Sarah Hall & Richard Milward at the Slipper Room! (with special musical guest)

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I always have a really great time when I schedule a Beatrice party at the Slipper Room, and next Wednesday’s reading with novelists Sarah Hall (How to Paint a Dead Man) and Richard Milward (Ten Storey Love Song) should be no exception. I spent some time with Sarah last year when I interviewed her for GalleyCat, but this will be my first time meeting Richard Milward and I’m looking forward to it—I’m told he’s planning some sort of audience participation element for the event. (So get your drawing hands ready!) And, as always when we’re at the Slipper Room, there will be a musical component to the show; this time around, I was able to lure Gee Henry out of retirement for a short acoustic set.

The Slipper Room’s at the corner of Orchard and Stanton in the Lower East Side. Doors will open at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4; there’s no cover charge for the cash bar. I hope you’ll be able to come!

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29 October 2009 | events |

Linda Gordon’s Sideways Entry into Dorothea Lange’s Biography

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If you read this weekend’s NY Times Book Review, you might have seen where Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits was hailed as “an absorbing, exhaustively researched and highly political biography of a transformative figure in the rise of modern photojournalism.” The book had first crossed my desk a few weeks ago, and when it arrived I had been curious about what had attracted NYU history professor Linda Gordon to Lange as a subject. The answer, which I’m able to share with you now, was surprising—and proof (if any were needed) that a writer should always strive to keep herself open to possibility.

If I were a religious person I might conclude that I was commanded by some greater power to write about Dorothea Lange. One day, around 2001, I got a phone call from a friend in California asking if I’d like to write Lange’s biography. It seemed that a biographer, Henry Mayer, had been planning to write about Lange but died suddenly of a heart attack; friends of his had thought the materials he had collected should be passed on to someone who could use them—and they thought of me.

At first I said no, I’m not a biographer and I don’t know photography. I thought maybe I could help find the right person to take up the project, though, so I began to read a bit about Lange. Soon, coincidences piled up. I had been planning in my next project to write about the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s heroic response to the great depression of the 1930s, and it was the New Deal that gave birth to Lange as a documentary photographer. I had been planning to write about the west—I’m from Portland, Oregon—and discovered that Lange was a westerner and that much of her photography covered the western states, including my own. Another striking piece of serendipity: Her second husband was a scholar whose work I had pored over for my previous book (The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction), never dreaming that he was married to a major artist.

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25 October 2009 | guest authors |

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