A group consisting of three comedians, two novelists, and a historian provided a lot of laughs for an appreciative audience of about 600 booksellers at Thursday morning’s Adult Book & Author Breakfast, while also discussing how the state of the world fuels their writing.
Comedians Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), the morning’s emcees, kicked off the proceedings with an introduction of The Greatest Love Story Ever Told (Dutton, Oct.), an exploration of their marriage that they described in alternating, revealing sentences (listeners learned, for instance, of the importance of lubricant to their relationship). The book, they explained, featured transcripts of conversations, essays, and photos. “Even if you don’t care for the writing,” Offerman said, “The photos are well worth the price of admission,” and Mullally noted that reading their conversations is “like reading a play.”
Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, explained the genesis of The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library (Speigel & Grau, Aug.), a collection of presidential tweets with analysis and commentary. “For me, [Trump] is an emotional paradox,” Noah said, “It’s like an asteroid headed towards earth that’s shaped like a penis. I know I’m going to die, but I am also going to laugh.”
Noah explained that the book gives an unvarnished view of the president’s mindset. “One can understand [Trump] through his tweets,” Noah said, “When you read Presidential Twitter Library, you will come to understand why he should not be president. While he is wildly entertaining, he should not be leading anything.”
Barbara Kingsolver, appearing at her third authors breakfast, pointed out that “literature saves lives.” Unsheltered ( Harper, Oct.) came about, she said, because “when something scares me so much, I can’t stop thinking about it,” so she writes a novel—though she tries to “make it fun to read.” What frightens her now, she said, is that the “rules” of the past no longer apply. Unsheltered tells the story of two sets of families living in the same house, one in the present, the other in the 1870s, “when this country was more polarized than it is now.”
“If you know anything about the novels I write,” Nicholas Sparks said, “You are going to know—two people fall in love; and it’s going to be set in North Carolina.” Describing Every Breath (Grand Central, Oct.) as a “midlife book,” Sparks said the premise was that the novel opens in Zimbabwe before moving to North Carolina, and features two people falling in love, but “it’s not meant to be at that time.”
Finishing up the morning, historian Jill Lepore explained that she wrote These Truths: A History of the United States (Norton, Sept.) “pretty much on a dare” that she could not succinctly write a comprehensive history of “our divided nation” from 1492 to the present. Promising that she was going to provide a history lesson in “seven minutes and 20 slides,” Lepore did just that, concluding that “like art, history can help us see how it can be both the best of times and the worst of times.”
In response to Lepore’s erudite, yet entertaining presentation, Offerman perhaps said it best, “Our Harvard history professor, show biz wise, just handed all of us our asses.” —Claire Kirch