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The Afflicted: Donigan Merritt, a 63-year-old Georgetowner who’s written The Common Bond and six other novels.
Diagnosis: International incidents. “My wife is a diplomat, and I’m a hanger-on,” says Merritt. But though political whims decide Merritt’s global position, the author occasionally wishes for a more cultured home base. “Washington, D.C., doesn’t pretend to be an art culture. It’s more of a political town,” says Merritt. “If you’re just a guy who writes novels—not political histories or policy primers—D.C. might not be the best town in the world.”
Symptoms: Lost without translation. As a diplomat’s hubby, Merritt has sampled more robust literary capitals; he says that Berlin and Bratislava are better places for a novelist. “Germany was extremely supportive of its art community, as was Slovakia,” says Merritt. But European-style cafés and bookstores don’t always help an American abroad: “Unfortunately, my books are not in German or Slovak,” says Merritt, who found writing easy but promotion difficult while overseas. So he figured it was good news that he was in town for the release of his latest novel, but two days before Merritt’s scheduled reading at the Dupont Circle Olsson’s, the independent chain announced its sudden closure.
Treatment: Shock of the brew. Like many authors, Merritt encourages readers to support local bookstores, but he also encourages writers to support their local Euro-style coffeeshop. The Common Bond is dedicated to three such spots where he wrote the novel, including Georgetown’s Café Bonaparte; earlier this month it hosted a release party for the book. That may give his book a boost before his next move: The novelist and his wife split for Buenos Aires in December.
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