Her husband, the political adviser Richard Goodwin, hadn't looked at his papers for decades. In '' An Unfinished Love Story,'' she writes about opening this '' time capsule '' together, and persevering without him.

.-  What books are on your night stand?

'' Three Roads Back,'' a powerful book [ especially after the death of my husband, Dick Goodwin ] on how Emerson, Thoreau and William James dealt with grief.

'' The Facts,'' by Philip Roth, in which I am delighted to find a hilarious dinnertime conversation concerning the politics of divorce between Roth, Robert Kennedy and my husband.

And, in readiness for reading time with my grandson, '' Frog and Toad Are Friends '' and '' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!''

.-  What's the most terrifying book you've ever read?

'' 2006 '' by Roberto Bolano.

.-  What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

This past Christmas my son and daughter-in-law, Joe and Veronica, gave me a signed first edition of  Barbara Tuchman's '' The Guns of August '' - a gift that carried me back to the first time I read the book 60 years ago in college.

Here was a woman writing about the field of war traditionally reserved for men. Here was a master storyteller who believed historians must write only what was known by the people at the time, resisting the urge to reference future events.

.-  What books would people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Stacks and stacks of mystery and detective stories. As W.H. Auden wrote, '' The reading of detective stories is an addiction like tobacco or alcohol.''

.-  Did spending so much time with your husband's letters and journals influence your beliefs about how history gets told?

Too often, history is told and remembered with the knowledge of how events turned out. For 50 years,  Dick had resisted opening the 300 boxes he had saved, a time capsule of the 1960s.

The ending of the decade - the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Dick's  close friend Robert Kennedy, the riots, the violence in college campuses - had casts a dark curtain on the entire era for him and the country.

But when Dick turned 80 and we finally opened the boxes in chronological order, what struck both of us were not the tremendous sorrows of the time, but the exhilarating convictions that individuals could make a difference.

This was the impulse that led tens of thousands of young people to join the Peace Corps, participate in sit-ins, freedom rides, marches against segregation and the denial of the vote.

.-  Reading all that alongside him must have been head-spinning.

I've often called the subjects of my books - Abraham Lincoln and both Roosevelts - ''my guys,'' because I spent decades immersing myself in their letters, diaries and memoirs.  I would often talk to them and ask them questions.

They never answered. But now, my actual guy, my husband, was sitting across the room from me -arguing, correcting, laughing as he read aloud from his own letters and diaries. Head-spinning for sure!

.-  Which of you was the better writer?

I could never have withstood the pressure and time constraints under which Dick drafted his most important presidential speeches. History is far more patient, far better suited to my slow pace of research and writing.

It took me twice as long to unwind the interrelated stories I wanted to tell about the Civil War and  World War II as it took those wars to be fought.

Dick and I were never in competition. We complemented one another. He was more interested in shaping history, and I in figuring out how history was shaped.

.-  You're organizing a dinner party. Which three storytellers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Lincoln, F.D.R. and L.B.J. I know what they liked to drink and eat. So I would serve water, and oyster stew and chicken fricassee with biscuits for Lincoln; martinis and hotdogs with all the fixings for F.D.R. ; and Cutty Sark Scotch, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes for L.B.J.

And for once I would keep my mouth shut and listen to the three of the most entertaining and enlightening storytellers America has ever produced.

The World Students Society thanks The New YorkTimes.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!