|Prof. Thomas Mallon's new book about Watergate appeals even to those born after Pres. Nixon's 1974 resignation.|
"I don't think that a leader can control, to any great extent, his destiny. Very seldom can he step in and change the situation if the forces of history are running in another direction."
"And Watergate? Well, I’d have to say that Nixon feels like the public figure who most dominated my life — from the time I went to fourth grade wearing a Nixon-Lodge button in the fall of 1960, through my college years, which overlapped with Kent State, Cambodia, the China trip and all the rest. That I live across the street from the Watergate complex in Washington no doubt also had a lot to do with my getting around to this book."
Prof. Thomas Mallon, director of creative writing, has published a new novel, his eighth. Written about what was perhaps this country's most devastating political scandal in history, Watergate (Pantheon, 2012) is teeming with "glitter, glamor, suave grace and subtlety." Alliterations aside, the national book press is going absolutely crazy about this book, praising everything from its understated humor to rich, clever depictions of familiar political characters.
Although many books have been written about the scandal, Prof. Mallon shares an important distinction in Watergate. Says Mallon, "I try to see things from inside several different characters---to imagine things as intimately as possible from the points of view of seven different people caught up in the scandal." This format, written in "the close-third person," offers him a chance to reinvigorate the forty-year-old event with a stunningly creative set of voices.
I spoke to Prof. Mallon on behalf of students at GW and everywhere across the country, who cannot seem to recall the original scandal because---well, we didn't exist yet. He didn't seem too worried, though: "The book no doubt is easier for older readers who remember the actual events. But I think that just about anybody with a basic knowledge of Watergate can plunge in and catch on quickly."
"And," he quips, "there's always Google to fall back on. Nixon, by the way, would have LOVED the Internet."
Prof. Mallon is currently serving as distinguished visiting professor at Davidson College during the spring semester. For determined autograph-seekers, though, take heart. He will be in Washington this very weekend, doing a much-anticipated reading at Politics & Prose Bookstore at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 3. I would strongly recommend attending, to see a true literary master in action. And look for a major, campus-wide event centering on the book in Fall 2012.
Congratulations to Prof. Thomas Mallon, for adding an excellent novel to GW English's literary tradition!