It came to my attention this week that Brian Lamb, founder and CEO of C-SPAN, is retiring after almost 35 years at the helm. Roger Ebert's review of the excellent French ambiguous thriller Cache opined that no television program consisting of host and guest discussion of serious books is possible in the U.S. (unlike in France, where apparently mainstream shows like that do exist), but Lamb's BookTV on basic cable's CSPAN-2 has come as close as any. Civil War authors and publishers, as well as viewers, have benefited from countless hours of Civil War related author interviews, presentations, and aired history conferences.
It's not for everyone, but I came to appreciate Lamb's sedate interviewing style and sometimes maddeningly unnecessary coyness about his own knowledge and understanding of historical persons and events. His queries to authors were never the meandering five minutes affairs that so many interviewers (and insufferable audience and call-in members) employ as a preamble designed to assure everyone of the questioner's self-proclaimed foundation of expertise. But this is only part of the viewing pleasure that Lamb's C-SPAN and its inevitable offshoots have provided over the years. The American Presidents: Life Portraits and American Writers programs were some of the most enjoyable hours I've ever spent in front of the television.
Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Lamb. You deserve it. And thank you for not suing me for calling my 'new arrivals' section Booknotes.