September 16, 2015

Dear Everyone,

Autumn is here, which means so is TOUCHSTONES: Conversations at The Mount, my annual interview series at Edith Wharton's country estate, in Lenox, MA. I hope so much to see some of you there. To better the odds, I've assembled a 4-part travel/info dossier (below).
The series begins tomorrow, Thursday, September 17, and continues for three consecutive Thursdays. Doors open 7:00pm, interview+Q&A is 7:30pm-8:30pm, followed by drinks/nibbles in Wharton’s stables. For dinner there are a slew of excellent restaurants to choose from. I had no idea the food scene is so happening up there; like Brooklyn but better.
Autumn is a very busy time in the Berkshires, and hotel rates aren't cheap; dinner reservations are also necessary at most places. Airbnb offers good alternatives as well.

For general info, there is:

The series page itself is:

Please let me know if you have any questions. Freely forward this to anyone.


-CAR: It's a lovely day trip (3-hour drive from NYC; 2.5 hours from Boston). Also: Carpooling. Driving directions can be found here.
-TRAIN: The closest train stations are Amtrak in Albany (40-minute drive to The Mount) and Metro North in Wassaic (50-minute drive). Bet that's a pricey taxi ride, but presumably car rentals are cheaper there than NYC, so that's something to consider. 
-BUS: Peter Pan has a 12pm-3:30pm NYC-Lenox, and a 10am-1:25pm Boston-Lenox. 

-Econo Lodge The Springs
New Ashford
Rooms start $120

-Comfort Inn & Suites
East Greenbush
Rooms start $139

-Hilton Garden Inn Lenox/Pittsfield
Rooms start $161
Hilton Garden Inn

-Quality Inn
Rooms start $169

-The Briarcliff Motel
Great Barrington
Adorable mod kitsch, wifi and breakfast included
Rooms $175-$210

-Red Lion Inn
Quintessential New England charm (but not overdoing it)
Rooms start $299

-The Lenox Club
Handsome olde New England
Rooms start $260

-Black Swann Inn
Great location—on a lake, down the street from The Mount—standard decor
Rooms start $299

-Kemble Inn
Boutique haute design, walking distance to The Mount
Rooms start $295

American grandeur—think Downton Abbey, stateside
Rooms start $455


-Zinc Bistro
Handsome modern French bistro

-Church Street Café
Lovely American bistro

-Café Lucia
Italian preparations of local food in an 1840s farmhouse

Very good seasonally inspired pasta bar, but very small

-The French Patisserie
Lenox (one in Great Barrington, too)
Great for lunch

-Prairie Whale
Great Barrington
Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table

Great Barrington
Farm fresh contemporary American

-The Meat Market
Great Barrington
Very casual nose-to-tail butcher that also serves meals outside

-Mission Bar & Tapas
All kinds of small eats; not sure if you need reservations

-Baba Louie’s
Casual but great pizza and salads


Some of you have asked which authors I think you’d like best, so here’s a cheat sheet. This year’s theme is “cultural flashpoints”—books that engage with contemporary social issues, deepening and expanding the conversation.

-September 17: Darryl Pinckney, a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of a novel, High Cotton, and, in the Alain Locke Lecture Series, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature. His new book is Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy. VERY EXCITING: He’s just edited a Library of America collection of James Baldwin’s last three novels, which will be made exclusively available to Mount guests the night of the event, several weeks in advance of the actual publication. 
-We’ll discuss contemporary race relations and the enduring influence of Baldwin.

-September 24: Meghan Daum is the author of four books, most recently the collection of original essays The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, which won the 2015 PEN USA Award for creative nonfiction. She is also the editor of the New York Times bestselling anthology Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids. Her other books include the essay collection My Misspent Youth, the novel The Quality of Life Report, and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a memoir. Since 2005, Meghan has been an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Times, covering cultural and political topics. Meghan has written for numerous magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vogue and is also featured in this year’s edition of The Best American Essays. She is the recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and is an adjunct associate professor in the M.F.A. Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. 
-We’ll discuss the necessity of authentic personal writing in a world that prefers sentiment over truth. Also, childlessness.

-October 1, Jenny Nordberg is a New York-based foreign correspondent and a columnist for Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Together with The Times’ investigative unit, Nordberg previously worked on projects such as an examination of the American freight railroad system; a series that won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, and U.S. efforts at exporting democracy to Haiti. She has also produced and written several documentaries for American television, about Iraqi refugees, Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation, and the impact of the global financial crisis in Europe. In Sweden, Nordberg was a member of the first investigative team at Swedish Broadcasting’s national radio division, where she supervised projects on terrorism and politics. Nordberg has won awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors, The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Föreningen Grävande Journalister.
-We’ll discuss gender identity, living with secrets, and the long history of girls passing as boys.

-October 8: Richard Russo is the author of six previous novels and The Whore’s Child, a collection of stories. In 2002, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls. He lives with his wife in Camden, Maine, and Boston.
-We’ll discuss tackling class and rural life through fiction.

Yours truly,