For my "House Call" column in today's Wall Street Journal, I interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin about her home in Concord, Mass. (go here or please buy the paper). Her new dual biography of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism—is superb. Like her other biographies, this one doesn't look solely at a subject's life but puts that life in context with his times and the big challenges faced—in this case, the rise of Progressivism, the evolving relationship between Roosevelt and Taft, and yellow journalism.
But the book wasn't the subject of our chat. Instead, I spoke with Doris about her home and where she keeps the thousands of books she has read and uses for research. To store them all, she converted her three-car garage into a clubby library that holds her large Lincoln collection while the rest of her historic home has been refurbished with elegant book shelves. But despite owning thousands of books that she and her husband, Richard Goodwin, a former White House speechwriter and author, have amassed, they all are crisply ordered and arranged.
Doris was surprisingly down to earth, and you sense she looks forward to laughing. It's a hearty, playful laugh that's honest and comes naturally. In that laugh, you sense this is a woman who—despite her bookish brilliance and the seriousness of her work—still looks forward to all things fun. And it's a warm, fireplace laugh that comes from studying presidents, those with two-ton responsibilities and enormous stress and realizing that life isn't solely about power and greatness but about enjoyment and humor.
She and her husband also have an interesting work schedule. Doris arises for work at around 5 a.m., when the house is quiet. When her husband gets up at 7, they have breakfast. Then they work, catching a quick lunch before returning to their writing. Each evening, they go out to dinner at the same restaurant, where they sit at the bar with about 20 others who do the same. It's New England, so one suspects that the bar's mood has much in common with Cheers, though the food is surely a lot better.
Pages. You'll find Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (Simon & Schuster) here.
Los Lonely Boys. Also in today's WSJ, I wrote a preview for the Arena section of Los Lonely Boys' upcoming new album, Revelation (go here). The three Texas brothers have been around since the 1990s, and what makes the band so fascinating is how they put a spin on power rock, soul, metal, Mexabilly, and conjunto. As Henry Garza, the band's guitarist, said to me, "Music for us is about diversifying and zipping ourselves up in different experiences to let people know we're all the same. It's the musical burrito theory: We fill the tortilla with Fats Domino, Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, bluegrass and other flavors. It's all good."
The album is terrific—no style ever dominates and the shifts not only hold your attention but also are fresh takes with a Texican spin.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Los Lonely Boys' Revelation here on Tuesday.
JazzWax clip: Here's Los Lonely Boys singing their hit Heaven in 2008. Remember, there are just three of them...