Like most things of importance, it started with a tweet. One lone tweet from Jon Meacham, or maybe it was from Jonathan Darman or Parnassus Books in Nashville. The tweet simply invited readers to the bookstore on Saturday, December 6 for a conversation with Meacham and Darman as they discussed Darman’s brilliant best selling novel, Landslide.
One phone call to my college roommate, who still lives in Nashville, and a call to my husband to let him know what I was doing and where I was going, and I was headed north from Atlanta to Nashville. Jon Meacham is an author I greatly admire. His writing combines literary flare with precise documentation and research. The fact that he has won a Pulitzer Prize and is from Tennessee is simply icing on the cake. He is a genius.
Jonathan Darman is a new novelist. His book Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America is currently featured by one of the Book Clubs I’m a member of on Goodreads, The History Book Club. I am completely drawn in by Darman’s ability to weave a political story, yet not make the book political. He reveals to us the stories of LBJ and Ronald Reagan, two political power figures who appear diametrically opposed, yet as men, they share more in common than you would ever believe. The book revolves around LBJ’s 1000 days in office and how that era shapes modern politics.
Northward I journeyed through rain, thunder storms, rays of sunlight and even underneath one tiny rainbow at the foot of Monteagle Mountain. I arrived at Parnassus Books forty five minutes early in order to get a good seat, front and center. I also wanted to have a look around. It is a fantastic book store! If you are ever in Nashville you should make time to visit. Their First Editon Club is a rare treat, as are the numerous books by local and well known authors. It is a dream come true for any avid reader and book addict.
As time for the event approached, I was so thankful I arrived early. The place was packed – SRO – as should be expected. The first thing to catch my attention was the ease of both men in front of a large audience. Aren’t writers supposed to be reclusive and uncomfortable in front of crowds? These gentlemen were relaxed and set the pace for a chat which felt as if we were in someone’s home, not in the middle of a book store.
As Meacham fired off a series of questions to Darman regarding the 1960s and the two US presidents, Darman answered each with the precision of a marksman. He knows the era as well as any history teacher I ever studied with and better than the majority of politicians I have known.
A few items which are of interest:
- Reagan had a photographic memory.
- LBJ was a powerhouse in person yet could not convey his skills via the media platform of network TV.
- Lady Bird Johnson saw the changing political landscape before her husband and his advisers did.
- Reagan didn’t like being pigeon-holed as a Conservative. He felt he was a pragmatist.
As the event ended, the two speakers opened the floor to any questions from the crowd. Then, believe it or not, they took the time to talk with us individually and sign our books. It was Darman’s event, but each graciously gave any of us who were interested time to chat and share conversation. I’m still a bit star struck. Never in a million years did I think Meacham would pull up a chair and have a conversation with me. Darman has that same approachable personality.
Unfortunately, I had to leave early in order to get a makeover. It was my third Girl’s Night Out in fifteen years and a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right? However, I did return to Parnassus Books the next day and finished my holiday shopping. If these two ever visit Atlanta or anywhere in the Southeast, I have two pages of questions already prepared for them regarding their books. As for Landslide? To find out more, you will have to read the book.