David Maraniss at Sequoya Library
I went to see Pulitzer-prize winning author David Maraniss at the Sequoya public library tonight. Even got a couple books signed. Naturally, I was the youngest person there by 30 years.
Above is a picture of me telling him about how I bought my Dad his "When Pride Still Mattered" book about Vince Lombardi for Christmas - then received the very same book back from my Dad the next Christmas. He had actually forgotten I gave it to him in the first place. It's one thing to "re-gift." It's entirely another to give the gift back to the same person that gave it to you. Anyway.
Madison is infinitely lucky to have ties with such a talented writer. I've read several of his books, and he is widely considered to be in the upper echelon of American non-fiction authors. The detail he provides in his books is a wonder to behold - the only way he can rationalize such thorough research is that he's completely crazy. But we are all richer as a result.
During his presentation, he answered a good audience question with an interesting point that I hadn't really considered. He mentioned how difficult it will be to do research in the future, given the lack of a paper trail left by electronic communications. He mentioned looking at over 40 letters written by Bill Clinton to his grandmother during his college years, and how invaluable they were to his understanding of Clinton during those years. Today, that communication would most likely be done via e-mail, and not readily accessible.
On the one hand, that may be true - but there are plenty of benefits to the internet age, as well. Documents often can be found with the click of a button - and nothing ever goes away completely. In fact, I'll be saddled with the crap I've written for the entirety of my adult life. That and my unibrow.
I actually asked a question during the Q&A period. It was about how much detail he uses when he describes a certain battle in "They Marched Into Sunlight," a book about the competing interests in the Vietnam War - part of which is set in Madison. I couldn't believe that many of the soldiers there recalled the battle in such vivid detail, and wanted to know how he got them not only to remember, but talk about it to him. He said he relied on documents created right after the battle and on interviews. Honestly, I don't remember much because I was nervous and my hands were sweating a lot.
The whole event was a fundraiser for the new Sequoya library, being built at the corner of Midvale and Tokay on the near west side. So give them money and stuff - asking them to raise private money is a good thing for taxpayers, but it means individuals have to step up and give.
A WisconsinEye camera was there, so I'll post a link to the video when they make it available. Then you can hear my dopey question.