The Literary Hill

February 2019

141
With an insider’s wink and plenty of verve, former Washington Post columnist Bob Levey chronicles a fictional campaign for a Maryland Congressional seat.

See Larry Run
Larry Felder has ink in his veins. A veteran journalist for The Washington Record—also known as The Rag (no relation)—he’s 56 and on the brink of retirement. As he contemplates the next phase of his life, his assistant dangles an enticing future before his eyes: a Congressional seat in Maryland’s Eighth District. “Larry Felder has been pounding a keyboard for a very long time,” she tells him. “Windows are closing—windows that you didn’t even know could open. You’re never going to take three years off and sail around the world, Larry. But a seat in Congress—this could be Felder II.”

Wealthy thanks to a settlement from the accident that left his wife in a coma, Felder realizes he is free to “take a shot at the career I dreamed about when I was a little boy.” He decides to go for it—“because it’s just too damned easy to sit behind a keyboard and aim rockets. Placing yourself before actual voters—as crazy and as kinky as they could be—was the ultimate test, and the ultimate reward.”

In “Larry Felder, Candidate,” former Washington Post columnist Bob Levey spins a lively story that careens between the “lurching, desperate, can’t-feel-the-bottom of the lake world of print journalism” and the glossy, gritty, deal-making arena of politics. It’s no surprise that he does so with flair and credibility. Levey has had a front-row seat to both worlds, having covered the local scene for the Washington Post for nearly four decades.

Levey’s insider knowledge serves him well as he describes Felder’s transition from a dull but ethical newspaperman to a calculating candidate. It’s all here: the predatory opponent digging for dirt, the overly-tanned lawyer who can’t stop bragging about his sexual exploits, the ruthless businessman looking for any way, legal or not, to gain a competitive edge—and an ambitious young campaign manager who’s in love with her boss.

Needless to say, Felder’s road to Capitol Hill is strewn with obstacles the size of the federal budget. But never fear: thanks to Levey’s deft writing, wry (but not too cynical) voice, and big dash of heart, this is one campaign bus you’ll want to hop onto.

In addition to his reporting for the Post, Levey wrote a daily column, “Bob Levey’s Washington,” for 23 years, and also enjoyed an extensive career on radio and television. He does not plan to run for political office. For more, go to www.bobleveypublishing.com.

In “The Stories We Tell,” Hill journalist and editor Patsy Sims presents a collection of literary nonfiction by some of America’s finest female writers.

In Their Own Write
When I recently had to spend a tedious stretch in a hospital waiting room, I prepared by packing a PayDay bar, a mystery novel, a puzzle book, and “The Stories We Tell: Classic True Tales by America’s Greatest Women Journalists,” a collection of literary nonfiction edited by Hill writer Patsy Sims. Five rapt hours later, the PayDay was long gone, but neither the novel nor the crosswords had seen the light of day.

This remarkably engrossing anthology includes some of the best writing you’ll ever encounter, both by luminaries in the field (Gloria Steinem, Joan Didion, Lillian Ross) and by others whose names may be less familiar but whose work you’ll soon avidly be seeking out.

While I dove in from cover to cover, the collection is eminently browsable—but be advised that it would be a mistake to skip anything. Even topics that may not immediately interest you—bullfighting, face transplants, the Jewish ritual bath called mikvah—come alive in the hands of these extraordinary writers.

From assisted suicide and girls’ basketball to the working poor of Tennessee and reproductive rights in Texas, each topic becomes an eloquent gem of engaging observations and informative prose. One of my favorites, by Suzannah Lessard, focuses on the social boundaries between neighborhoods in New York City, where even the nature of the displays in store windows can, within just a few blocks, reflect deep socioeconomic divisions.

The personal profiles are equally illuminating. If you’ve never had a burning desire to learn more about B.B. King or Rudolf Nureyev, or thought there wasn’t much more to be said about Jacqueline Kennedy, think again. These insightful pieces go well beyond brilliant personality sketches to reveal larger truths about the world we live in and, ultimately, about ourselves.

In “The Stories We Tell,” Sims has created both a lasting tribute to these fine writers as well as a very readable commentary on America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Happily, as she notes in her introduction, a second volume is already in the works highlighting “a younger generation of women—many of them inspired by the writers featured here.”

Patsy Sims is the author of three nonfiction books, including “The Klan” and “Can Somebody Shout Amen! Inside the Tents and Tabernacles of American Revivalists” (a New York Times noteworthy book of 1988), and coauthor of the narration for the Academy Award-nominated documentary, “The Klan: A Legacy of Hate.” 

Hill Highlights for February
East City Bookshop offers a special “Galentine’s Day” event with Jasmine Guillory, author of “The Wedding Date,” Feb. 16, 4:00 p.m. www.eastcitybookshop

The Hill Center’s “Life of a Poet” series, co-sponsored with the Library of Congress, The Washington Post, and the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, features a conversation with The Post’s Ron Charles and poet Ross Gay, Feb. 6, 7:00 p.m. Free but register at www.hillcenterdc.org.

The O.B. Hardison Poetry Series at the Folger Shakespeare Library presents “Afrofuturism: What Was, What is, and What Will Be,” with writers Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, and Airea D. Matthews, Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m. www.folger.edu/poetry or 202-544-7077

And check out these websites to find listings for additional readings, book clubs, discussions, and signings:

Capitol Hill Books
www.capitolhillbooks-dc.com

East City Bookshop
www.eastcitybookshop.com/events.

The Folger Shakespeare Library
www.folger.edu

The Hill Center
www.hillcenterdc.org

Solid State Books
www.solidstatebooksdc.com/events