Hay-Adams Author Series begins its second chapter

June 17, 2013
Marie Arana and Walter Isaacson at the Hay-Adams Author Series luncheon in Washington. (Photo credit Dan Chung)
Marie Arana and Walter Isaacson at the Hay-Adams Author Series luncheon in Washington. (Photo credit Dan Chung)

Good news for readers with good taste: The Hay-Adams Literary Series is starting back up. When its founder, Hay-Adams President Kay Enokido, retired last year, Washington’s most elegant literary salon went on hiatus. But this month the Hay-Adams hotel announced that the series will begin again on June 27.

Appropriately, the first guest of honor will be John Taliaferro, who has just published a biography of John Hay, the former U.S. Secretary of State who once lived at the site of the Hay-Adams hotel. The Economist called “All the Great Prizes” (Simon & Schuster) “a valuable reassessment of an underestimated politician and diplomat.” A review in the Wall Street Journal said Taliaferro offers a “pulsating narrative” of Hay’s affair with the much younger Lizzie Cameron, the wife of a U.S. senator.

Each $85 luncheon in the Hay-Adams Author Series offers a talk by a famous writer, a three-course menu inspired by the book in question and a spectacular view of the White House. Yes, $85 is more than a sandwich at Politics & Prose, but it’s a relative bargain in a hotel where the best room goes for $3,800 a night.

Hay-Adams General Manager Hans Bruland acknowledges that these luncheons, which attract about 100 guests, just break even, but they “bring great exposure to the roof” — the glass-lined Top of the Hay, the perfect spot for that wedding reception you’re planning. “And it gives people a chance to interact with the authors, which makes it a very personal and enriching experience,” Bruland said.

Since its founding in 2005, the series has hosted some of the nation’s most accomplished writers, including John Grisham, Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates and Walter Isaacson.

Former Book World editor Marie Arana has been part of the series since it began and will remain a co-host of the revived program with Bruland. “The idea of a Washington literary series on the grounds where John Hay and Henry Adams used to hold their famed literary salon seemed a great idea,” Arana says via e-mail.

“Kay [Enokido] and I were adamant about keeping fiction in the mix, although it was clear that ticket sales favored Washington nonfiction authors,” Arana says. “Three of the first four recipients of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction (formerly the National Book Festival Creative Achievement Award) were celebrated at the Hay-Adams before they received their laurels at the National Book Festival: John Grisham, Isabel Allende and Toni Morrison.”

Arana says that Taliaferro’s biography of Hay is the perfect book to reopen the series. “It’s a quintessential Washington story.”

Tickets to the luncheon on June 27 can be purchased by calling 202-638-6600.

Looking further ahead, the next Hay-Adams Author luncheon will be on Sept. 20 with comic novelist Christopher Buckley, whose most recent book was a satire of U.S.-China relations called “They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?”

@RonCharles

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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