The Authors Who Made My 'Day To Day'

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As a correspondent for Day to Day, Karen Grigsby Bates often reported on books and their writers. She offers an essay musing on her time with the show, including some of her best moments with brilliant authors. Karen Grigsby Bates


This show has featured plenty of amazing reporters. Karen Grigsby Bates is one of them, and she frequently reported for us on books. Karen is back with us today with this literary appreciation.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: For a bibliophile, Day to Day was the perfect place to work. The whole staff was interested in books, and our tastes were wide-ranging. We consumed everything from serious novels to pop fiction to biographies, memoirs, even books on policy. Authors knew that and they liked to visit with this. I consider myself particularly blessed to have had conversations with writers whose works I admired. And many of them wrote about life in the West. Not the John Ford, John Wayne, Louis L'Amour West, but today's West, with all of its pleasures and complexities. Walter Mosely told me how surprised he was to come upon his mild-mannered father on the first evening of the Watts Riots, in 1965.

(Soundbite of interview)

Mr. WALTER MOSLEY (Author, "Little Scarlet"): On one night during the riots, I came into a room and my father was there drinking and he was, you know, on the way to being drunk and he was crying. He was very upset. And I said, Dad, what's wrong? And he said, it's these riots. And I said, are you afraid? He said, I'm not afraid, Walter. I want to go out there. I want to get a gun. I want to get some Molotov cocktails. I want to go out there and fight.

GRIGSBY BATES: That anger became the basis for Mosley's best seller "Little Scarlet." The late Joan Didion confessed that for all her years in New York, she remained a California girl at heart.

(Soundbite of interview)

Ms. JOAN DIDION (Author, "The Year of Magical Thinking"): I still have a California driver's license.

GRIGSBY BATES: Do you really?

Ms. DIDION: Yes, I've always had it. It has my New York address on it now.

GRIGSBY BATES: Susan Straight writes about contemporary California. She took me on a driving tour of a vanishing part of it.

(Soundbite of interview inside car)

Ms. SUSAN STRAIGHT (Author, "A Million Nightingales"): See the trees right here? This orange grove stretched from there, from here, all the way up to the top of that street. And this was the orange groves that we used to run in and steal your fruit and play.

GRIGSBY BATES: We were so fond of books on this show that we had a prize-winning book critic, David Kipen from the San Francisco Chronicle. David's unpretentious, enthusiastic embrace of the written word was deep enough to retain the serious book person, and real enough to draw in even the occasional reader. Here, he explains the genesis of a discipline we now take for granted.

Mr. DAVID KIPEN (Book Critique, San Francisco Chronicle): The story of modern American cultural criticism is the story of three California girls who went east - Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag and Joan Didion. Of the three, only Didion has ever copped to any homesickness.

GRIGSBY BATES: I think that's kind of how we'll feel when Day to Day is gone after today - homesick. People here will move on to other jobs and other shows. Their careers will continue to evolve. But somehow, we've been stamped by the imprint of this lovely, quirky show that looked at the world from the West, and that's to the good. Kazuo Ishiguro, another Day to Day author, told me that in his sci-fi coming-of-age novel, "Never Let Me Go," he wanted to impress upon his readers that time is, indeed, fleeting.

Mr. KAZUO ISHIGURO (Author, "Never Let Me Go"): I was trying to celebrate the, kind of the small decencies of human beings set against this dark background that's in all our lives. We all live in a countdown going on.

GRIGSBY BATES: And the clock for this show has run out. It's been an amazing time, this five-plus years full of discovery and hair-raising deadlines done - speaking of dark backgrounds, Kazuo - in the pitch black of early, early morning. It was worth it. Those of us who left the staff before today still consider ourselves part of it. We still listened for our old show from our new desks. Former book critic David Kipen.

Mr. KIPEN: It was always a consolation to me, when I took up my current job, to know that it was still going on, and it pinches my heart a little bit to know that it won't be.

GRIGSBY BATES: Mine, too. For Day to Day, I'm Karen Grigsby Bates.

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Correction March 24, 2009

The story incorrectly referred to "the late Joan Didion." Joan Didion has not died.



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