The First Lady's Steamy Book Report

Laura Bush and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Laura Bush and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. (Photos By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

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By Tamara Jones
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Discussing dirty books with Laura Bush is surprisingly easy.

Which is a huge relief, because deconstructing Russian literature of the 19th century was the other option. But the interview, granted in advance of the first lady's National Book Festival, was slated to last 10 minutes, not 10 years, so skipping her favorite era altogether is a matter of time, not taste.

This is the kind of literary speed-date that brooks no transition between "Little House on the Prairie" and "Lady Chatterley's Lover," a mad skitter through three wars, Woody Allen, the plague and third grade. She endures all with the same warm smile, flanked by a spray of yellow roses on one side and James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, on the other.

"I will admit to reading books like 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' in high school, where you had a fake cover on the outside of the book and read it during math," she says, adding that it seemed "risque at the time."

Was the once-banned classic the steamiest novel she ever read?

"Probably not," she replies breezily. "I've probably read some steamier since."

Smile.

Silence.

S teamier? Like what?

Smile.

She turns to the librarian of Congress for rescue.

"It's hard even having to name ones that are steamy, don't you think, Dr. Billington?"


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