An Interview with Dr. Marvin Olasky.

Abstract of Interview

1:36 – Olasky was surprised that his book was asked to be on Booknotes. He started getting lots of attention around that time because Newt Gingrich recommended the book on national television without Olasky or his publisher knowing it would happen. After that recommendation, Lamb had to travel all around D.C.’s greater metropolitan area to find the book.

4:17 – Olaksy did not prepare for his appearance on Booknotes. He came to D.C. for pro-life rallies and conferences and came on CSPAN in the middle of these meetings. Olasky was not familiar with Booknotes, thinking that the reach of CSPAN was very limited.

6:13 – Olaksy cannot remember anything about the office or staging of his interview. But he does remember that Lamb was very good about not inserting himself and his opinions into the interview. He was impressed by the questions and how thoroughly Lamb read the book.

8:13 – After appearing on the program, Olasky got huge numbers of letters and responses to the interview. After this he realized the real reach that CSPAN had. Olasky realized that this interest had to do with the hour-long format which allowed audiences to become engrossed in a topic.

10:09 – The degree to which Lamb read the book and prepared was abnormal for interviewers. Olasky imagines that only 10% of interviewers had read the book at all, with only 1%, perhaps only Lamb, reading it closely.

11:07 – Olasky thinks that only a portion of the reading public finds the process of writing interesting, but would imagine that the engaged people who watch CSPAN would be more interested. He thinks that young writers in particular are interested in these process questions.

12:55 – Though they are distinct in research and writing, Olasky sees overlaps between his two professional careers of journalism and history.

15:26 – In many interviews Olasky was asked biographical questions. He thinks this was partially because of the section of his book where he dressed as a homeless person to see what services were available to him and how he was treated.

17:57 – Olasky was not surprised by any of Lamb’s questions, but he was impressed with the degree he had read the book to ask informed questions.

18:39 – Olasky did not watch the program before his own appearance on the show, but did watch it after. Being on the program changed his impression of the reach and impact of CSPAN.

21:37 – Olasky thinks that the benefit of the CSPAN collection is to show a snap-shot of what was going on in American non-fiction publishing during that time-period.

23:23 – Since appearing on Booknotes Olasky wrote three follow-ups to The Tragedy of American Compassion, has worked as an editor for “World” magazine, and wrote other books on various topics, including religion.

25:40 – Olaksy thinks that the lasting impact of Boknotes is to have drawn public attention to works which would have largely gone unnoticed otherwise. He thinks that Lamb’s political neutrality and using authors across the political spectrum will be beneficial in showing a fuller range of opinions and discussion of American life.

28:08 – Over the past seven years Olasky has interviewed individuals in front of students in his college courses. He has used Lamb’s questions and methods as his inspiration. He would like to ask Lamb to be one of his guests for this program.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian) , “An Interview with Dr. Marvin Olasky.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed November 29, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Dr. Marvin Olasky.


Misha Griffith (Oral Historian)


2 June 2014


Author Marvin Olasky is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 2 June 2014. Mr. Olasky discusses his appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 22 January 1995, where discussed his book "The Tragedy of American Compassion".


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


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 01 File 08.


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