The handy counter tells me this is the 650th blog I’ve posted here, and the timing is apt — today is Back to School, the beginning of fall — the publishing season, the work season, the school season. Our local pool is closed, I see the boys’ lunch boxes on the kitchen table, I begin teaching at Rutgers tomorrow, SLJ is having a Virtual Ebook Summit later this month (on the 29th) http://www.ebook-summit.com/ and several other projects I’m involved with should become real this week. Summer is about exploring, experimenting, stretching out, fall is about delivering, harvest, bringing to market what you’ve created in the long sunny days. I wish I’d had a bit more sun and relaxation, but now comes the thrill of showing your wares, giving what you’ve got. Fall is also the beginning of the move indoors — to museums, shows, to savor what others have prepared for us.
One show that we saw over the summer that I’d encourage all of you to see, if you can, is the exhibit about the John Lindsay years at the Museum of the City of New York: http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/current/Mayor-John-Lindsay.html. The show itself is terrific — uses space, objects, taped interviews very, very well. But it is also fundamentally about history — how do you make sense of a man who came into office as a Kennedyesque shining knight, and left defeated, in tears — in many ways a failure. And yet was it that he failed, or that the cross-currents of the time were more than anyone could have mastered? The exhibit is like reading War and Peace — does the man make the time, or do the times make the man? Personality and context — the warp and weft of all history, all biography.
Over the years I’ve been on endless panels about “authenticity” at ALA, IRA, NCTE. Why not have a panel on person and context — how much can/should our books be about individuals and how much about the binding forces of history? That’s a crucial question for anyone writing history, biography, social studies, even historical fiction — and it is never dicussed. As we march into fall, I throw out that jump ball as our first new question.