A New York Times Talk w/Nora Ephron & Other Guests

In early September 2010, I saw an announcement that Ambassador Joseph Wilson–whose book The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, I had edited and published with him in 2004–would be appearing in a September 16 forum at the New York Times Center to mark the 40th anniversary of the NYT‘s Op-Ed page, which would be observed with a special section of the paper on Sunday, September 25. The moderator of this event, Op-Ed page editor at the time David Shipley, had invited Joe because his July 6 2003 op-ed What I Didn’t Find in Africa had been one of the most historically significant columns the newspaper published that decade, leading to the outing of Joe’s wife Valerie Plame as a CIA official and years of Bush administration denials that they had doctored the intelligence that fueled their claims about Iraqi WMDs.

I got a hold of Joe and he invited me to be his guest that evening. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple years, and so met an hour beforehand to catch each other up on our lives, after which we entered the green room just off the stage at the Times Center. There Joe generously introduced me as his editor and publisher to the other panelists–Roy Blount Jr., Garrison Keillor, Anna Deavere Smith, and Nora Ephron. They all seemed genuinely interested in one another, and conversed briefly among themselves before going out on stage. Blount was funny, in a low-key way, Keillor was diffident and the only one who wasn’t talkative, Smith told stories about her one-woman shows, and Ephron was funny and self-deprecating. I went out and talk a seat in the auditorium. Once on stage, Shipley asked each of them to speak about how they came to write their Op-Ed. Ephron spoke about her stint as a White House intern in the 1960s, which she turned into a 2003 Op-Ed. The fascinating program went by in a flash.

Afterward there was a reception, and books signed by each panelist for interested members of the public to purchase. The paperback of The Politics of Truth was on hand and I was proud to see Joe inscribe quite a few copies for eager readers who lined up to meet him. During a lull in the signings, I approached Nora Ephron and thanked for her remarks during the program, when she’d praised the Times columnist Russell Baker, who retired from the paper several years earlier, and who seems to me too little remembered by readers nowadays. This was in response to Shipley, who’d asked her if she particularly recalled any contributors to the Op-Ed pages. She brought up Baker and in praising him conceded that he didn’t qualify since he was a Times staffer, and not a guest contributor, which those who write Op-Eds are by definition. Still, she said, Baker was too special to go unremarked. I had also long admired Baker’s style and told her I was glad she’d mentioned him, whether he qualified or not. A few days later, eager to make a connection with this witty woman, I sent her a letter, a screen shot of which is produced below. I didn’t get a reply, but I hadn’t asked for one, and remain very glad to have simply met her.

With the news yesterday of Nora Ephron’s passing, I recalled meeting her and writing the letter. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to have enjoyed meeting her in person, so I’m glad I can share my recollections in this space. Just before putting up this post, I discovered a ten-minute video from that evening, almost entirely featuring Nora Ephron. Click on this link and look for “Op-Ed at 40: Voices of the Times” to view it:  Times Talks with Nora Ephron, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Anna Deavere Smith, Roy Blount Jr., Garrison Keillor

Announcing My Collaboration with Speakerfile

June 25, 2012–Shelf Awareness, the e-newsletter for booksellers and librarians and others in the book trade, has run a generous announcement on the collaboration I announced last week with Speakerfile. It was in the email they sent out to their subscribers this morning and at this link. If you don’t already subscribe to their emails, I recommend them–there’s a professional one for the book trade that comes out every workday and one for readers that’s published twice a week–they are grouped together at this link.

Last Friday, the day the release below hit the wires, the daily e-newsletter Publishers Lunch also covered the news, with a piece at this link.
June 22, 2012–Today I am announcing a business collaboration with Speakerfile–the Toronto-based company I’ve been writing about a lot on this blog over the past month. I’ll be representing their robust online platform that connects conference organizers and meeting planners with authors and thought leaders to publishers, authors, agents, and publicists. This press release on PR Newswire announces the arrangement. I’ve also pasted it in below, for your convenience. If you are an author, or you work with authors who want to do more public speaking, please read the release and follow the links to learn more about this engine of discovery that has the potential to put authors in front of audiences and drive book sales. You’ll also find a promo for Speakerfile near the upper right-hand corner of this website, which you can click on to go directly to Speakerfile’s site. Please let me know directly of any questions you may have, or if you’d like to sign up for Speakerfile.

Click on the link above for the press release or click through here for the release copied & pasted-in.

Iran and Iraq–Deja Vu All Over Again?

I find that Daily Beast/Newsweek columnist Peter Beinart is writing some of the most incisive commentary on the Middle East these days. His views on Israel, coming from a committed American Jew who is able to see flaws in the current Israeli government policies and rhetoric, is a welcome tonic for this committed American Jew. One column of his last week was especially apt, Experts Say Iran Attack is Irrational, Yet Hawks are Winning Debate. There is a disturbing deja vu in the campaign to attack Iran being mounted by some elected officials and coming from some quarters of the American opinion establishment–whether the attack would be done by Israel or the U.S.  Beinart, author of a forthcoming book called The Crisis of Zionism, is determined to slow the momentum toward war. I was especially appreciative of the penultimate paragraph in last Tuesday’s column:

“And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They’re a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it.The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials—folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson—whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.”

To recap, General Eric Shinseki was punished and sidelined by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after he had the temerity to testify to Congress that stablizing Iraq after Saddam’s fall would take “several hundred thousand soldiers.” And in the case of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, it should be remembered that before his wife’s CIA identity was revealed by multiple members of the Bush Administration, he had published numerous op-eds and given many interviews urging that the U.S. not invade Iraq. His background and experience–which included his key role as the last U.S. diplomat in Baghdad during Operation Desert Shield, before the beginning of the first Gulf War–informed his opposition to the 2003 invasion, not a reluctance to be tough with Saddam. Both Shinseki and Wilson, and it must be said, Valerie Plame, were caught up in the Bush Administration’s mania for war with Iraq, and the whole country, indeed the whole world, has been paying the price ever since. I see that the two situations–the Iraq situation and the one with Iran–are dissimilar in important ways, but I still believe we must ask what costs may an attack on Iran exact from the U.S. and the rest of the world? I’m glad that a well-informed Peter Beinart is asking this question.

**Full disclosure: I edited and published The Politics of Truth–A Diplomat’s Memoir: Inside the War that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity by Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Carroll & Graf, 2004)