Back in the day when I owned a television set, Sunday evenings at eight o'clock would find me watching Booknotes, hosted by Brian Lamb on C-Span.
I have a huge crush on Mr. Lamb. I could be president of his fan club. He introduced me to so many authors and non-fiction books from 1989 to 2004 when he spent an hour with one author, one book. He sat in his chair facing his guest. They were separated by a small coffee table. The backdrop was a black curtain. No distractions.
He asked his succinct questions and then shut up. He let the interviewee talk and never interrupted or tried to prove how smart he was. (Although I think he is brilliant.) I knew, that unlike some other interviewers, he had actually Read the Book.
When Mr. Lamb retired from Booknotes in 2004, he began a show called Q&A in which he interviews not only authors but other "interesting people," journalists, corporate leaders, film directors, editors, and, in 2005, President George W. Bush. This program is shown on Sundays at 8 p.m. on C-Span.
I have two books that have been culled from Booknotes interviews: Stories from American History - Leading Historians on the Events That Shaped Our Country (2001) and American's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas (1997).
The first holds eighty diverse tales told by current historians including a look at, among others, The Cuban Missile Crisis (Donald Kagan), The Roosevelt Dynasty (Peter Collier), The Harlem Renaissance (Emily Bernard), and Modern Presidents' Mothers (Bonnie Angelo).
In the second book, Mr. Lamb has compiled answers from his guests to such questions as "Where do you write?" "Do you use a computer?" "How did you research this?" "Why are these folks in your dedication?" He gets answers to these and other questions about the writing process from 120 authors including David McCullough, Thomas Friedman, Shelby Foote, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Margaret Thatcher.
In the introduction to each book, Mr. Lamb writes a bit of the behind the scenes look at Booknotes including the time 10,000 viewers sent self-addressed envelopes to C-Span for the giveaway of 500 brass bookmarks celebrating the program's fifth anniversary.
All 10,000 of them got their bookmark, because, as he wrote, "How can you turn away friends?"
Mr. Lamb retired as founding CEO of C-Span last year, and he donated his entire library from the Booknotes program to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He still conducts the Q&A program interviews. The videos and the transcripts of the Booknotes interviews (here) and the Q&A interviews (here) are available online.
Thank you, Mr. Lamb!
Don't really have a comment on your post...just wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving this week! Hope it's a lovely holiday for you and your family (with lots of yummy pumpkin pie).ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lark. A Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Pumpkin 'anything' is my favorite this time of year!Delete
I am embarrassed to say I have not heard of Mr. Lamb and his fascinating-sounding programs before--thanks for enlightening me. What terrific contributions to books and reading he has made. I will have to check out the links you provided.ReplyDelete
Oh, Kathy, you are in for a treat. Wander around the sites and you will find a listing of the archived shows. No commercials! One hour of books. Absolutely fabulous.Delete
You are excused from not knowing Mr. Lamb. What prompted this post was an encounter the other night at the library event with author James Tobin. A crew from CSpan was there filming. I asked two of the guys if they knew Brian Lamb. They just stared at me. They had no idea who he was! Really?? He is just the founder of the network that they work for! They are not excused!
I don't know CSpan. Is it a cable thing? Worth getting cable to hear book interviews.ReplyDelete
Mr. Lamb looks like Ed Harris.:)
Kat, CSpan is an independent cable network that broadcasts all sorts of interesting programs. No commercials! You can access it on your computer, which is what I do. The book shows are wonderful. Nose around the sites I linked above and you will see what I mean. Have fun.Delete
Amen, Belle. Wonderful tribute to Mr. Lamb.ReplyDelete
CSpan is wonderful. I spent a good part of last Sunday listening to historians talk about their books and interests from the Florida (or was it Miami) booksellers convention. What a feast it was.
Oh lucky you, Penny. I remember the broadcasts from the book fairs. It was like being there! I will see if I can find the Miami one online.Delete
I am crazy about Brian Lamb! One can certainly learn a lot about interviewing someone by following his lead. He really has done America a great service.