Of all Americans who have appeared on the nation's postage stamps, Ayn Rand is probably the only one to have thought that the United States government has no business delivering mail.
The Czech Republic, severed from its old Slovak half, sits in apparent landlocked contentment, inside the European Union but outside the troubled Euro Zone, set into the new Continental mosaic like one of the small sturdy paving stones, just a few inches square, that form the sidewalks under the visitor's ambling feet.
I often tell people who want to write historical fiction: don't read all that much about the period you're writing about; read things from the period that you're writing about. There's a tendency to stoke up on a lot of biography and a lot of history, and not to actually get back to the original sources.
One's politics are part of one even when one is writing. But if I want to say anything about the state of civil society, I will write an essay. The responsibilities you feel as a novelist are literary ones, I think, not civic ones. And I think politicians are interesting to write about.
I'm not convinced that Nixon would have survived in office if he'd burned the tapes, but I do believe he would have served out his presidency if he'd never made them in the first place.
I think that the worst form of naivete can be extreme cynicism. If you think that nobody comes to Washington to do any good whatsoever, that is almost as bad as being starry-eyed and thinking that they are all here to advance democracy.
The cosmic game changed forever in 1992. Before then, logic told us that there had to be other planets besides the nine (if you still count poor Pluto) in our solar system, but until that year, when two astronomers detected faint, telltale radio signals in the constellation Virgo, we had no hard evidence of their existence.
Nixon had been to China. He had been to Russia doing arms negotiation. And so, he was on his way toward what happened in November, which was an electoral win with 49 states. And the sheer unnecessariness of the Watergate break-in is something that must have tormented him and his allies in all of the years that followed.
The late Tom Wicker's biography of Nixon, called 'One of Us,' is really quite good: you see the biographer discovering dimensions of sympathy for his subject that he hadn't expected to feel.
For almost every novel I've written, I've read the daily newspaper of the time almost as if it were my current subscription. For 'Two Moons,' which was set in 1877, I think I read just about every day of the 'Washington Evening Star' for that year. For 'Henry and Clara,' I read the 'Albany Evening Journal' of the time.
I like writing dialog but don't think I'd be much good at a screenplay. I once had to write a treatment for a novel of mine - a condition of its being optioned by a movie producer - and I turned out something pretty lackluster. So my inclination would be to stay out of the way of an experienced screenwriter.
I was raised - and still consider myself to be - Catholic, though I'm non-practicing and haven't fulfilled my Easter duty since sometime during the Nixon years. I'm assailed by all kinds of stimulating doubts, but I do believe in God.
American secretaries of state have typically been more buttoned up than bon vivant, but John Quincy Adams's diplomatic successes - bigger than anything presidential or legislative that he achieved - still surprise a student of his personality.
One decision I made in writing 'Henry and Clara' was that I would keep Lincoln's appearances and any dialogue by him to an absolute minimum, because I think readers don't quite believe it when novelists have Lincoln walking around and saying things. They just know they're in the presence of stage machinery.
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.
Bobby Kennedy's conduct toward Lyndon Johnson was childish and despicable. As the years went on, he displayed nasty, self-pitying, and messianic qualities that would have made him a dangerously authoritarian president.
I've long been interested in the role of 'minor characters' in major events. This has been the focus of a lot of the fiction and nonfiction I've written.
John Quincy Adams ranks with Jimmy Carter on the roster of ex-presidential redemption. Instead of completing a biography of his father, he let himself be elected to the House, where he spent nine terms in Whiggish opposition to the Democrats, supporting a national bank and a protective tariff and internal improvements.
Stars, of course, are too hot to support life, so wherever life might exist in the universe, it has to be on planets or moons that are warmed, but not incinerated, by the stars they travel around.
The green appeal of solar sailing - traveling by light, once chemical propellants have done their dirty job of orbital insertion - ought to be powerful.