The morning after Thanksgiving I completed the manuscript of my last book, which will be published by Harvard University Press—a short book, and I still had some work on it. But I had a sense of accomplishment and a day of relief, whence I had a couple of stiff drinks in my cozy living room that afternoon. Through my window rays of a late sunshine stippled the still green-and-gold trees and shrubs of my garden.
No matter. Next day, my relief was gone. I know that so much of my world has vanished. The world of books.
I think that I was never—well, almost never—very anxious about the sales of my books. I wrote them, they were published, and that was—well, almost—that. But I am an historian; and history does not have a language of its own. It may—it can—be read by many kinds of people, among them some of my book-reading friends and neighbors and acquaintances—not only by professional historians, and not only by “intellectuals” (an odd category of men and women, less distinct now than they think they are). Of course, I am 89 years old, and many of my old friends are dead. But I think I know that very few of my neighbors and friends buy books, whether mine or not.
My neighbors mean much to me. I have honorary doctorates and awards from universities and states...