If you haven’t heard of Mr. van Over it might be because he spends little time promoting himself or his books, a choice he says gives him more time to write. And write he does. He is the author of over 40 books, covering a range of genres including fiction, myth, religion, history, and screenplays. He has written four books in his time at Politics and Prose and will soon complete the fifth, Skin, a work of fiction about a global pandemic. Plans are also under way for his next project, a historical novel and screenplay about Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century astronomer whose notions of the universe were considered more radical than those of Galileo.Mr. van Over offers some interesting insight on why writers so often work in cafes. Writing can be isolating, not only because it is a largely solitary profession, but also because writers usually work in a separate world, a kind of bubble, which is distinct from their own tangible world. A café can offer a human connection, without being intrusive or distracting. An ambient hum around the bubble, as it were.
But he is very clear about one thing: Not just any café will do. Modern Times Coffeehouse offers an ambience one might only find in Europe, or perhaps in a few college towns in this country. The ambience – which attracts a number of local authors in addition to Mr. van Over – is a product of a staff of individuals who care about writers and writing, and who happily foster a creative atmosphere above commercial or other interests. He believes the atmosphere created by the Politics and Prose/Modern Times Coffeehouse collaboration is unique in Washington and can’t easily be found in many other locales.
In his most recent book, Purgatory’s Gate, Mr. van Over emphasized how important the coffeehouse was to his work by including the following acknowledgment:
[blockquote]I also have a debt of gratitude to the denizens of the café at Politics and Prose Bookstore, where most of the book was written enveloped within the café’s creative ambience.[/blockquote]
We have much to appreciate in our Forest Hills neighborhood. We can add to the list the fact that our local, independent bookstore and coffeehouse welcome and nurture authors along with its other clientele.