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68 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
Barrett Swanson, "Lost In Summerland"
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers Stu Levitan welcomes one of the most interesting and insightful essayists on the scene today, Barrett Swanson, here to discuss his outstanding first collection, Lost in Summerland, published this spring by the good people at Counterpoint Press. Addressing toxic masculinity at a men’s retreat in Ohio. Embedded on an organic produce farm in Waunakee run by a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Dealing with the traumatic brain injury to his older brother, and the drowning death of his best friend. Sussing out a utopian compound in the Florida swamps. Working on his football technique with his father. Role-playing a victim at FEMA’s massive disaster simulation site in Texas. Hanging out at the West Wing Weekend outside Washington. Being moved beyond comprehension at a spiritualist retreat he attended with his brother in upstate New York. Just some of journeys Barrett Swanson takes to find America – and himself – in the age of Trump. Lost in Summerland is a tour de force of cultural anthropology and vibrant writing, 14 essays that reveal both who Barrett Swanson is and who we are. Because he believes what James Baldwin wrote in 1962 – that the artist “must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.” Barrett Swanson grew up in Brookfield, went to Catholic high school in Waukesha. After graduating with a degree in political science and English from Loyola University in Chicago, he got his MFA in creative writing from the UW-Madison – making him our third guest from the UW creative writing program, following Aimee Nezhu-ku-matathil and Steven Wright. He received a Pushcart Prize in 2015, and the next year returned to the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing as a Halls Emerging Artist Fellow. A contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, his short fiction and essays have been featured in the New York Times magazine, the Guardian and numerous other periodicals, and collected in several anthologies, including Best American Sports Writing, Best American Travel Writing and Best American Essays. He is now also a tenure track assistant professor in the department of languages and literatures at the university of Wisconsin whitewater, where his rate my professor rating is 4.8 out of 5, with such praise as awesome, inspirational and would smoke with him. Which, of course, Barrett would certainly not do. He lives with his wife on Madison’s east side. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Barrett Swanson.
72 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
UW Prof. Jordan Ellenberg, "Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else."
Stu Levitan welcomes one of the brightest stars in the firmament that is the University of Wisconsin faculty, Professor Jordan Ellenberg, here to talk about his New York Times best-seller, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else. As coined by the ancient Greeks, “geometry” literally means “measuring the world,” and the world which Jordan Ellenberg measures in Shape is wide and far-flung indeed. Gerrymandering, the tv show Survivor, Abraham Lincoln, pandemics and flitting mosquitoes, artificial intelligence, even an answer to the question ‘how many holes in a straw’? And it’s an accessible world – yes, there are symbols and equations, and you’re welcome to have pad and paper with you as you read, but the book is mainly a narrative built on stories and people. Jordan Ellenberg was not a late-bloomer. The son of two biostatisticians, he taught himself to read at age two by watching Sesame Street, he was competing in high school math competitions while in the fourth grade, and four years later he was taking honors calculus at the University of Maryland. At 17, he beat out 400,000 North American high school students to win the USA Mathematical Olympiad, and over a 3-year period took two golds and a silver at the International Mathematical Olympiad. He took his BA and Ph D at Harvard, with a masters from Johns Hopkins in creative writing in between, then started his academic career at Princeton. He came to the University of Wisconsin in 2005, made full professor in 2011, was named a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in 2014 and since 2015 has been the John D MacArthur Professor of Mathematics. His previous books include How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking in 2014 and the novel The Grasshopper King. He also has a credited cameo in the 2017 movie Gifted in the role of math professor, giving him a Kevin Bacon degree of separation of two and making him one of the extraordinarily small and select group of people with an Erdos/Bacon number. He maintains a blog Quomodocumque.wordpress.com and tweets at JSEllenberg. It is a great pleasure to welcome to MBB Professor Jordan Ellenberg
78 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
Joan Steinau Lester, "Loving Before Loving: A Marriage In Black And White"
Stu Levitan welcomes the social justice activist, educator, award-winning columnist, and author Joan Steinau Lester. Her memoir Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White is just out from our very good friends at the University of Wisconsin Press. Along with her Madison publisher, Joan also could have joined us as a Madison author, with a Ph D from the fabled UW history department; but, for reasons we’ll discuss, she was unable to accept the department’s offer. Personally, and professionally, Joan Steinau Lester has been at the forefront of most of the great social justice movements of the last seven decades. As a teenager, she refused to sign an anti-Communist loyalty oath and picketed for civil rights. At 22, she married a Black man, the writer, educator and activist Julius Lester, in 1962, when mixed-race marriages were illegal in 27 states. At 64, she married a White woman when that wasn’t legal anywhere. In the late sixties, she was part of an early Women’s Liberation group with such prominent feminists as Robin Morgan, Kate Millet, Flo Kennedy, Ti-Grace Atkinson and others. And long before diversity, equity and inclusion were common buzzwords, she used her doctorate in multicultural education from the University of Massachusetts to give anti-racism workshops, then co-found and direct the nonprofit Equity Institute in 1981. Her previous books include the novel Mama’s Child, with a foreword by Alice Walker; the young adult novel Black, White, Other; a biography of her friend from Antioch College, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Fire in My Soul; Taking Charge: Every Woman’s Action Guide, and The Future of White Men and Other Diversity Dilemmas. Her columns have been published in USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and New York Times. She received the National Lesbian and Gay Siegenthaler Award for Commentary on National Public Radio and was a Finalist from the PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, and for the Arts & Letters Creative Nonfiction award for narrative nonfiction. She lives in Berkeley California with her wife Carole, to whom Loving Before Loving is dedicated. It is a pleasure to welcome to MBB, Dr. Joan Steinau Lester. WORT 89.9 FM airdate - July 5, 2021
53 minutes | Jun 28, 2021
R. Richard (Dick) Wagner, "We’ve Been Here All Along: Wisconsin’s Early Gay History"
Stu Levitan welcomes R. Richard (Dick) Wagner for a special Pride Month encore presentation of our conversation about his award-wining We’ve Been Here All Along: Wisconsin’s Early Gay History, from our very good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. The book covers the period from territorial days to the 1960s; Dick’s companion volume, Coming Out, Moving Forward: Wisconsin’s Recent Gay History brings the story up to the present day. In 1982, under Republican Governor Lee Dreyfus, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to adopt a gay rights law, making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal. In 1983, under Democratic Governor Tony Earl, Wisconsin became the first state to have a Governor’s Commission on Lesbian and Gay Issues. Wisconsin is the only state to have elected three openly gay members of Congress – 2 Democrats, 1 Republican. But the dairy state has not always been so friendly to non-normative sexuality. In fact, laws against gay sex predate the state. When the Wisconsin Territory was created in 1836, territorial legislators took the law against sodomy from the Michigan Territory and increased the penalty from three years to five. In 1905, the Wisconsin Attorney General called oral sex “this unspeakable offense,” ‘the infamous crime,’ degrading and disgusting.” In 1928, the Supreme Court called sodomy “repulsive and detestable,” but “too prevalent to be ignored.” In the 1940s, Wisconsin criminalized even thinking gay, passing the Sexual Psychopath Law to prosecute people whose impulsiveness of behavior rendered them sexually irresponsible – whether or not they ever acted on those supposed impulses. Even that citadel of sifting and winnowing, the University of Wisconsin, got into the gay-bashing business, investigating hundreds of gay students in the fifties and early sixties, and sending many of them for therapeutic discipline. UW business manager A.W. Peterson even took the doors off the toilet stalls in the Bascom Hall men’s rooms, to stop gay assignations. It’s part of our state’s history that most people, straight or gay, don’t know, but should. Because a community cannot fully know itself, or be fully known by others, without knowing its history. As they say, you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. There is no one more qualified or appropriate to write this groundbreaking history of early gay life in Wisconsin than Dick Wagner, who is himself historic, as the first openly gay member of the Dane County Board of Supervisors. He even lives in a landmarked building on Jenifer Street which long before he came to town was a center of Madison gay life. Dick came to Madison as a graduate student in history in 1965, getting his doctorate in 1971. In 1972, Gov. Pat Lucey named him executive director of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. After Lucey resigned in the summer of 1977 to become Ambassador to Mexico, Dick ran the executive residence for Gov. Martin Schreiber until January 1979, when he joined the Department of Administration as a budget analyst. Dick retired from state service in 2005. In addition to serving on the Dane County Board from 1980-1994 – including four years as the first openly gay county board chair in Wisconsin – Dick’s record of state and local public service is extensive. In 1983, Gov. Tony Early appointed him co-chair of the aforementioned Governor’s Council on Lesbian and Gay Issues. That same year, he co-founded the New Harvest Foundation, a funding source for south central Wisconsin’s LGBT communities. Dick stepped down last year as chair of the Madison Urban Design Commission, following service on the Plan Commission, Landmarks Commission, Wisconsin Arts Board, Wisconsin Humanities Council, and numerous other organizations. In recognition not just of his service but the way he served, Dick was named the first recipient of the city of Madison’s Jeffrey Clay Erlanger Civility in Public Discourse Award, in 2007. And on a personal note – I had the pleasure of serving with Dick on the Dane County Board and the Plan Commission, and there is no one whose intelligence, integrity and decency I respect more. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat my friend, Dick Wagner.
60 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
Andrew Maraniss, "Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke"
Stu Levitan welcomes award-winning and bestselling author Andrew Maraniss for a special Pride month conversation about Glenn Burke, who was a rising young star in Major League Baseball in the late seventies until he was effectively run out of the game because he was gay. The book is Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke, from the good people at Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Andrew is that rarest of authors – not just a true son of Madison, but a grandson of Madison, born right here in 1970 to Linda and David Maraniss, Linda an environmentalist and David of course also being an award-winning and bestselling author and the son of Mary Maraniss, a book editor at the UW Press, and her husband Elliott, the subject of David’s most recent book and during the very period that Andrew writes about, my editor at the Capital Times. This is Andrew’s third book examining the intersection of sports and society, and our third conversation, following Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the collision of race and sports in the south in 2015 and Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany in 2019. He received the Lillian Smith Book Award and the lone Special Recognition honor at the RFK Book Awards for Strong Inside and the Sydney Taylor Honor Award for Games of Deception. He is also a Visiting Author at Vanderbilt University Athletics and a contributor to ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com. It is a pleasure to welcome back to Madison BookBeat, Andrew Maraniss.
70 minutes | Jun 14, 2021
Joel Selvin, "Hollywood Eden: Electric Guitars, Fast Cars, and the Myth of the California Paradise"
Stu Levitan welcomes the award-winning journalist, music critic and author Joel Selvin for a conversation about his new book Hollywood Eden: Electric Guitars, Fast Cars, and the Myth of the California Paradise, from the good people at House of Anansi Press. It’s the inside story of how one of the first great pop styles was born in a high school locker room and then went on to conquer the world. It’s a story Joel Selvin is exceptionally well-qualified to tell. No only is he an award-winning journalist and music critic who covered pop music for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than thirty-five years, and the author of best-selling books about the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Ricky Nelson, Haight-Ashbury and more. He is also a native Californian, albeit one from the Bay Area, who first visited Los Angeles as a 10-year-old, just at the time the events in this book were transpiring. As to the requisite Madison connection, well, it’s through me. Because this is the third time Joel has appeared with me, following conversations about his books Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day; and Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues. At least we’ve finally got a book that is mainly about sun and fun, although there are some dark, even tragic moments as well. And btw – with three appearances, Joel is now tied with Madison’s own Ben Sidran for the number two spot on my all-time roster, behind only our former neighbor, David Maraniss. It's a pleasure to welcome back to Madison BookBeat, Joel Selvin Airdate on WORT 89.9 FM - June 14, 2021
74 minutes | May 31, 2021
Patty Loew, "Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal"
Stu Levitan welcomes the renowned broadcast journalist, educator and author Patty Loew, formerly of Madison, for a conversation about the second edition of her award-winning book Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, from our very good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Wisconsin has about 87,000 American Indians living on about 647,000 acres of reservation and in various urban and rural settings, about 1.5% of the state’s population on about 1.5 percent of the state’s land mass. But despite those small percentages, the 11 federally recognized nations and tribal communities – Menominee, Oneida, Ho-Chunk, Forest County Potawatomi, Stockbridge-Munsee, and the six bands of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, plus the unrecognized Brothertown Indian Nation – have played a huge role in our history, economy and culture. Telling that history is the business that occupies Patty Loew in Indian Nations of Wisconsin, a comprehensive and accessible account, heavily illustrated, with maps and tables showing the changes over time in the location and population of the Nations. It’s a book she is extremely, perhaps uniquely qualified to tell. Because, as an enrolled Member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe with a Ph D, she has both studied this history, and lived it. Now, while you were watching Patty Loew the award-winning reporter/anchor on WKOW-TV from the mid-70s to the late-90s and producer/host on Wisconsin Public Television from 1991-2011, you probably didn’t realize that Patty Loew the student was also working towards a masters and doctorate in mass communications from the UW-Madison, with a dissertation on “The Chippewa and Their Newspapers in the ‘UnProgressive Era.’” Upon getting that doctorate in 1998, she continued on TV for a few years, but also became Patty Loew the Professor, in the UW’s Department of Life Sciences Communication, where she remained until 2017. That’s when she became Professor Emerita and moved to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she also directs the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. As broadcast journalist and author, she has won numerous state, national and even international awards, and has received numerous honors, including the Outstanding Service Award, Great Lakes Inter-tribal Council. Her book Seventh Generation Earth Ethics: Native Voices of Wisconsin, also from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, won the Midwest Book Award in 2014, while the first edition of Indian Nations of Wisconsin received the 2001 Outstanding Book Award, Wisconsin Library Association, so we know how good a third edition would be. She has also written an award-winning textbook for fourth-graders, Native People of Wisconsin, along with a teacher’s guide co-written by our own Back to the Country co-host Bobbi Malone. It is a real pleasure to welcome to MBB, a friend to us all, Patty Loew.
71 minutes | May 24, 2021
Jonathan Taplin, "The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life"
Stu Levitan welcomes someone who’s had an exceptionally interesting and varied career in music, movies, finance and technology - Jonathan Taplin, author of The Magic Years: Scenes From a Rock and Roll Life. And what a life it’s been, with scenes filled with figures from the pantheon of pop culture – Bob Dylan, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, the Band, Judy Collins, Martin Scorcese, Wim Wenders, even the Walt Disney Studios. And as the founder of the first streaming Video On Demand Platform in 1996, called Intertainer, and holder of two patents for that technology, Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, and former Professor at the USC Annenberg School, Jon is also among our foremost thinkers and doers concerning the intersection of technology and culture, a topic he addressed in his very prescient book in 2017, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. As for the requisite Madison connection, I was at two of the seminal concerts he tour managed, saw three of the movies he produced, and still listen to the music he helped bring into the world. It is a great pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Jonathan Taplin
53 minutes | May 17, 2021
Carl Hiaasen, "Squeeze Me"
Stu Levitan welcomes the award-winning comic novelist and just-retired columnist for the Miami Herald Carl Hiaasen, coming to the Wisconsin Book Festival for a virtual appearance at the Madison Public Library Foundation’s Lunch for Libraries next Tuesday May 25. Carl will be discussing his uproarious new bestseller Squeeze Me, now out in paperback with a brand-new epilogue, which will be sent to all who attend that annual fundraising event. Squeeze Me is a sharp, even savage satire set in Palm Beach FL involving a giant Burmese python, a missing society matron, a gutsy wildlife wrangler, a mystery man with one eye and a great library, hapless crooks, a wrongly accused immigrant, a crude and stupid president of the united states in residence at Casa Bellicosa, and much more. It is classic Carl Hiaasen, which means it is a fiercely funny social commentary about life, death and the environment in the Sunshine State. It’s a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Carl Hiaasen.
53 minutes | May 10, 2021
Jeff Kannel, "Make Way For Liberty: Wisconsin African Americans in the Civil War"
Stu Levitan welcomes Jeff Kannel, author of Make Way For Liberty: Wisconsin African Americans in the Civil War from our very good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. When the civil war began in April 1861, neither the US Army or the Wisconsin state militia allowed Black men to serve. But on April 9, 1865, Black men – some of them from Wisconsin — held the rifles that fired the last shots preventing Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia from escaping at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. By that time, more than 450 Black men, residents of Wisconsin or credited to the state, had served in the US Colored Troops. In addition, several hundred, maybe thousands, had served in support roles for Wisconsin officers and regiments. Who those men were, and what their lives were like before, during and after the war, are the questions Jeff Kannel answers in this comprehensive survey of an overlooked aspect of our shared history. They’re answers he started researching ten years ago, after attending a presentation at Kenosha’s Civil War Museum, where he was a volunteer. And after retiring as an instructor at Gateway Technical College, he had time to continue that research, and turn it into this book, for which we are all indebted. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Jeff Kannel
53 minutes | May 3, 2021
Alison Bechdel, "The Secret To Superhuman Strength"
Stu Levitan welcomes the cartoonist Alison Bechdel, whose long-awaited graphic memoir The Secret to Superhuman Strength comes out tomorrow and is already receiving rave reviews. It also features the extremely extensive coloring collaboration of her, wife, the artist Holly Rae Taylor. And on Thursday at 4 o’clock, Alison will be appearing at the Wisconsin Book Festival, in conversation with another best-selling memoirist, Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild. “The unexamined life,” Socrates reportedly said during his trial for impiety, “is not worth living.” By that standard, as well as many others, Alison Bechdel has had a very worthwhile life. The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a decade-by-decade examination of her exuberant, sometimes excessive, pursuit of bodily and metaphysical fitness, is her third graphic memoir examining her life and that of her family. It follows Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, from 2006, about the strained relationship she had with her closeted gay father, and 2012’s Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, about the strained relationship she had with her emotionally distant mother. Two years later, she was rewarded for those works by being awarded a McArthur Fellowship, the so-called “Genius Grant.” Fun Home: The Musical came to Broadway in 2015, winning 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. She began her literary career with the syndicated comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, which ran from 1983 to 2008. It was in a 1985 strip that she popularized, but did not devise, the so-called Bechdel Test as a metric to measure the representation of women in fiction. She and Holly Rae Taylor live in Vermont, where she has also served as the state’s cartoonist laureate. It is a great pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Alison Bechdel.
65 minutes | Apr 19, 2021
Richard Jones, "Poetry East"
Stu Levitan celebrates National Poetry Month by welcoming Professor Richard Jones of DePaul University, editor of its award-winning illustrated literary journal Poetry East, now celebrating its 100th edition and 40th anniversary. Part two of our conversation with Howard Sherman about his book Another Day’s Begun” Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st century, originally scheduled for today, will be heard later this spring. Richard Jones is the author of sixteen books of poems, most recently his quasi-memoir of a peripatetic life, Stranger on Earth. He has been anthologized in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems and Billy Collins’s Poetry 180, and his poems have been featured on National Public Radio, BBC Radio, and The Writer’s Almanac. His selected poems, The Blessing, won the Society of Midland Authors Award for Poetry in 2000. It’s a pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Prof. Richard Jones.
61 minutes | Apr 12, 2021
Edward Ball, "Life Of A Klansman: A Family History In White Supremacy"
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers Stu Levitan welcomes Edward Ball, his latest book is the most extraordinary family memoir I have ever read, Life Of A Klansman: A Family History In White Supremacy, from the good people at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Demographers tell us that about 137 million white Americans – more than half the current white population of the country – are direct descendants of members of the Ku Klux Klan, mostly from the second wave, from 1915 to 1925. Edward Ball’s link to the Klan goes back even further. His grandmother’s grandfather was Polycarp Constant Lecorgne, a downwardly mobile carpenter of French Creole descent born in New Orleans in 1832. He served – none-too-honorably — as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and then in its immediate aftermath joined the first generation of the Ku-Klux and other white terrorist groups in their murderous and successful effort to “redeem” their heritage, end Reconstruction and reestablish white supremacy. The story of Constant Lecorgne is a profoundly important microhistory, showing how the life of this very ordinary, even mediocre person reflects an entire culture that helped change history. Because the tragic reality is that, through men like Constant Lecorgne, the South snatched victory from the jaws of defeat; the Klan was not put down; the Klan faded because it won, preserving white supremacy for another hundred years. It is a story Edward Ball is exceptionally, even uniquely, qualified to tell. His first book, for which he won the 1998 National Book Award for Nonfiction, was Slaves in the Family, an account both of his father’s family, major slaveholders in South Carolina for 170 years, and the histories of ten Black families once enslaved on their rice plantations. His other books include The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family in the Segregated South; The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures; The Genetic Strand: Exploring A Family History Through DNA, and Peninsula of Lies: A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love. The recipient of a Public Scholar Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and several fellowships, he has also taught at Yale University and the State University of NY, and joins us today from his home in New Haven. It is a great pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Edward Ball.
66 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
Sarah Chayes, "On Corruption In America And What Is At Stake"
Stu Levitan welcomes Sarah Chayes, her latest book is On Corruption in America and What is At Stake, from the good people at Penguin Random House. It has been said that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. One of the ways that evil manifests itself is through corruption – individuals, or more likely networks, abusing public office for private gain. How to identify and fight that corruption is the business that occupies Sarah Chayes in her new book, as it has occupied much of her professional life, especially as special assistant on corruption to then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, and as advisor to military leaders David McKiernan and Stanley McChrystal. After the Pentagon, she spent five years as a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her previous books include Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, for which she won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban. A former award-winning reporter for National Public Radio based in Paris, France she now lives in Paw Paw, West Virginia. Sarah comes by her interest in public service and integrity organically, as the daughter of the late law professor Abram Chayes, a State Department official under President Kennedy, and Prof. Antonia Handler Chayes, attorney and undersecretary of the Air Force under President Carter. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Sarah Chayes
59 minutes | Mar 29, 2021
Brian Alexander, "The Hospital: Life, Death and Dollars in a Small American Town"
Stu Levitan welcomes Brian Alexander, his new book is The Hospital: Life, Death and Dollars in a Small American Town, just out from the good people at St. Martin’s Press. Brian will be presenting at the Wisconsin Book Festival tomorrow evening, Tuesday March 30, at 7pm in a conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio’s Angela Fitzgerald. Brian’s appearance is part of a series on health care issues faced by underserved communities, made possible through a partnership with our very good friends at the Madison Public Library and a research program of the National Institutes of Health called All of Us, conducted locally at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bryan Ohio is a small town of about eighty-five hundred people, the county seat of Williams County in the most northwestern corner of Ohio. Its largest employer, and most important community asset, is the non-profit Bryan Hospital, an 85-bed facility which opened exactly 85 years ago and is now the flagship campus of the three entities comprising Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers – CHWC. For its size and resources, CHWC provides very good medical care, including to patients who can’t – or sometimes, won’t – always take good care of themselves. Last year, the National Rural Health Association named it one of the Top 20 rural community hospitals, along with two facilities in Wisconsin – the Monroe Clinic to our southwest, and SSM Health St. Clare Hospital just up the road in Baraboo. How CHWC provides that very good medical care – and whether it can continue to do so, given its size and resources, as powerful forces far beyond its control continue to batter its business model – is what occupies Brian Alexander in this comprehensive and compassionate account, which lays bare in very human terms just how fraught and fragile is the American health care system. Brian Alexander didn’t base his reporting just on interviews and documents, although there are plenty of those. No, he actually embedded himself in the Bryan hospital for 15 months, experiencing life – and sometimes death – everywhere from the emergency room to the board room. Brian Alexander is very well-equipped to write this story. He is from Ohio, the small city of Lancaster, the economic decline of which he chronicled in his award-wining book from 2017, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town. A former contributing editor at Glamour and Wired magazines, his earlier books touched on more, ah, intimate matters, including America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction and Rapture: A Raucous Tour of Cloning, Transhumanism and the New Era of Immortality. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat the master of the subtitle, Brian Alexander.
53 minutes | Mar 22, 2021
Miles Harvey, "The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch"
Stu Levitan welcomes Miles Harvey for a conversation about his new book, The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch. Miles gave a very successful talk at the Wisconsin Book Festival last fall. Alas, Stu was not able to schedule him before that appearance, and he’s very happy to be able to bring him and his wildly entertaining book to you now. James Jesse Strang was born in rural western New York in 1813. As a man, he was short and balding and entirely unprepossessing except for his eyes. He became a jack-of-many useful trades – most importantly attorney, postmaster, and newspaper editor. He called himself “a perfect atheist, an inveterate unbeliever and opposer of the Mormon faith.” Yet in early 1844, on a happenstance visit to the large Mormon enclave at Nauvoo Illinois, he was baptized by the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith himself. A week later, he was ordained an elder of the church by Smith’s older brother, Hyrum. And when Joseph Smith was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob five months later, Strang declared that the prophet had chosen him as his successor. And he pressed his case so successfully that he attracted hundreds of followers to the Walworth County community of Voree, then thousands of devotees to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, where he proclaimed himself King of Earth and Heaven – and also got elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. How James Strang pulled it off – and how he, too, met a violent end – is the business that occupies Miles Harvey in The King of Confidence, which also serves as a portrait of the weird and wild world that was antebellum America, and features cameos by P.T. Barnum, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, John Brown, and even the President of the United States, Millard Fillmore. The King of Confidence is Miles Harvey’s third book, following the national and international bestseller The Island of Lost Maps and Painter in a Savage Land, which was named a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year and a Booklist Editors’ Choice. He also teaches creative writing at DePaul University in Chicago, where he is a founding editor of Big Shoulders Books. It is a pleasure to finally welcome to Madison BookBeat Miles Harvey.
53 minutes | Mar 15, 2021
Howard Sherman, "Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century"
Stu Levitan welcomes Howard Sherman, author of Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century as we add a new category – books about plays by Madison playwrights. That’s right, Thornton Wilder – the only person to receive Pulitzer Prizes for both Drama and the Novel – was born right here in Madison in 1897, when his father Amos was the progressive editor/publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal for 12 years before moving to Hong Kong as US Consul General in 1906. Our Town is an odd play, with neither conventional plot nor even linear narrative, just snapshots of some of the 2,642 residents of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, especially Emily Webb, George Gibbs, and their families. Their growing up, their marrying, their living, their dying. By Wilder’s stage direction, the play is to be performed with no curtain, no scenery, and no props, save for a table, some chairs, and two ladders. The lead character doesn’t even have a name, but is just called the Stage Manager, speaking directly to the audience and rarely interacting with the rest of the cast. It was a piece of meta-theatre 25 years before that term even existed. Despite what he had the Stage Manager say, it was not, Wilder later wrote, meant to be understood as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village; or as an updated interpretation of Dante’s Purgatory. Rather, he explained, it was “an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.” This seemingly small play has found great and lasting value ever since it opened on Broadway on February 4, 1938 and won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama – the first of two such awards Wilder would win, along with an earlier Pulitzer for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Decade after decade, it has been the most-produced play in America, from high schools to major professional productions on both stage and screen, featuring some of the biggest stars of their day. It’s been translated into 80 languages, and produced around the world; just this month, it became the first production when the Queensland Theatre of Australia reopened after the pandemic. But what is it like to live in Grover’s Corners eight times a week? What happens when you think about the Mind of God every night, and bid farewell to the living at Wednesday and weekend matinees? How do you step back in time while keeping the play relevant to the audiences of today? These are the questions which occupy Howard Sherman in Another Day’s Begun, questions he sought to answer by talking to more than 100 actors and directors responsible for 13 of the most interesting and innovative productions of the past 21 years. Some are award-winning household names, like Helen Hunt and Jane Kaczmarek; others are maximum-security inmates of Sing Sing prison. And he has done the seemingly impossible – written a book about Our Town that is almost as emotionally powerful and multi-faceted as the play itself. Howard Sherman comes well-equipped to this assignment. He grew up in New Haven not far from Wilder’s long-time home in Hamden, CT and has held a series of executive, managerial and public relations positions with several theatres, including the Eugene O’Neill Theater, Hartford Stage, and Westport Playhouse. From 2003 to 2011 he was Executive Director of the American Theatre Wing, the folks who bring us the Tony Awards. A frequent presenter at national conferences, he also writes a weekly column for the British magazine The Stage and is contributing editor of Stage Directions magazine. In 2014, he was cited as one of the Top 40 Free Speech Defenders by the National Coalition Against Censorship the following year received the Defender Award from Dramatists Legal Defense Fund. And this month he celebrates his sixth anniversary as director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School for Drama. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison Bookbeat, Howard Sherman.
60 minutes | Mar 8, 2021
UW Prof. Chad Alan Goldberg, "Education for Democracy: Renewing the Wisconsin Idea"
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers Stu Levitan welcomes University of Wisconsin Professor Chad Alan Goldberg, editor of an important new volume Education for Democracy: Renewing the Wisconsin Idea, from our very good friends at the University of Wisconsin Press. But before we hear from the good professor, you should know that you have dialed us up on a very special day. It is Madison Bookbeat's last show of the winter pledge drive, giving you one more chance to call 256-2001 or go online to wortfm.org and show your support for what we’ve been doing every Monday afternoon for the past 14 months. And there are three folks who did just that last week whom we’d like to thank. Pete likes WORT because he learns something every time he listens; he says being in a town with an independent radio station is almost like being in college. That’s right, friends, you can regard your donations as voluntary, tax-deductible tuition. Terese says she enjoyed the book we featured last week, Madeline Uraneck’s “How to Make A Life: A Tibetan Refugee Family and the Midwestern Woman They Adopted,” and can’t wait to read it. That’s why I do this, Terese, to share with listeners the books I’ve found interesting and important, which I think you will, too. And our old friend Anonymous pledged with the comment, “book lovers love Madison BookBeat.” Well, MBB loves book lovers back. So be like Pete, Terese and Anonymous and give us a call at 256-2001 or go on line at wortfm.org. The book lovers in your life will thank you – as will I. Now then, to the program at hand. According to Wisconsin statute 36.01(2), the mission of the university of Wisconsin system is “to develop human resources, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” But not everyone agrees with that mission – especially the parts of public service, improving the human condition, and searching for truth. And over the years some people in high places have sought to change that mission in fundamental ways, even destroy it outright. Leaving us with some very important questions. What is the role of the public university in a democratic society? Specifically, what is the role of the University of Wisconsin in the democratic, pluralistic society of the 21st century? And, harking back to the words of UW President Charles Van Hise from 1905, does the beneficent influence of the university continue to reach every family in the state? If not, how do we ensure that it once again does? These are the questions Chad Alan Goldberg asks in Education for Democracy, questions he and his 11 contributors answer by examining how and why the Wisconsin Idea was born, expanded, honored – and then threatened and diminished. And they explain why it must be renewed, and suggest how to do so. The list of those contributors is quite a collection of scholars and analysts, including Prof. Katherine Cramer, author of The Politics of Resentment, environmental historian and biographer of Aldo Leopold Curt Meine, our friend, repeat guest and LGBT historian Dick Wagner, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Emily Auerbach, and several other distinguished professors, both from the UW and elsewhere. Prof. Goldberg is very well-equipped to edit this volume, which is based on an outreach course on the Wisconsin Idea which he helped organize in 2016, and which he still teaches as Professor of Sociology. And It was Prof Goldberg who in May 2016 wrote the resolution -- which the Faculty Senate adopted -- expressing no confidence in the commitment by then-president Ray Cross and the Board of Regents to defend the Wisconsin Idea, which was under attack by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature. Prof. Goldberg’s previous books include Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought and Citizens and Paupers: Relief, Rights, and Race, from the Freedmen’s Bureau to Workfare. He is also affiliated with the Center for German and European Studies, the George l. Mosse/Laurence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and the GAM program in History, all here at the UW Madison. And on a personal note, Chad and I are both graduates of a small school now known as New College, the Honors College of Florida, where I believe our respective graduating classes were smaller than the class roster of his Survey of Sociology course. I know mine was. Thankfully, Ray Cross and Scott Walker are both gone, and Professor Chad Alan Goldberg is still here. It is a pleasure to welcome him to Madison Bookbeat.
56 minutes | Mar 2, 2021
Madeline Uraneck, "How to Make a Life: A Tibetan Refugee Family and the Midwestern Woman They Adopted"
Stu Levitan interviews Madeline Uraneck, author of How to Make a Life: A Tibetan Refugee Family and the Midwestern Woman They Adopted (Wisconsin Historical Society Press) on Madison BookBeat, WORT 89.9 FM Madison Madeline Uraneck is part traveler, part global citizen, having worked, studied or had adventures in 64 of the planet’s 195 sovereign states – a fitting characteristic for the first international education consultant in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. She’s taught English in Japan and researched globalization in Morocco, studied dance in Sweden and Poland, worked for the Peace Corps in Central Asia, and have been a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Africa. But perhaps her most important journey began and flourished right here in Madison. And it all started in 1994 with the simple act of befriending the cleaning woman in her state office building, a Tibetan refugee named Tenzin Kalsang. That friendship would blossom into a deep relationship spanning three generations, taking Madeline Uraneck around the world and deep into her own heart. Airdate - March 1, 2021
53 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
Danielle Evans, "The Office of Historical Corrections"
An encore presentation of a program which originally aired November 23, 2020. Stu Levitan welcomes one of the brightest new stars in the literary firmament, Danielle Evans, coming back to Madison on Wednesday, virtually at least, to present her new collection The Office of Historical Corrections at the Wisconsin Book Festival. Grief and loss, apologies and corrections, anxiety and forgiveness. Women demanding to live full and complex lives. History. Performance. Race. These are the things which occupy Danielle Evans in the six stories and one novella which comprise The Office of Historical Corrections, just out from the good people at Riverhead Books, and already getting rave reviews. Danielle Evans burst onto the scene at age 26 with Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, a collection of eight short stories which she finished while on a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. That collection received several awards and made her a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree. In the decade since, she has taught creative writing at the aforementioned UW Institute for Creative Writing, American University and now the Johns Hopkins University. In recognition of her artistic excellence and merit, she is also the recipient of a 2020 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. It is a real pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Danielle Evans.
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