Ken Auletta introduced the Saturday Author lunch panel with a few words about his forthcoming book, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It (Penguin, Nov.). When he interviewed Bill Gates in 1998, Auletta told the audience, he asked him what he worried most about, expecting to hear “Apple” or even “the U.S. government.” Instead, the answer was “the kid in the garage who’ll come up with something new.” That new kid, of course, was “the Google guys,” who wondered, “Why couldn’t everything be made available on the Web for free?” They weren’t thinking about consequences but about a new way to do things. From this Auletta segued into his advice for the publishing industry: traditional media must learn to ride the digital wave or it will crash into it.
Novelist Lorrie Moore (A Gate at the Stairs, Knopf, Sept.) spoke next, saying that writers are disappointing people, so please just read the book. Then she went into a hilarious delivery of created questions from an imaginary audience. What kind of lazy so-and-so takes 11 years to write a book? How does she manage to survive single motherhood, considering she deals with e-mails from her ex-husband so nasty they should be deleted without being read? And wasn’t she a little long in the tooth to tell her story from the viewpoint of a 20-year-old girl? And what about that book jacket?
Daniel Pink, whose book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, followed with anecdotes about the inspiration for his book about motivation, which goes beyond biological or the promise of reward and punishment.
And then came Mary Karr, whose third memoir, Lit, picks up where her last one left off, as she’s driving off at 17, convinced that she can leave her crazy family behind. Her southern drawl got as thick as molasses as she told stories of growing up in a house where the kitchen tiles had bullet holes from her mother shooting at her father (and his male nurse, who was also mom’s lover). Karr married a rich handsome WASP whose house she mistook for a subdivision and bemoaned the fact that her mother, although married seven times, couldn’t help at all with the wedding. She ended with a huge thank you to the booksellers, librarians and teachers, calling them “keepers of the flame” and the people who saved her life, that literature that saved her life. Moore called literature oxygen in the air of life, and Pink gave a heartfelt nod to the booksellers who keep literature alive.
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