Five questions for Anne Quirk

Photo: Susan Bregman.

Anne Quirk's The Good Fight: The Feuds of the Founding Fathers (And How They Shaped the Nation) (Knopf, 10–14 years) highlights four sets of venerable opponents whose disputes helped set America's path during its formative years. And just like its author — who was former publisher of The Horn Book — the book is smart, funny, informative, and irreverent.

1. We know you as "Anne Quirk: Horn Book Publisher Emerita." What's author life like? (Do you read your reviews?)

AQ: The Publisher Emerita label seems a bit too grand for the likes of me — real dames, like Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren, would wear it better. But to answer your question: my post–Horn Book life has been very similar to my life at The Horn Book; as you'll recall, I was a huge fan of working from home. What's different is that now my name is right there on the cover, and that is a tad scary. There's no hiding in the small print of the Magazine's masthead. (And, yes, of course I read my reviews. How could I not?)

2. Did you know about all of these feuds before starting the book?

AQ: Franklin's fraught relationship with his Loyalist son, which bordered on cruelty, caught me by surprise, although I've known since college that old Ben was a slippery sort. His autobiography sometimes reads like a how-to manual for con artists.

3. Some of the disputes seem fairly clear-cut — who'd root for King George?! But most of the feuds are very evenly presented. Did you ever find yourself taking sides, and were you surprised by which sides you took?

AQ: You know, I hope that readers do feel some sympathy for King George. He wasn't a tyrant so much as a clueless kind of a guy who was trying to hold on to the overstretched empire he had inherited. But I fell hard for Hamilton — even before he became a Broadway star — because he was so nakedly human. Always striving. Always arguing. Adams was the same way. Naturally they loathed each other, but I have a soft spot for each of them.

4. Did your research make you feel better or worse about the political mess we're in today?

AQ: Lately I've been feeling much better about our political system, although it's not because of this book; my research for it ended long before last year's astonishing election. What has lifted my spirits is working on This Is Our Constitution with Khizr Khan (Knopf, October 2017). He's the Gold Star Father who lit up the 2016 Democratic National Convention — and the country — by offering to lend his pocket-sized copy of the Constitution to Donald Trump. Mr. Khan is such a gentle man but such a fierce believer in America's founding principles. It's impossible to abandon hope in our nation's future when you're in his presence.

5. If, say, you were to write a smash-hit musical about one of the founding fathers, which would it be and why?

AQ: Broadway is a tough nut to crack, but perhaps I should pitch the Franklin family for a very special episode of Family Ties. Michael J. Fox has now aged into the role of Ben, the radical father, and Daniel Radcliffe would be terrific as William, the conservative son.

From the September 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.





Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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