This was one of the few things that Shawn ever asked me to do in “U.S. Journal.” I thought that he was entitled to ask someone who was constantly traveling around the country to take a stab at that, and so I went back to Kansas, where I had done a couple of stories, and, the trouble with that kind of public opinion story is that if you talk to three wrong people in a row you’ll get it wrong. How many could you possibly talk to? You could never talk to enough to make some sort of scientific sampling.

On the other hand, I learned something doing that story which I had never thought about before, which is that people in our trade are so enamored of tumult, that we forget how much other people dread it. A lot of people in America were probably against impeaching Nixon because it sounded scary to impeach the president. People in journalism sort of think ‘the more news the better, the more shaking up the better,’ but most people are the opposite.

This is how many books for you?

I think it’s twenty-six but I’m not sure.

It’s kind of impressive that you’re not able to remember.

Well, I remember once being at a luncheon with Isaac Asimov, who had written 560 books or something at that time. The woman next to me whispered, ‘Mr. Asimov seems very quiet,’ and I said, ‘While you were making small talk he wrote a novella.’ And then I said, ‘It’s got to be some kind of illness writing 560 books. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s got to be some kind of mishegas.’ Then the guy next to me said, ‘I’ve written 178,’ and I said, ‘Oh, well, 178, sure. That’s fine.’ 178 books?

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Michael Meyer is a CJR staff writer.