An Interview with Frank Rich.

Abstract from Interview

1:28 – How did your book come to be on Booknotes? – Rich isn’t sure how his book came to be on the program. He had appeared on other C-SPAN programs before this appearance.

2:06 – How did you prepare for your appearance on the show? – He did not really prepare because, as someone who conducts interviews himself, he felt comfortable with the interview process.

2:24 – What do you remember most from your appearance on the show? – Rich remembers most how prepared Brian Lamb was. Frequently interviewers do not read the books before a television appearances. At the time of this book (2000) there were more venues to discuss books, but even at that time Booknotes stood out because of how prepared Lamb was, how much time was given to the books, and how diverse the books he chose were. 

4:45 – Is this amount of preparation normal and how did it change your interview experience? – The preparation was not normal. The only person who came close was Tim Russert. This preparation made the interview a much more enjoyable experience for the author. 

5:37 – Booknotes’ hour-long format differed greatly from other television interviews. What are the strengths and potential drawbacks of the longer-format interview? – The benefits for the author and interested viewer are the same because you get to know a lot about a book and the process of writing it. Rich does not think that there are any drawbacks. There is a strong audience for programs like these amongst avid readers.

7:01 – Do you believe the reading public finds information about the practice of writing interesting? – Rich himself finds other writers’ practices interesting. He believes that readers are always interested in “how the sausage is made” when it comes to books they enjoyed reading. Brian Lamb asks these questions because he himself is a reader and understand what readers would want to hear about.

8:22 – Were you surprised by any of Brian Lambs questions? – Yes. Rich was first surprised that Lamb chose his book at all because it was a personal, family story and not about politics or history. He was surprised at the personal questions Lamb asked and that he was willing to go into such personal details. 

10:29 – Did you watch Booknotes before or after your own interview? Did your experience with the show change your impression of it? – Yes, Rich regularly watched the show before and after. He admired it before his own appearance, and admired it even more after his own experience shows him how in-depth and smart Lamb’s interviews were.

10:58 – What are the benefits and potential uses of GMU’s Booknotes Collection? – The books include Lamb’s personal notes. These notes plus the interviews themselves give an incite into the writing process and how a great interviewer goes about his job. This would be useful to future journalists and literary critics.

12:24 – If asked back would you have appeared on the show again? – Yes. Rich felt so strongly about Lamb’s work that he would do everything possible to appear on C-SPAN and talk with Lamb.

13:03 – Was there a difference in sales or attention after appearing on Booknotes? – The book was moderately well selling but Rich is not sure the impact of this interview. 

13:47 – Did your experience on the show cause you to rethink any of your assumptions or research or writing methods? – Rich does not think so, but this isn’t a reflection on Lamb’s questions or influence. It was touching to him that a book which was so personal landed the attention of someone like Lamb.

14:39 – What have you been working on since this appearance and what works are you most pleased with? – Since 2000, Rich has written as a columnist for the New York Times, an essayist for New York Magazine, wrote one other book, and has produced documentaries as well as the HBO series VEEP. 

16: 05 – What has been the lasting impact of Booknotes – It has a tremendous affect on book readers in America who are passionate about reading and want to hear in-depth interviews. The legacy of the program continues because of the accessibility of the interviews online. “Brian Lamb set the gold standard for what an interview could be about a book.” This standard continues to inspire some interviewers today.

18:15 – Is there anything else you would like to add? – Lamb’s mission to create C-SPAN, its success, and its longevity is a major contribution to American cultural and political life. To have a non-partisan space with news and information is a great resource as cable television news continues to become more partisan and trivial. Lamb’s dedication and preparation is even more striking when you consider that he was also running a network in addition to doing this program.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian), “An Interview with Frank Rich.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed December 3, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Frank Rich.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian)


6 February 2015


Frank Rich is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 6 February 2015. Mr. Rich discusses his appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 10 December 2000, where discussed his book "Ghost Light: A Memoir".


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 02 File 10.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.


Video recording