Alice McDermott: Working overtime for the National Book Festival

August 26, 2014
(Photo by Farrar Straus Giroux) (Photo courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux)

Scores of people at the Library of Congress have been working for months to make the National Book Festival a success this Saturday, Aug. 30. And hundreds more are gearing up to help this week.

Among the many writers involved is Washington-area novelist Alice McDermott, a National Book Award winner who’s kindly contributing on several fronts.

First, she’s written a brilliant introductory essay for this year’s special Book World guide to the National Book Festival, which appeared in The Post on Aug. 24. Having attended the very first festival back in 2001, she reflects on the changes — in the world and in publishing — in the post-9/11 age.

Second, this Friday, McDermott will appear at the Hay-Adams Author Series, Washington’s toniest literary event. I’ll be interviewing her during the luncheon about her life and her award-winning novels, which include “Charming Billy” and most recently, “Someone.” Tickets ($85) are still available for the three-course meal on the hotel’s top floor overlooking the White House. (At last year’s Hay-Adams event, news broke that the National Book Festival would be moving off the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center.)

(Courtesy of Farrar, Straus, Giroux) (Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux)

Finally, at the festival on Saturday, you can see McDermott (for free, of course) in the Fiction & Mystery room at 5:20 p.m. And that evening at 8 p.m., she’ll be participating in one of this year’s most exciting new additions: the Great Books to Great Movies presentation. (Her 1987 novel “That Night,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, was made into a movie directed by Craig Bolotin in 1993.) Saturday night’s presentation, which will also include E.L. Doctorow, Paul Auster and Lisa See, will be hosted by The Post’s film critic, Ann Hornaday. In the special Book World guide to the festival, you can read Hornaday’s essay about the perilous process of bringing a beloved book to screen.

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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