A reception was held Tuesday night at the School of the Arts at Columbia University to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Hertog Research Fellows program, supported by Susan and Roger Hertog, giving six students a year jobs as research assistants with more established authors - as well as $4,000 a year. Mr. Hertog is an investor in The New York Sun.
Peter Carey, Rick Moody, Francine Prose, T.J. Stiles, Kathryn Harrison, and others have participated in the program over the past decade. The director of the program is a professor of nonfiction in the Writing Division, Patricia O'Toole, whose new book is "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House" (Simon & Schuster). At the event, Richard Locke, who heads the nonfiction program in the Writing Division at Columbia, said fellowships link the academy to the literary world at large and serve as a practical complement to workshops and classroom experience.
There was lot of literary and journalistic talent in the room - young and old. Among those seen at the event were Phillip Lopate, who is working on a novella as well as an anthology of movie criticism; New York Review of Books contributor Michael Massing, writing a historical book about the Protestant Reformation; Honor Moore, who is writing a memoir of her father, Bishop Paul Moore; Jan Heller Levi, who is writing a biography of poet Muriel Rukeyser; Diane McWhorter, whose new books is "Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution" (Simon and Schuster); Ron Chernow, at work on a George Washington biography; Stephen Dubner, who co-authored the upcoming book "Freakonomics" (William Morrow); Deirdre Bair, a biographer, most recently of Carl Gustav Jung; and science writer Richard Panek, who has written about such subjects as telescopes and Einstein.
The students seen at the event included Rosemary Newnham, currently working with Terry Teachout, who is writing a biography of Louis Armstrong. She is also working on a thesis about fibromyalgia, a little-understood chronic illness. Aura Davies is doing similar work for Anne Heller, who is writing a biography of Ayn Rand (born Alice Rosenbaum); Ms. Davis helped to find Rand's immigration record. Elyssa East worked with music critic Nelson George on "Post Soul Nation" (Vintage).
Rebecca DiLiberto, a Hertog fellow, is working with Marion Meade on a Nathanael West biography. In preparation, Ms. DiLiberto read all of West's work, although she has not yet seen the film version of "The Day of the Locust," a cinematic depiction of his mordant, withering, apocalyptic view of Hollywood. She remembers vividly going to photograph his headstone - found not, as one might suppose, in Los Angeles, but in Queens.
Also present was Landon Hall, who worked with Eric Alterman on "When Presidents Lie." Currently he is working as an online supervisor at Associated Press. He told the audience about the time he and Mr. Alterman were walking on the street discussing writing. Mr. Alterman said, "It sounds like you want to be Joan Didion, but it took 25 years for Joan Didion to become Joan Didion." Mr. Hall said that just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ms. Didion was delightful.
Mr. Hall's thesis will be devoted to a fellow high school alum, a Wyoming man on death row. He hopes it will be the germ of a book about his imprisoned friend, essentially a melange of memoir and reportage encompassing the realities of capital punishment in Wyoming.
Mr. Hall's wife, Cristine Gonzalez, also a Hertog fellow, has worked with T.J. Stiles on a book about Cornelius Vanderbilt, tentatively titled "Robber Baron. She has worked at the Portland Oregonian, the Associated Press, and the Portland Tribune. Her work in progress, provisionally titled "The House in Solitude Square," is a cultural memoir about her Peruvian-Japanese heritage.
Nearby was Tara Bray Smith, who worked with Vivian Gornick on her book about the personal essay, "The Situation and the Story." Ms. Smith has recently published a memoir called "West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise," about her Hawaiian mother.
Suzanne Snider, who is studying communal societies, stood talking with author and poet Geoffrey O'Brien. Nearby were freelance editors Emily Lo and Kelly McMasters. Ms. Lo is currently writing about her Cuban-Chinese heritage; she worked with John Philip Santos on his next book, a kind of science-fiction memoir. Ms. McMasters worked with Phyllis Lee Levin on a biography of John Quincy Adams and his wife.
Newhouse School of Public Communications faculty members William A. Glavin Jr. and Melissa Chessher participated in a the Newhouse Alumni Club of Metropolitan New York gathering at Lubin House to hear recent alumni authors showcase their books. A co-coordinator of the event was Laurie Campbell, a magazine editorial assistant in New York.
Koren Zailckas read from "Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood" (Viking Adult), which centers on how she drank in high school and college. After graduation, she gave up drinking and wrote the book.
Another book featured was "The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up" (Simon & Schuster) read by co-authors Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler. The book is an ironic guide to what passes for romance these days, or rather non-romance, since the book is a "guide to the new, non-dating game."
Among those in the audience was lawyer Bryan Swerling who co-authored, with David Wygant, "Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life' (Perigee Trade). Mr. Swerling had recently found his girlfriend through Internet dating, he said.
Others in the audience seemed more successful in the dating world: One arrived wearing a diamond engagement ring.