Boston Public Library Literary Lights 2017

in the Wall Street Journal of the same morning as an interview with our own most beloved David McCullough history gives us a sense of proportion McCullough says it's an aid to navigation in such troubled uncertain times history an aid to navigation in such troubled and uncertain times I speak to you this evening as an immigrant as a lawyer and as a judge who has spent almost 50 years exploring the ebbs and flows the zigs and zags of the American judicial system I value personally and deeply our nation's pledge to equal and reject equal justice under law for all I believe profoundly in the central place of the rule of law holds in our democracy good evening and a warm welcome to all of you on this beautiful spring evening and welcome to literary lights the Associates of the Boston Public Libraries 29th annual tribute to the outstanding writers of the Northeast region every year this dinner like the library itself evolved and this year is no exception in keeping with in tune with the times this year I am relinquishing my long-standing duties as emcee of this program to Jared Bowen GBH is executive arts editor now many of you may know Jared as the moderator if one could call him such of the series in Symphony Hall the speaker series others of you may be better acquainted with him as a host of open studio which is GBH is award-winning weekly television series that explores creative processes underlying the worker both local and nationally known visual and performing artists and some of you may simply know him as a regular on Greater Boston and as well Morning Edition in Boston Public Radio where his reviews of film theater performance dance and happenings every imaginable form of artistic expression make one realize how this one provincial city of ours has become a mecca for artists and a crucible of creativity now I can't think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the live library's new and very exciting alliance with WGBH one of Boston's foremost sources of ideas images real nose and inspiration a partner is firmly committed to the library itself as to the mission of public education and have this delightful insightful young man be the voice and guiding spirit of this evening's program ladies and gentlemen I hope you'll join me Oh in welcoming Jared but I must tell you something about it which is that a friend recently revealed to me that when Jared was introducing the politically incorrect comedian John Cleese at Symphony Hall Rhys he had an uncharacteristic bout of stage fright he confessed this to Cleese who said oh I have just the cure for this procedure smack jarred twice across the face now I want to reassure you just as the movie industry says no animals have been harmed you know I have not used similar coercive tactics to get jarred up on this stage so please join me in welcoming jarred that is not completely true there was some slapping but I have to say I feel better about it because there's a pile of Fifty Shades of Grey books on our table so I'm glad to know we weren't headed in that direction terrible writing it just would not fly here it's given pornography a bad name let us thank Vivian's bureau for her years of service to this event [Applause] I know I have epic shoes to film so this evening we celebrate and honor a number of our culture's leading literary lights it's a poignant moment because tonight we link them to the bright lights of the past to the writers artists craftsmen and fingers whose legacy will not be extinguished thanks to the work of the Associates of the Boston Public Library they of course are the city's chief guardians of the special collections at the library the associates are also the only completely independent nonprofit group that assumes a mantle for raising the funds to ensure that these treasures are cataloged digitized conserved and quite significantly made available to all in my humble opinion and the curator is here tonight I'm delighted for this the Boston Public Library presents is one of the most extraordinary exhibitions of last year with Shakespeare unauthorized [Applause] it was a show that offered provocative perspectives on Shakespeare by the way this is his birthday today so this is very fitting yes which I learned from the exhibit and remembered it was a show that offered these provocative perspectives and rattled our assumptions how he was derided in his day how he borrowed from other works and how the most famous line in English theater to be or not to be that as the question may have actually read to be or not to be I there's the point we know and saw all of this right there on real pages because of the Boston Public Library is magnificent Holdings which the associates by the way made possible by being the first to bring the curator on board by paying for the Shakespeare cataloging conservation and digitization I recently reacquainted myself with more of the work of the library's own Raiders of the Lost Ark team a very small team I might point out I saw the work they've done and restoring newly vibrant medieval manuscripts and Audubon prints I read John Winthrop Freeman's oath from 1631 which is the earliest known document referencing voting voting and democracy in America which if anyone wants to help it does need conserving I've studied Paul Revere's hand-drawn diagram of the Boston Massacre the only first-hand witness account I watch new bindings being handcrafted and saw some sleuthing at play how the team determined a letter by George Washington was actually signed by him but not actually written by him and I wish I could recreate for you the zeal and energy with which the staff showed me all of this their smiles and their pride although I would say that the hazmat onesie that they made beware to tour was a bit overkill I just want to remind you two of the treasure chests that is the Boston Public Library Special Collections why we're here tonight 250,000 volumes 1 million manuscripts more than 100,000 prints – 3 after Wednesday I'm talking about the recent repatriate repeat repatriation efforts to artifacts to Italy but I think we can now confirm honor as one of the libraries bushman's [Applause] before we begin the formal program let me just leave you with this I toured the collections not long after Isis was again obliterating ancient monuments and artifacts across the Middle East it reminded me how fortunate we are these collections are housed here in our great city it is our fortune to have the work of the literary lights of the past literally at our fingertips but that fortune also demands that we step up it is our moral and cultural imperative to support the care of these works simply because we can and as that tiny staff would please you there is so much work still to be done it was soul-crushing to see what happened in the Middle East so let's not squander our privilege this isn't a past the Hat kind of party so I'll let you do with that what you will we'll take a moment for to start our dinner and we'll be back to begin the formal part of our program in just a moment thank you so to begin the evening it's my great pleasure to introduce the still very fresh a new president of the Boston Public Library David Leonard he has already demonstrated that he's a visionary leader opening a radically reimagined library just down the street that's drawn a surge in public attention and interest he's also put its contents in the public eye hiring a preservation librarian securing more than 15 million dollars in city funding for the renovation of both the rare book reading room and the conservation lab and he's ensured that we will still have a comprehensive inventory of the library staggering collection of prints and drawings the good news is he's just getting started David will be introducing our keynote speaker a woman for whom I have a great deal of professional and personal affection the first female justice bassy I bungled it I was so intimidated by her I bungled it I knew this would happen so sorry the first female Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court at that of course is the Honorable Margaret Marshall please welcome David Leonard Thank You Jared and thank you Vivian good evening our mission at the library today is to celebrate reading and writing community spaces and programs preservation of our cultural heritage and robust services for the pursuit of knowledge and truth all of which remains free to all today as it was a hundred and seventy years ago I offer greetings this evening on behalf of mayor Walsh whose continuing commitment to the library is reflected in a strong budget for the upcoming fiscal year and coupled with increased support from the associates all of you our supporters and friends the future is bright for this library as part of a healthy thriving and innovative City it is a beacon of light in times that are troubling to many both economically and socially thank you for all that you do and we hope we'll continue to make possible tonight we celebrate the importance of writing in many forms and genres writing matters writing has impact and some writing such as that found in the majority opinions of a Supreme Court justice can matter in a particularly meaningful way it is now my duty and privilege to introduce tonight's awardee and keynote speaker Chief Justice Margaret Marshall biography is important and Margaret Marshall's life is punctuated by stories of great struggle in the face of civil adversity from student activism in the apartheid world of South Africa an inspired visit by Bobby Kennedy that ultimately led to her immigration to the u.s. a great legal career which includes stints as general counsel to Harvard University the first woman to be named senior fellow of the Yale Corporation and the most know too many of us her appointment as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court she is the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the first to serve as chief justin it's in its more than 300 year history in the course of her term she wrote hundreds of opinions and wrote the landmark decision of the last decade in Goodrich versus the Department of Health that declared the Massachusetts Constitution does not permit the state to deny citizens the right to same-sex marriage while we will stipulate to these great accomplishments and the stature of this great woman I also want to introduce you to the person this is the same person who recently came to our rare books Department for a 30 minute visit and stayed for an hour and a half poring over Paul Revere sketch of the Boston Massacre and John Adams own copy of the US Constitution her friends liberally share stories of a warm smart woman of incredible humility and a dry sense of humor and while I was told stories of shipping furniture and China from Hong Kong many decades ago and a certain Super Bowl party let me leave you with just two quotes from close friends first if she is your friend you will not find a better friend than Margie Marshall and second if it is possible to be a genius on the emotional intelligence spectrum than Margie is a true genius and so in closing in the words of the Goodrich decision our obligation is to define the liberty of all not to mandate our own moral code ladies and gentlemen please rise and join me in welcoming to the podium our keynote speaker our friend our empathetic civil leader Chief Justice Margaret Marshall thank you David for those wonderful remarks let me just say two things to begin with first anything that comes in a turquoise box with a white ribbon is chef fine with me and second Jared Bowen every good-looking man lost their voice when they saw me I do that much better I've been at this wonderful event several times and it is so great to be back with so many friends but I do have an initial request this is a great hotel and it does great things for great institutions in Boston and its sound system is terrible so I'm going to ask the people at the sort of four corners that if you can't hear please just tell me because I would like you to hear what I have to say and it it's always difficult at this evening I'm particularly pleased to be here and David thank you for those very generous remarks and I think I know to whom you speak and they will pay dearly but I am pleased to be here in the place where the conservation of the original work to some of my personal heroes and those of you who know me well know that John Adams is certainly my personal hero have found a loving home in the where books Department of a great library in fact I and indeed all of us owe an enormous gratitude to the Boston Public Library for the tireless work collecting and preserving and now transmitting the vibrant history of our Commonwealth and our nation but tonight we celebrate something even more special the Associates of the Boston Public Library led by Wonder Woman Vivian Spiro and Vivian where are you right there [Applause] Debian really is a ones and the only advice I have for all of you is don't give her your cell number but at Vivian and all of the associates were co-chairs the wonderful co-chairs of tonight's evening and for each of you for supporting the incredible work that the associates and the independent independent financial support that they give to David and his colleagues to enable us to continue to do what we do so thank you for for being here okay so just tell me if I stand and sosa does that help okay Easter Sunday 2017 two different newspapers and two items catch my eye the first in the Dallas Morning News is a cartoon Sean Spicer born as a small boy sits on the floor in a corner his legs splayed out ahead of him and leading a large-volume up on his legs history the volume is titled Wow says Sean Spicer the second in The Wall Street Journal [Applause] thank you the second in the Wall Street Journal of the same morning as an interview with our own most beloved David McCullough history gives us a sense of proportion McCullough says it's an aid to navigation in such troubled uncertain times history an aid to navigation in such troubled and uncertain times I speak to you this evening as an immigrant as a lawyer and as a judge who has spent almost 50 years exploring the ebbs and flows of zigs and zags of the American judicial system I value personally and deeply our nation's pledge to equal and equal justice under law for all I believe profoundly in the central place of the rule of law holds in our democracy I came from South Africa as David said where I knew just the opposite that wasn't because judges in South Africa were necessarily biased in favor of apartheid although many were I grew up there and I was educated there and black person hood was legally legally inferior to white person hood identity cards censorship state attacks on intellectuals armed police vehicles confronting unarmed protesters imprisonment and solitary confinement itself a form of torture the killings of political dissenters this was the stuff of everyday life for the majority of South Africans where disagreement with the apartheid system was itself criminally punished as a crime the judges I said were not necessarily in favor of this system and why did they uphold those laws why did they sentence people to prison why did they refuse to let people who had been Oh declined to come to court under mentally it was because how that would have followed the British system the British model of government the system of parliamentary supremacy and under that system judges must uphold the laws enacted by Parliament broadly speaking South Africa's Parliament enacted a great many oppressive laws and judges were compelled to it to enforce them perhaps the audience steeped as many of you are in American history will recognize the British the parliamentary model I have just described but I have to tell you very few Americans do and they do not understand the difference between that system and our structure of government but certainly the British parliamentary system is the model that our founders in fact eclis rejected when devising their own form of government and at the center of that transit of that transformation was John Adams the draft of the Massachusetts Constitution the oldest in our nation and some of whose most important writings are preserved in the Boston Public Library in a flare books Department the Massachusetts Constitution as many of you know begins with a wonderful declaration winging Declaration of Rights all people are born free and equal and have certain natural essential and unalienable rights but how to secure those like in the Massachusetts Constitution Adams devised a radical solution and one never before implemented in human history to the executive well known and the legislative branches he added a third independent co-equal judicial branch comprised of judges in the words of his Constitution as free impartial and independent as the lot of humanity will it and it was those judges who were charged with enforcing the natural life of every person Adam for scheme sounded great on paper but would it work in 1783 as many of you know just clears after the Massachusetts Constitution took effect the Supreme Judicial Court heard the first constitutional case it concerned the savage beating the black man or Walker by or the health defense annual Jennison a white man Jennison claimed that Walker was his slave his property and had run away Walker and turned claimed that he had been promised his freedom and the slave took the extraordinary step of suing Jennison the legal question and the case came down to this was Walker the property of his slave master and at a time when slavery was widely endorsed and routinely practiced the question I had to tell you was far from obvious how fortunate we are the Chief Justice William Cushing's original notes in that 1783 had been carefully preserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society and I want a quote from his notes which means me even as I speak this evening our Constitution of government by which the people of this Commonwealth have somewhat solemnly bound themselves declares that all men are born free and equal and that every subject is entitled to Liberty to have it guarded by the laws this being the case where Chief Justice Cushing I think the idea of slavery is inconsistent with our conduct and Constitution and there can be no such thing at perpetual servitude of a rational creature the Supreme Judicial Court looked to and enforced the words of the Massachusetts Constitution upsetting hundreds of years or settled law and caused in the process Adamson's Constitution had indeed worked and while quark Walker was pleading his case in Massachusetts our national government was floundering the Articles of Confederation and leveling and the men who met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were particularly born to the Massachusetts scheme of government and it's impartial co-equal judicial branch it was as we all now know latest lecture that was later adopted in our federal constitution the proposal to adopt the Adams model in a national scale was daring we cannot find one Express prototype in the experience of the world James Madison lived and for the longest time the United States stood in splendid isolation in its adoption of this wholly new form of democracy but from the ashes of the World War to the level of communism the collapse of colonialism new constitutional democracies have taken place at crossword Loeb from Slovenia to South Africa from Uruguay to Hungary following in the footsteps of John Adams and the constitutional each new constitution contains a bill or Charter of Rights and the constitutional authority of independent judges to enforce those life even when limiting the Democratic will of the majority no parliamentary system or these we can and we do celebrate those developments but a convergent of equally potent development in our own country however seems to be moving in the opposite direction and is deeply troubling pointed attacks by pundits and leading politicians including those holding high public office on judges for being out of step with political trends a massive influx of special interest money into judicial selection retention procedures and the up ending of the rules for the appointment of the Supreme Court justice these are a toxic mixture that undermines the central premise of our democracy recently our national attention has been focused on the selection of a new justice for our federal Supreme Court but the health of the entire legal system both state and federal depends on a strong state judiciary these are not my words but though the former United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor perhaps one of the most beloved justices state court judges know less than their federal colleagues must be independent free from influence but to Leeson decisions one of which you may not be familiar with Republican Party against Minnesota decided in 2002 and the more familiar citizens united against federal election commission decided in 2010 paved the way for state judicial electioneering that threatens that independence in white the Supreme Court held in essence that the First Amendment gives sitting judges and judicial candidates the right to make clear their own personal and political views on legal matters that come before them the results of that decision in many jurisdictions judicial candidates now ardently commit themselves to rule in a certain way what they think of abortion for example or whether they will always impose the death penalty in certain types of cases implicit in our constitutional compact is a guarantee that judges will give each person a fair hearing will consider only the evidence presented in court and will not look outside the court to reach a decision white and its progeny explain this contact to its limits this is new in the United States this is new and this is a dangerous development in citizens united against federal election commission poured oil onto the fires already burning in state judiciary's across this country almost all of the commentary has focused on the consequences of that decision for presidential or congressional races the less held a consequence for judicial elections are even more problem bubbling in his powerful dissent justice Stevens wrote states may no longer have the ability may no longer have the ability to place modest limits on corporate electioneering even if they believe such limits to be critical to maintaining the integrity of their judicial systems his little-noticed observation was prescient and the rewriting of the rules for the appointment of a Supreme Court justice culminating and the consummation of justice near war such has done little to shake the public's view that all judges decide all cases based on their own political preferences making an existing Supreme Court vacancy a highly visible part of an electoral strategy stamps the course as an electro prize pure and simple in doing so it places a court in a position of real institutional peril those are the words of Linda greenhouse perhaps the most perceptive observer of the court in our generation the deans of Harvard and Yale Law School's jointly recently reminded us law overrides violence with reason law stands for what we have in common not merely what divides us law respects disagreement it patiently considers evidence and advocacy it engages with the views of all each person not just each citizen is before the law equality before the law that is the special gift given to us when our country adopted a constitutional democracy in 1787 Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has voiced her own concern about and I quote the efforts of those who would song on the judiciary into adopting their 4/3 policies it takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship she said but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings we should indeed avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings and you and me each of us Oh Oh it to the generations who follow to protect the special gift thank you my privilege now to present the presenters will present tonight's lights he has authored or co-authored 21 books he has created 15 documentaries he surely needs steel beams to support this display of all his awards which include a Peabody Pont Emmy and double n double acp Image Award he was in the first class of genius grant winners has received 55 honorary degrees so the only thing left for a Harvard professor filmmaker journalist and cultural critic Henry Louis Gates Jr to do is to present 2017 literary light Kwame Anthony Appiah [Applause] thank you very much they're very kind introduction can you all hear me the far reaches of this room so you might say that I was introduced to answer the appeal long before we actually met in October 1973 having graduated from Yale the previous June I found myself embarking upon my graduate education at the University of Cambridge assigned to Clare College where Paul Mellon who endowed our fellowship had matriculated like most Americans I would suppose I was determined to see two things that Cambridge as soon as I could the first was the rooms where John Milton had lived when he was a student in the late 1620 at Christ's College as I looked on in all the tour guide abruptly turned to me and I proposed nothing suddenly asked me if I knew Anthony Appiah I don't believe so I responded and I continued the tour a few days later I went to visit the rooms where Isaac Newton had lived in Trinity College in the early 1660s this time it was a fellow student who tapped me on the shoulder during the tour again I proposed absolutely nothing and asked if I knew someone named Anthony Appiah I know I responded wondering why this question had been asked again back at Clare my dorm in effect over dinner the next night I was asked this question for the third time day or so later as I was walking through the old quartet Clare I looked across the manicured lawn and saw a thin young black man with a mane of curly black hair poking its way out from under the very wide brim of a very large white hat I looked at him I walked up to him and I said I think your name's Anthony Appiah his true story after he recovers he recovered from the shock the young man asked me how in the world I knew his name I explained that I've been asked by knew him at least three times in my first week at Cambridge and for that there could be only one possible explanation whoever this Anthony object character was he had to be a black man since white people only asked a black person if they know someone if that person happens to be black too when I heard his hearty laughter in response I knew that I admit a man who would become a friend since his years at Cambridge and his earliest years teaching in Ghana and at Yale Raman Kwame Anthony Appiah has approached with the rarest combination of rigor and humanity the philosophy of mind and language political philosophy in african and african american intellectual history Apia as a thinker and writer is our bane and warm scholarly and accessible challenging and generous his work crosses disciplines as it spans the globe celebrating human rights ethnic and cultural pluralism individual identity and liberty and reason as many award-winning books have helped to reshape how we see our multicultural world and ourselves in that world his loyal readership and multiple honors suggests then I'm not alone in thinking of him as one of the best teachers in the Academy and in our broader public discourse in 2017 he'll published two books as if idealization and ideals based on the American Philosophical Association's carets lectures of 2013 and mistaken identities based on his riveting 2016 reflexes he is a novelist as well he's published three novels and he's published a book of African proverbs with his estimable beloved mother Peggy a via a cyanide old English family who married a Ghanaian nationalist and founding father Joe Apio obvious writing reflects the wide cosmopolitan world in which he was raised in which he lives and through which he extensively travels a world of difference in which he always somehow seems to be at home Anthony has written so much and so well that it's difficult to pull one line or paragraph that sums up both the generosity and incisiveness of his thought but here's something that speaks very clearly to me in his voice in experiments in ethics he wrote and I quote yet in making our choices we must sometimes start with a vision however inchoate of what it is for a human life to go well it's my argument he continues that we should be free to avail ourselves of the resources of many disciplines to define that vision and that in bringing them together we are being faithful to a long tradition in the humanities he continues I think we're always engaged in illuminating the present by drawing on the past it's the only way to make a future where it's hoping for unquote Anthony Appiah has that rare ability to talk with the most erudite philosophers who theorized about being in the world but also with regular people who are in the world how many great thinkers can translate the complexities of their discipline into words simple and clear enough to guide us when real moral choices have to be made in our daily lives after all helping the people live helping people to live ethically and to improve their lives is or should be shouldn't it the goal of the humanities to mend the world by fashioning the tools needed to confront the difficult choices we face each day as he is begun to do through his delightful weekly ethicist column in The New York Times of anga zine knowing the right thing to do is part of a larger framework within which people have been wrestling at least since Socrates Anthony draws ethical thought out of its golden cage and in doing so guides us through what we need to do every day as we work toward being good being decent and being humane what did I say about Anthony Appiah all these years after I first met him and his broad-brimmed white cowboy hat in Clare College Cambridge I can say that he cares about people even more than he cares about ideas and that he cares about real human beings even more than that abstraction we call humanity it was he so long ago who did so much by his example to inspire me to dream the dream of living the life of the mine and the constancy of his loving friendship has sustained and enriched my life for the last four and a half decades he is a sublime example of the thinker equally at home in the Academy and in the world a person who to paraphrase Terrence he's so at home in his own skin that no one's skin color is alien to him ladies and gentlemen it is my honor to present to you the philosopher a man of letters Kwame Anthony I'm actually reminded of what LBJ said now for another gentleman from West Virginia senator Jennings Randolph introduced him in an equally generous way Randolph said I wish my mother and father might have been here to hear that introduction because my father would have enjoyed hearing what you have to say about me and my mother would have believed it and skipped you the boat so he knows what I'm talking about really though I did spend my I spent my teenage years with a bunch of buddies but no best friend and then 40-something years ago I met skip and I've had a best friend ever since the other person I'd like to thank and he's going to be very upset with me it's my best critic and editor my husband Henry fender who's been my partner for almost as long they were the years at the office he's edited skipped John Updike Malcolm Gladwell Adam Gopnik Atul Gawande rythmic Lara and a host of other wonderful writers so I want to apologize in front of all of you for making him continue to the work when he comes home in the evening helping me as I say as my best editor and critic of course I feel deeply honored to be among tonight's literary lights and I'm very grateful to all of you who organized this for inviting me it was suggested that my remarks should be brief but maybe funny which is no small challenge when it comes to talking about libraries so so I went to the reference librarian at NYU I'm a scholar I know how to solve any problem you just ask a reference librarian and I asked her if he could tell me a good joke about a librarian and she fixed me with a basilisk stare and replied my salary [Applause] but but the truth is if you're a writer like me libraries are not a joke they're at the heart of what we do I remember as a child in Ghana how our home with its 2,000 books served as a library for all the kids of our neighborhood who would come at my mother's invitation so in a certain sense I grew up in a library like the authors and editors and publishers who make books and journals happen libraries are essential to the ecology that helps us writers find readers from kids with no books at home to immigrants looking to make sense of a new country to unemployed people looking for jobs to writers doing research to citizens trying to evaluate elected officials these temples to the book to a whole range of media are essential to literature the scholarship and as Margie dis reminded us to democracy so thank you very much Boston Public Library next I'm pleased to welcome to the stage one of the legendary voices and intellects of public radio he is someone who has promoted civic conversation about the most pressing issues and ideas of our time just like many of the authors we're hearing from this evening Christopher Lydon is the host of open source on WBUR and presents Pulitzer wise Prize winning journalist Susan Faludi thank you John thank you everybody I want to just begin as spontaneously saying up with the immigrants including Anthony Appiah and Margie Marshall and up with the public library of the city of Boston built by the people for the Advancement of learning I like even better on the comment on the Boylston Street side the Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty it's a complete constitution right there [Applause] um they say I have not known Susan Faludi for 30 years she's not my best friend but I'm here to tell you – my case anyway she is the long-form journalist in our time and I mean that very seriously from the heart is a reader from the beginning since backlash you know the artists say it's not about the answers it's about the questions and nobody pursues the questions were sure-footed ly more seriously more conscientiously more dogged ly but more intelligently there I say then Susan Faludi as in for example the question she asked her father born it's fun sorry my computer died in ignominiously I'm reading from notes but it is fun Friedman who became in Nazi time Steven Faludi and then many years later became sketchy after surgical transformation and Susan after a quarter century of estrangement met him in Hungary and wrote this now classic masterpiece in the darkroom but among her questions the central one was really what does it mean what does it mean to dispense with say goodbye to those people that one has known and being all one's life I read that book in a kind of fear in something not fear exactly but trembling and not so much for the father as for the daughter working her way through this examination very much like truly like a doctor like a great diagnostician trying to undo the mystery here her father said at some point to Susan's husband she's a shy soft-spoken girl the gentle girl and then she really pulls out the guy and Susan responded I think it was in The Guardian that it's what her father really needed that he wanted more than anything he wanted to be perceived as we all do and surely as that book does Susan Faludi graduated Harvard summa in 1981 then the book that stands up incredibly well backlash about the push against feminism and then sort of equal time for the guys stiffed the betrayal of the American man then the terror dream fear and fantasy in post 9/11 America which will live still living through and then last year this masterpiece Susan does not shy from pain or painful subjects she's also capable of saying that the epidemic in our time is self-pity among people who are not suffering as much as they imagine they are and I think that includes a lot of us in this room short-form we're in a kind of strange Eclipse of serious journalism but I think in the long term there's nobody who exemplifies it who practices it who models it a no better ornament to real journalism than Susan Faludi thank you this is just this is a very warm bath essentially it's just can we just do this every night and I can't think of a more perfect and more reassuring person to be matched with tonight and crisp and everything that Chris was saying about journalism goes back times do to him last summer he did the very first interview about in the in the darkroom with me and frankly I was a quivering bowl of jell-o talking about personal stuff is not my thing which I guess I should have thought about before I wrote this book but miraculously Chris got a wonderful discussion out of me which one surprised anyone who who knows his on-air brilliance and also is all para brilliance and I can't think of a more perfect cause for me to be matched with in the preservation of a library and the library's collections some years ago I had a rackleff fellowship and the very first day the staff announced that they had a great new perk on that they were offering the fellows a student had been hired to collect our books for us at the library so we wouldn't have to go there ourselves and I thought why would I appoint a surrogate to go to heaven libraries have been my heaven I since I was a kid and I would spend the summers holed up in my local branch library the the your town library had an annual reading contest where you get a construction paper cut out of various you know fruits and vegetables depending on how many books you had had checked out and I was the proud recipient of a paper pomegranate at the end of the summer it's the highest honor I'm sometimes I think that everything I've done of merit was done in a library I wrote backlash in the San Francisco Public Library I was just in the Pasadena Public Library in the genealogy room because it had this one big table and you could close the door but in my litany of heavens I have to put the Boston Public Library in the top ranked [Applause] much of this book in the darkroom was written under the green lamps in the old reading room with full appreciation and irony the book that the Associates of the Boston Public Library have so kindly invited me here tonight to celebrate is only a book thanks to the Boston Public Library and you know as you support you all support the utterly crucial work of preserving the collections please remember that you are also supporting not just a repository for those collections and not just the preservation of the collections themselves but you are also offering a kind of incubator like you'd find in a maternity ward because there are a lot of creative lives that wouldn't be alive at all without that space so I just want to thank you and thank the associates for the public library for your incredible commitment to that and thank you for this great honor I should mention that Vivian is this vicious rumor is spreading the Vivian is stepping down that is not at all the case I am merely the Ed McMahon to her Johnny Carson just to be clear Vivian is going nowhere as we continue on honoring our life's now must read New Yorker writer Jill Lepore wrote about Wonder Woman in 2014 and that could easily be the title of any biography written about her one day so you can address any topic with absolute brilliance and Elan and makes history Syrian from the weighty in New York burning Liberty slavery and conspiracy in eighteenth-century Manhattan to the epicly curious like Jo Gold's teeth the harvard university professor prevents her friend and Harvard colleague Jane Kaminsky it's a real honor to present Jane Kaminsky to you all I first met Jane the very first day of graduate school at Yale she was wearing this big white cowboy hat am i I'm not Jane for a long time and we've done a lot of things together we started a magazine together once we were in a dissertation group together once that um I will mention the name of we we wrote a novel together once we've raised our children together and I just for the record want to clear one thing up because sometimes there's a question about this a little bit of ambiguity Jane is the funny one Jane Kaminsky has a painters eye a scholars mind and a novelists pen I don't know any other historian as smart or as shrewd she is also a best beloved friend Jane has written about many things gossip and scandal love and war but I like it best when she writes about people's lives the traps into which we fall and our scrambles to escape she once described her first book a study of the politics of speech in early New England as an exercise and historical eavesdropping but no one listens better in the quiet of the archives to the nimble tongue the unquiet the glib mouthed the biting stinging of dead men's speech or better tells the story of people like Anne Hutchinson and the misgovernment of this woman's tongue story that Jane writes left in its wake ripples of feminine dissent nevertheless still persisting the exchange artist is her account of the rise and very terrible fall of a man named Andrew Dexter who built in Boston at the beginning of the 19th century the tallest building in the United States the exchange coffee house on a pyramid scheme the pyramid collapsed Dexter fled the country and the building burned to the ground there are lessons here about dreams and time's about the line between risk and folly but what I love about this beautiful book is Jane's compassion for the scoundrel who is its subject in one of the small mercies of an otherwise bleak middle age she writes fate spared Andrew Dexter the sight of the exchange coffeehouse in flames it's a quiet moment of biographical tenderness biography imposes conditions Virginia Woolf once observed and those are that it must be based on fact Jane Kaminsky is an unrivaled finder of fact in the archives she's a master detective which is also a master storyteller ten years ago when we wrote a novel together I saw this close-up we took turns writing chapters it was sort of like playing a very long and exhausting game of tennis the novel had two narrators so we email each other chapters midweek I'd send her a chapter on Wednesday she send me a chapter back Saturday and then we had no the novelists are all aghast we had no plot in mind or indifference we had no plan and so it really just happened to be responding to one another and Jane would always make everything more suspenseful and more interesting and scarier and more tense and I was forever then I get a chapter and everything would have kind of gone wrong and I would tidy everything up I would I would let the lovers kiss I would I would let the dog have a bowl and I would tuck in all the children to bed and sing them a lullaby it's been my Jafra buck and she would send me the next chapter and everything would be all screwed up again it would always be better because Jane always knew better she always does know better which gets me to Jane's latest book a revolution in color a biography of John Singleton Copley a portrait of a painter a fragile ambitious man of soaring talent a painter of the Sons of Liberty who created nothing so much as the patronage of the king and love nothing so much as his art and his family Kop Lee's name is all over this city where he was born on the wrong side of the docks but his genes masterpiece of a biography reveals Copley only ever wanted to leave Boston for a wider world to leave behind portrait painting to for the painting of history I learned from this story what I've learned from Jane in so many ways over so many years where all of us marked by the books that we read by the libraries that we visit by the art we see by the families we create by the friends we make and by our times in 1765 in his house on Cambridge Street Copley painted his half brother with a pet squirrel a flying squirrel hitched to a golden chain his little brother holding this tiny pet squirrel the tamed animal eyeing his escape just yesterday Jane not wearing a cowboy hat went to New York and got that flying squirrel tattooed onto her arm an emblem of the unchaining of the artist it is my great privilege to honor James Urbanski I can't even think what my career would be had I not met Jill Lepore in the dog park by the Yale Divinity School in 1988 we have raised families and written books and painted rooms and cane chairs and and and raised in very dogs together at least one of whom has a role in blind spots so Thank You Jill for making me laugh and cry in that introduction and it's it's true about the tattoo actually [Applause] it's better than a sports car or a second marriage so thank you she's the funny one thank you to Jill and to Vivienne Spiro and Louisa Stephens and the associates of the BPL for this lovely evening as I was mulling what I might say in my allotted two minutes to convey the importance of the associates work preserving and digitizing rare and unique materials in the BPL special collections it shocked me to realize and somewhat embarrassed me to realize that I have written if you count the novel blind spot with Jill for books about Boston about Boston's colonial and revolutionary history books in which the city itself is a major character and all of which have sent me to the manuscripts reading room here there were times in the writing of wine spot that Jill and I moved our fingers around the Bonner map actually trying to walk that 1764 City spanning the 17th to the early 19th century all of my Boston projects have centered on outsiders in the little peninsular town which at that point was about a mile long and half a mile wide and if all of us are writing to different degrees books about ourselves that's my story in Boston – I've been here for 24 years and it's never really quite felt like the place that I'm from and Andrew Dexter the exchange artist was my father and John Singleton Copley is my mother all of those Outsiders from slanderers and condemned errs of authority in John Winthrop would be city on a hill to John Singleton Copley who saw the self-proclaimed cradle of American liberty as a cradle of mob tyranny following them I thought allowed me to present a clear-eyed and sometimes even a jaundiced view of our city to poke at its pretensions and to point out the ways that the messy facts of everyday life often belied its high moral tone but here's the thing none of those stories could be told without the elusive primary material to lay the facts bear those in my profession are so fortunate that Bostonians possessed from the very beginning not only overweening moral confidence but equally overweening historical consciousness as my students would say they wrote down and institutions like the Boston Public Library have tended that stuff so that scholars like me and Jill could come along someday and play Boston off against itself and the Associates of the BPL supply the resources that these extraordinary collections deserve and demand which makes me all the more grateful to serve this evening as one of your standard bearers thank you so much I think that Chief Justice Marshall said that she wanted to show off her tattoo now as well is that correct that's I misheard that you know later okay I'll see you downstairs this guy Andre did abuse someone men and women want to be and be lived he is quintessential cool and his writing it's sublime Andre is the author of six books including House of Sand and Fog and dirty love which I just love to say his astonishing memoir County will have you reeling as you reconcile the extent of his emotional endurance and you consider the extent of your own he presents 2017 literary lights Wally lamb okay which glasses James Baldwin reminds us famously that the purpose of art is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers I want to thank all of you lovely human beings out there for your generous support of this essential institution without which the laying bare of these questions can't happen I want to give you a round of applause for my happy duty tonight ever since I picked up in read Wally lambs 1992 debut novel the heartbreakingly beautiful she's come undone I have been an ardent admirer of his work here is just a taste of that novels unforgettable protagonists Lloris price I was on the brown plaid sofa watching TV and scotch taping my bangs to my forehead because Jeanette said that kept them from drying frizzy across the room on the Barcalounger my mother was having her nervous breakdown Moss at hunched over one of our fold-out TV trays working constantly on a religious jigsaw puzzle without making any progress she wore her knee socks and her quilted pink bathrobe despite the early summer heat she ate nothing but cubes of Kraft caramels for two weeks I had been reaching over and turning up the volume trying as best I could to ignore the private curse words she began chuckling to herself trying not to see the litter of caramel cellophane that was accumulating around her chair in the kind of half circle here with spare but he mentally evocative prose you since the author disappearing into his characters as fully as does a master actor capturing them without judgment his primary creative fuel a deeply compassionate curiosity and over the course of his substantial career in his six acclaimed and bestselling novels Wally lamb consistently shows himself to be unafraid to take on large and difficult subject matter whether it's the ravages of paranoid schizophrenia chaos theory and the horror of mass shootings racial strife and devastating flood waters Wally lamb seems to enter the blank canvas of each of his novels with a courageous life loving and frankly towering humanity it is not always the case of course that a writer's fine its attributes on the page are also evident in his or her life but that is certainly the case with Wally lamb for he is also a gifted generous and lifelong teacher since 1999 alone he has run a writing program for incarcerated woman women at the York Correctional Institute dude in int Connecticut resulting in two important collections of essays by these inmates couldn't keep it to myself testimonies from our imprisoned sisters and I'll fly away further testimonies from the women of York prison both of these edited by mr. Lam I wish I had more time to say all I would like to say about my friend Wally lam for I consider him a national treasure and it is a joy and an honor for me to present him with a status he has carried with grace and humility for many years now that of literary life ladies and gentlemen Wally lamb you should all immediately lower your expectations well first of all I wanted to say that I am so mad at Men's Wearhouse you know I'm more of a sweatshirt guy than a tux guy and when I went to put this thing on today the shirt was way too tight and the pants were way too big so they just have to put up with that I wanted to say thank you so much to the Associates of the Boston Public Library for this honor and more so for the important nonprofit work that you all do I believe I speak not only from my to mic not only for my fellow honorees and presenters here tonight but for all writers and teachers and scholars and readers when I acknowledge our deeply felt gratitude for your mission of preservation and Thank You Andre my literary brother from a different mother it's a thrill for me to be receiving this honor from one of the country's best contemporary novelists and memoirs and if you have not have the pleasure of reading townie which which Jared mentioned before you're in retreat it's a it's a heartbreaking and triumphant story I too was a townie a native of another working-class New England town Norwich Connecticut unlike the residents of Gold Coast Connecticut on the New York side of things we townies who grew up east of the Connecticut River tend to be more feisty than fashionable more liverwurst than at a and certainly more red sox than yankees and so to get this award from on grade two views is wicked pissah i mean it's like the writers equivalent of a hinted dinger over there at fenway park the first time I ever got a writing award was in June of 1964 at my eighth grade graduation from Kelly junior high school when Miss Higgins the scary teachers standing at the microphone at the front of the gymnasium slash auditorium announced my name as the recipient of the Julia Pease award I was only half listening someone on my right elbow to me in the ribs and said that's you numbnuts get up there confused I stood took the long perp walk up to the front of the auditorium shift miss Higgins liver-spotted hand and was handed an envelope in which I later found a crisp newly printed five-dollar bill I figured somebody had made a mistake in having selected me so later on on that send same day at the arcade in new London's ocean beach park I blew the whole wad on skee-ball in whack-a-mole figuring that if the money was spent you know I I wasn't being probably going to be expected to give it back many years later when Oprah Winfrey called our home to tell me that she had picked that first novel she's come undone as the fourth selection of her wildly successful Oprah's Book Club I was skeptical oh yeah your Oprah right I'm Geraldo Rivera thank God this was something that I just thought about saying not something I actually said and when she called back the following year to say she had selected my second novel I know this much is true for her 17th book club selection I was much cooler this time Oprah darling how are you how's the weather out there in Chicago what's new with dr. Phil but this newfound self-confidence was short-lived out on the road on book tour with that very same novel I was in my hotel room ironing my pants for that nights reading and watching jeopardy when I heard Alex Trebek say he wrote the novel she's come undone and those three poor schlub II contestants – they're lockjaw eager but unable to press those comes to those buzzes and so standing at the ironing board in room five hundred and something in some Marriott hotel in some city in some state I can't recall I said rather sheepishly who is Wally Lamb [Laughter] [Applause] now to answer that question I just want to say I'm a guy who has had a whole lot to be humble about and grateful for and all of this good fortune this Karma has accorded me what I am most grateful for is the opportunity to share my life with my former high school friend who became my bride of the past 39 years and our kids so whatever is in that aqua box there back in back of me Chris I share this honor with you you'll have to dust it but hey I love you Chris and I love everybody here thank you so much let me just say it's been my pleasure to provide the assist here for Vivian this evening so please join us in raising a glass to our literary lights past and present to the special collections and to the library thank you thank you all for coming and please feel free to linger on we're having much to go – time to go home [Applause]

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