The Obsessions, the Overall Work: An Interview with James Reston, Jr.

CMLF volunteer, Maureen Thornton, interviewed James Reston, Jr., the 2017 Saturday night Keynote Speaker.

With a bibliography that ranges from playwriting and fiction to nonfiction works on science, politics, medieval history, and current events, James Reston Jr. could be called a modern Renaissance man. My first acquaintance with the author was through the movie Frost/Nixon (2008), which was based on The Conviction of Richard Nixon, Reston’s 2007 book about his role as David Frost’s advisor for the televised interviews that led to Nixon’s admission of guilt

Reston describes his body of work as a “series of obsessions,” and, no
doubt, such diverse and well-received accomplishments can only be achieved
by one obsessed with his subjects. From books on historical themes, such
as the Inquisition and the life of Galileo, to more modern topics such as the
Jonestown massacre in Guyana and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, his insa-
tiable intellectual curiosity and strong sense of social justice are threads con-
necting much of his work.

With roots firmly planted in the Northeast—he was born in New York, where his father was editor for the Times, and was raised in Washington, D.C.—Reston developed a love for the South while attending the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, and he still considers the evolution of the American South to be one of the most fascinating stories of his time. Reston was at his home in Martha’s Vineyard when we spoke by telephone just before the release of his latest book, A Rift in the Earth: Art, Memory, and the Fight for a Vietnam War Memorial, in the fall of 2017.