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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

n dawidoff

Since we were just given the last minute opportunity to feature an exciting author, we are inserting a bonus post this month featuring Nicholas Dawidoff, author of Collision Low Crossers: A Year inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, among other works.  (This book was extremely well reviewed by  for the New York Times last month.)  Mr. Dawidoff also writes for The New Yorker and has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Anschutz distinguished fellow.  He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.

Mr. Dawidoff will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 22nd to discuss Collision Low Crossers.  As part of his research, for an entire year he lived with the New York Jets, from early-morning quarterback meetings to edgy late-night conversations. He had a security code, a locker, and a desk in the scouting department.  As a special treat during his Norwich Bookstore visit, Mr. Dawidoff will be joined by Tom Powers, his friend and mentor, who will interview him on the process of investigative reporting for this book and how he was able to gain access to the Jets.

Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Most of every NFL game is “played” during the week in private team facilities where coaches create and then teach the game plan to their players. These game plans are complex and remain forever secret outside the team, so the essence of the sport is inaccessible to those who watch it.  Furthermore, the game as played live is so fast that the nuances are difficult to follow.  That players wear masks is one of many more features of the sport that has created a distancing effect.  Football is now the single most popular entertainment in America, and yet those who watch it don’t really see it.  These are also among the reasons that football, in contrast to the more intimate sport of baseball, has always been a challenging subject for writers.  By all but living with an NFL team, I hoped to bring people who liked football–and people who might–closer to this big, mysterious public spectacle.

As I just wrote in the latest of the weekly New Yorker essays about football that I’ve been contributing to the magazine leading up to the Super Bowl, the most insightful books about the game are not really football books per se.

  • A football team has many familial elements (surrogate) and so Ian Frazier’s wonderful study of America through the prism of his own forebears, Family, was often on my mind as I wrote.
  • Planning a football game is an immersive, time-consuming, often-frustrating creative act, and the book that most captures the experiences of those game-planning NFL coaches I knew as they sought to build something they considered tactically beautiful was James Lord’s account of having his likeness painted by one of the world’s great artists–A Giacometti Portrait.
  • Finally, John Williams’ vivid study of buffalo hunters on the Kansas and Colorado prairies, Butcher’s Crossingis a classic American novel that captures many qualities of football from the earned intuition necessary to master an arduous and risky landscape to the book’s penetrating reflections on the nature of profound failure.
  • When I began my project, the consensus would be that the best football book ever written was George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, which came out fifty years ago.  Paper Lion remains a timeless book because it teems with portraits of interesting people who are placed in tension-filled and often very funny moments of narrative conflict.    

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds.jpg2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

So many!  Who wouldn’t want to pun with Shakespeare (and once and for all prove that he alone did it all?!)  Who wouldn’t want to share, well, tea, with Virginia Woolf (and tell her, in the most deferential way, that all was not lost, she’d soon mean so much to many readers, perhaps especially women like my own mother.)  Coffee in a thermos aboard a river raft with Twain? (Tom Sawyer remains among my favorite books.)  Coffee (with a little snort of bourbon splashed in) with Faulkner?  How to decide? Okay! I choose Samuel Johnson in an eighteenth century London coffeehouse. Not only was he the greatest non-fiction prose writer of his time, he remains (because of Boswell’s Life of Johnson) literature’s peerless conversationalist. And there’s even slim possibility that this most humane of writers would enjoy it.  As he said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are pleased to welcome Rob Gurwitt and Rob Mermim, the authors of Circus Smirkus: 25 Years of Running Home to the Circus. This book chronicles the story of Circus Smirkus, a special traveling international youth circus, created by Rob Mermin in response to his own question from long ago, “What would a society feel like,” he wondered, “in which there was humor without malice, laughter without scorn, decency in human relations, delight in sharing skills without aggressive competition?”

In 1987, after a long apprenticeship as a clown in Europe, he set out to create that society on a small patch of farmland in Greensboro, Vermont, and for the 25 years since, Circus Smirkus has been transforming the lives of its young performers – aged 10 to 18 ­ – and inspiring audiences wherever it plays.

CIRCUS SMIRKUS: 25 Years of Running Home to the Circus is the story of his vision.The authors will appear at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, July 18th at 7 pm. Call 802-649-1114 to reserve your spot for this very special evening.

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This is the first time we’ve interviewed co-authors for 3 Questions so bear with us! Listed first are Rob Mermin’s responses and Rob Gurwitt’s immediately follow.

Rob Mermin, the founder of Circus Smirkus, ran off to Europe when he was nineteen to begin a 40-year career in circus, theater and TV. He trained in classical mime with Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau. He is also the former dean of Ringling Bros. Clown College. Rob’s awards include Copenhagen’s Gold Clown; Best Director Prize at the former Soviet Union’s International Festival on the Black Sea; and the Governor’s Award for Excellence, Vermont’s highest honor in the arts. Rob lives in Montpelier, Vermont.

 1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

Freddy the Pig” series by Walter Brooks were the first books I ever took out of the library when I was a kid. Freddy was at various times a detective, explorer, magician, politician, cowboy, poet, and daydreamer. He surely set me on the path to Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and others tales of worldly travel and grand adventure.

 2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Mark Twain, to laugh and complain about the human race.

 3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

About to open Hermann Hesse’s novel about the artist’s life, The Glass Bead Game, which I read when I was twenty.  I’m wondering about my response to it now, after 40 years. I love to revisit good books.

Rob Gurwitt is a freelance writer who lives in Norwich, Vermont. As a writer, he got toknow Circus Smirkus on a magazine assignment in 1999, and he and his family have been captivated by circuses ever since. His two children are performing with Circus Smirkus this summer. It is their second year on tour with the troupe.

 1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

When I was about 12, I discovered The Best of Gregory Clark on my parents’ shelves. He was a wry, observant columnist and storyteller for the Toronto Star between the wars, tapping out gems of emotion and truth in tight prose that felt roomy. I still read him. Same with Meyer “Mike” Berger, the first “About New York” columnist for the NY Times, who found little story bombs in what everyone else considered the humdrum and commonplace. Every writer should take lessons from him. Finally, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children was the first book that made me go, “Oh my God, people can write like that!” Not that I ever could.

  2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Hands down, David Mitchell (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Cloud Atlas). Though I think it would take more than one cup of coffee to figure out how such a protean, brilliant mind works.

 3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I know, I’m late to the game — but all of you who’ve already read it, don’t you envy me for getting to read it for the first time?

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “Three Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam in the week leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are thrilled to welcome Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher. He hails from the state’s gorgeous Northeast Kingdom. A gorgeous part of this country where one of the Lisas from this Book Jam has placed some superb yurts to which she often travels to read uninterrupted.  So, we truly appreciate his sense of place. His latest – The Great Northern Express: A Writer’s Journey Home, chronicles a book tour taken shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

HOWARD FRANK MOSHER is the author of ten novels and two memoirs. He was honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and is the recipient of the Literature Award bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel A Stranger in the Kingdom won the New England Book Award for fiction and was later made into a movie, as were his novels Disappearances and Where the Rivers Flow North.

Mr. Mosher will be appearing at the Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, March 28th at 7 pm.  Call (802) 649-1114 to reserve your chair, but hurry as always, because seating is limited and this one comes with a slide show so seats will fill faster than usual as there will be fewer seats available.

1. What three books have shaped you into the author you are today, and why?

Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I love coming-of-age novels.  These are the three that have most influenced me because of their memorable characters. Though the main characters are somewhat older, I love Henry IV, Part One and Pride and Prejudice for the same reason.

2. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Probably Mark Twain. He might tell me a story I could steal and use.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

I’m reading Robert Olmstead’s wonderful new novel, The Coldest Night (due April 2012) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.  Just finished State of Wonder, The Art of Fielding, and Stephen Greenblatt’s Shakespeare biography, Will in the World:How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

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Listen now to Heidi Durrow April 2010.

Lisa and Lisa take advantage of Heidi Durrow’s (The Girl Who Fell From the Sky) visit to Dartmouth College and the Norwich Bookstore to talk with her about books that are important to her.

Worth staying up late to read

We began with books Heidi stayed up late as a child to read (the kind you snuck a flashlight under the covers to finish). Heidi mentioned two by Julie Andrews (yes, the singer) – The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and Mandy.

At the top of Durrow's List

The discussion lauched from there and covered books Heidi discovered in her 20s, her secret desire to be a poet, classics she loves, her ultimate author – Nella Larsen, Booker Award Winners, classics we all should have read but have not yet done so.  Some of the books these far ranging topics uncovered include, but are not limited to (download the podcast for the complete discussion):

Besides writing novels, Heidi podcasts every Wednesday evening at 5 pm EST on http://www.mixedchickschat.typepad.com. She is also a founder and organizer of a LA arts festival focusing on mixed race families – http://www.mxroots.org.  This year’s festival is in June and features President Obama’s sister.

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