Back Watch: Two writers deliver stirring testimonials at LOA’s 35th birthday party

Two authors with longstanding ties to Library of America paid eloquent tribute to the organization at its thirty–fifth anniversary celebration at the New–York Historical Society on June 7th.

Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer A. Scott Berg, editor of LOA’s 2017 anthology World War I and America: Told by the Americans Who Lived It, recalled his excitement at acquiring the very first LOA titles from his local bookseller in Los Angeles in 1982. “These books were made for me,” he told the audience, “and over the years they have proved to be incredibly valuable tools for me in writing nonfiction.” Watch:

A former LOA Board member, Berg was recently made a Library of America Life Trustee. His complete talk at the thirty-fifth anniversary event is available on YouTube.

Later in the program, New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik, who edited the 2004 anthology Americans in Paris and was named to the Board of Directors last year, hailed LOA’s openness to genre and vernacular writing. In Gopnik’s view, that openness marks a significant expansion of Edmund Wilson’s original idea of an American equivalent to the French Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

What no one could have anticipated when the series was launched thirty-five years ago, Gopnik elaborated, was the “extraordinarily broad range and spectrum of literature that would be included in that American Pléiade. This was not simply a constellation of American stars; this is the entire American cosmos represented on paper.”

Watch Adam Gopnik’s complete speech here, and click here for photos, a list of corporate sponsors, and more from LOA’s thirty–fifth birthday party.

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