mainly because of the vivid memory I had of the era, nearly 50 years ago, when I read the book. I would take issue with only one observation that Mr. Stoddard makes in regard to the significance of the book, when he writes: “Seven Days in May gives warning that political fervor can lead to self-justified action against the Constitution. During the Kennedy era, Seven Days in May warned that the military-industrial complex was a power rivaling that of the executive branch; in a delightful Mad Men sort of way, the book still does.” Allow me to explain why.

As I recall being quite taken at the time with the premise that a military coup could possibly happen in the U.S., I still remember the question that my father asked me after we both finished reading the book.

He asked me if I knew why what was portrayed in the book could never happen in the U.S. I thought and thought, but could not come up with a satisfactory answer. My father then told me, simply: because the American public would never stand for it !

As dramatic a portrayal of conspiratorial intrigue that Seven Days In May was — and perhaps still is — it is important that it is a work of fiction, and saying that this work of fiction gives a “warning that political fervor can lead to self-justified action against the Constitution” is a completely hypothetical warning about something that has in fact never happened. And, I might add, would never be tolerated by the American public. We should probably be careful about succumbing to titillating stereotypes about the military and the elected government in the U.S.

It may also be worth noting the insight and wisdom of my father’s observation in light of the fact that he was once on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired a three-star general.

Thanks again for the ‘memories’, Brooke — but let’s not anticipate conspiracy scenarios in real life however dramatic they may be in fiction.