Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kurt Andersen on...

After a blizzard blanketed Omaha about a week ago, today was as close to pre-summer perfection as one could imagine. I wanted to reintroduce my beloved mountain bike back into the wonderful world of single track trails. Still, I couldn't resist going to hear Kurt Andersen speak about his latest book, Heyday and do some readings from said book at Omaha's W. Dale Clark library. In addition to Omaha being the first stop for his book tour, the reading came the same day as Andersen's book was the featured book in the New York Times book review. While I would not call the review a rave, it was definitely a solid endorsement of Heyday.

As per the usual routine, Andersen allowed about 30 minutes for Q&A. Among some of the topics he discussed...

Whether he misses the hustle and bustle of working at a magazine like Spy:
No. "I like not having employees," Andersen said. He also said he believed Spy ended about the right time - just about the same time as the Internet was introducing itself to a mass audience.

The parallels between the years 1848-50 and today:
As railroads and the telegraph were becoming a fixture of contemporary life, the concept of time was undergoing a reinvention. Tasks that used to take days and months to accomplish (e.g. a correspondence) was now taking place in 'real-time.' During this time, political parties were so paralyzed by their own self-interest that they were basically impotent in handling the critical issues that were affecting the general population. Finally, the time was a time of new media and with the widespread practice of yellow journalism in full effect, newspapers were turning into slander machines against those whose views the writers/editors/managers disagreed with.

An Omaha cultural renaissance:
Andersen wrote about what he described as a "cultural Renaissance" in the upcoming March 25 edition of the New York Times magazine. He cites not only the music scene in Omaha, but the expansion of downtown Omaha's Old Market and the emergence of the Bemis Center.

So, with $30 liberated from my wallet, I left with a signed copy of Heyday. The historical novel doesn't occupy a big section in my book collection. Still, Andersen's enthusiasm for the subject as well as his previous literary accomplishments are enough to make me believe it will be a worthy purchase and a good addition to my collection. To those who weren't able to make it, Andersen is appearing at The Bookworm (87th and Pacific) Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m.

Heyday: A Novel

Editor's note: One of this site's readers was kind enough to email me that I misspelled Kurt Andersen's name - thanks for the catch.

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