Pete Hamill ventured out from his beloved downtown Manhattan earlier this week, crossing the Hudson, on to the wilds of New Jersey to read from his latest novel, Tabloid City, at Bookends in Ridgewood. (On the way there, somewhere around Secaucus I passed a wall that said “Osama/Obama – one down, one to go” which really took me aback.)
There was a smaller turnout than you would see when he reads in Manhattan, which was lovely for those of us in attendance, as it gave the hour or so he was there a much more intimate feeling, almost like a master class with a favorite instructor.
The book – with over a dozen characters – takes place in one twenty-four-hour period in Manhattan in 2009. Much of the story is centered around a newsroom at a moribund paper, which allows Pete Hamill to examine the lives of newspapermen past and present, and the history of the news business in NYC over the past 50 years or so. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it, but so far it demonstrate’s the author’s familiar gift for succinctly and lovingly portraying so many details of this city and its people.
During the Q & A after he read, I asked him about his recent launch of a Twitter account – @petehamillnyc – and before I could finish the question he interrupted, saying “Let me explain about that!” He went on to say that his daughter had been after him for a while, urging him to get on Twitter. At first he resisted, “I can hardly say ‘hello’ in 140 characters!” he remarked. But he gave in, and now he writes the tweets, sends them to his daughter, and she posts them on his Twitter account for him.