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37 minutes | Jan 9, 2022
Enrique Salmón: Iwígara: American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science
Iwígara: American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science, The Kinship of Plants and People — Enrique Salmón –Timber Press — 978-1-60469-880-0 — Hardcover – $34.95 – ebook and audio book versions available at lower prices This is a truly incredible and hugely inspiring book for me. Enrique Salmón, a member of the Raramuri tribe from Mexico, has spent a lifetime learning and studying the medicinal and cultural properties of North American plants. He now teaches at California State University-East Bay in Hayward, California. His work may place him in academia, but he is fully engaged in the natural world. Salmon begins his work with the deeply held knowledge that all life-forms are interconnected and share the same breath, which is called Iwígara in the Raramuri tribe. In this book, Salmón presents us with eighty of the most important plants used by North American indigenous peoples. Of course, plants have always been used as food and medicine by indigenous peoples. What is important knowledge for those who are interested in engaging with a plant centric life are the passed down information about identification and harvest, the nature and applications of plants for food and medicine, and to understand how they have been central to traditional stories and myths for the disparate cultures across this continent. Salmón honors the traditions and practices of so many different tribes here, and helps us understand the variation across different biomes and cultures of the people who live in them. Some of us learn deeply in a specific place across long periods of time, while others may trade breadth for depth. Native peoples are among the former, but most modern people fall into the latter category. A book like this one helps bridge the two different approaches to knowledge. Salmón recognizes that tension, and manages it well here. He understands that one cannot live in deep connection to the natural world without choosing a place in which to live. But readers need to know where to begin, and this book can be an introduction for anyone who wants to begin their own journey of learning and knowledge about plants, healing and cultural traditions. I should mention also that the book is beautifully designed and includes many excellent photographs and illustrations, most in color. It is excellent work, combining narrative with references suited to beginners and experienced naturalists alike. Enrique is also the author of Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience (2012). I was honored to have the opportunity to speak with Enrique Salmón for Writerscast about his work, and hope you will enjoy listening to a truly knowledgeable plant practitioner. Purchase Iwígara from Bookshop.orgThe post Enrique Salmón: Iwígara: American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science first appeared on WritersCast.
36 minutes | Dec 10, 2021
Peter Quinn: Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York
Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York – Peter Quinn – Empire State Editions (Fordham University Press) – 978-08232-9408-4 – 612 pages – paperback – $17.95 (eBook version is not available for this title) Historical novels based in New York City have always appealed to me. I am not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the time I spent with my grandparents, who lived in New York City, took me frequently to the Museum of the City of New York, and showed me many of the historical sites of the city. Maybe it is simply because so much of American history is the history of that great city. I picked this book to read while browsing a bookstore for the first time since the pandemic began. Book discovery is a wonderful thing, and something many of us have missed. There are occasions when a book seems to jump off the shelf and into your hands, drawn there by some mysterious bookstore magic. Sometimes those discoveries are serendipitous and that was definitely the case with this novel. It was not the only book I bought that day, but it jumped my queue and I devoured the book in a way that reminded me of my youthful nights under the covers reading by flashlight. Banished Children of Eve is one of those longish historical novels that is a joy to immerse oneself in. It is a great story about a dramatic time and place, with terrific well-drawn characters and a great story unfolding in multiple voices. And even the minor characters are brought to life by Quinn’s sympathetic descriptions. The story takes place in 1863 when the Civil War is its third bloody year and the Union, having exhausted its volunteer army, has been forced to impose the first military draft. In New York City, where this book is set, that is a fateful decision, one that will set off the worst urban riot in American history. The cast of characters created by author Quinn represents every element of New York’s cultural community including an Irish-American hustler, a dishonest Yankee stockbroker, a young immigrant serving girl, a beautiful mixed-race actress and her white lover (a struggling minstrel). Surrounding these main characters are a number of historical, real-life characters we recognize, including the Union General George McClellan, Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes and even the songwriter Stephen Foster. All come together in the emerging disaster of the Draft Riots, bringing to life a period in American history that is certainly less well-known to most Americans than the more often told stories of battles and national politics of our war-torn country. William Kennedy’s description of Peter Quinn pretty much sums up how I feel about this book: “Peter Quinn takes history by the throat and makes it confess.” That is perhaps one of the greatest book blurbs ever, by the way. Quinn is a natural storyteller, and if you are not familiar with this incredible period in American history, I recommend you get a copy of this book immediately and dive in. You will be amazed and thrilled to read this book. Talking to Peter was great fun for me. We certainly could have gone on for hours. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Quinn was the chief speechwriter for Time, Inc. and retired as corporate editorial director for Time Warner at the end of 2007. He received a B.A. from Manhattan College, an M.A. in history from Fordham University and completed all the requirements for a doctorate except the dissertation. He was awarded a Ph.D., honoris causa, by Manhattan College in 2002. In 1979, Quinn was appointed to the staff of Governor Hugh Carey as chief speechwriter. He continued in that role under Governor Mario Cuomo. Originally published in 1994, Banished Children of Eve won a 1995 American Book Award. Hour of the Cat, set in Berlin and New York on the eve of WWII, was published in 2005, a nonfiction collection, Looking for Jimmy: In Search of Irish America was published in February 2007. His third novel, The Man Who Never Returned is based on the still-unsolved 1930 disappearance of NYS Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater, published in 2010. Quinn co-wrote the script for the 1987 television documentary McSorley’s New York, for which he won an Emmy. He appeared in several PBS documentaries, including The Irish in America, New York: A Documentary Film, and The Life and Times of Stephen Foster, as well as the dramatic film, The Passion of Sister Rose. Quinn was an advisor on Martin Scorcese’s film Gangs of New York, the story of which precedes and in some ways underpins Banished Children of Eve. Quinn was the editor of The Recorder: The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society from 1986 to 1993 and has published articles and reviews in the New York Times, Commonweal, America, American Heritage, the Catholic Historical Review, the Philadelphia Enquirer, the L.A. Times, Eiré-Ireland, and other newspapers and journals. Quinn is also president and co-founder of Irish American Writers & Artists. Author’s website is here. You can buy Banished Children of Eve at Bookshop.org The post Peter Quinn: Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York first appeared on WritersCast.
34 minutes | Nov 3, 2021
Geoff Rodkey: Lights Out in Lincolnwood (A Novel)
Lights Out in Lincolnwood – A Novel – Geoff Rodkey – HarperCollins – 9780063065925 – Paperback – 544 pages – $16.99 – ebook versions available at lower prices I have to admit that I did not expect to really like this book anywhere near as much as I did. I’ve certainly read my share of suburban based stories that wittily poke fun at modern life. But Geoff Rodkey surprised me with Lights Out in Lincolnwood and I found myself reading it every day in big chunks – the kind of book that is dangerous to my sleep as I can’t stop reading. Like eating dried fruit. Except that I did not regret it later. Today’s world seems to encourage writers to imagine the worst about our future – this book does that for sure. But Rodkey keeps us from getting depressed with humor, even as he tells us the truth about ourselves and our illusions we like to carry around about how we would act under pressure. And there is not much more pressure one can imagine than the story Rodkey tells here, as an unexplained collapse of our infrastructure suddenly happens. By focusing on a single family and its community, Rodkey is able to bring the whole story down to a practical level, as his characters, whom we readily recognize, go through an almost Marxian (that’s Marx Brothers by the way) experience that readers can’t help laugh at and simultaneously shudder about. It is frighteningly close to home. How do we survive calamity when we have no idea how to do anything that is needed to survive and the tools we need don’t work and the neighbors we thought we knew turn into completely different people – or maybe reveal themselves for whom they really are, at last. The entire book takes place during an action packed and tension filled four days – chaos, change, fear, hysteria, and perhaps even joy mark the struggle of the Altman family as they try to determine how to live in a world without technology. They struggle with getting food and water, their modern past-times and addictions, neighbors who become militaristic and brutal, and the town’s looting of the local Whole Foods is the least of the craziness they have to contend with as they try to figure out just what is going on and how they will manage to get through a worldwide catastrophe. It’s impossible to not be captivated by this book. It was fun to read and to talk to Geoff, and I know it made a difference as its story line and characters have stayed with me long after I finished reading the book. We had a terrific time talking for Writerscast about this book and Geoff’s work as a writer in various media. Geoff Rodkey is the New York Times best-selling author of ten children’s books, including the Tapper Twins and Chronicles of Egg series; We’re Not From Here; and Marcus Makes a Movie, a collaboration with actor Kevin Hart. He’s also the Emmy-nominated screenwriter of Daddy Day Care and RV, among other films. Geoff lives in New York City with his family. In particular, We’re Not From Here, A sci-fi comedy for middle grade readers about a family of humans who immigrate to an alien planet after Earth is destroyed (written for middle grade readers) looks like another fun Rodkey story. Author website here. Buy the book here.The post Geoff Rodkey: Lights Out in Lincolnwood (A Novel) first appeared on WritersCast.
40 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Jeff Deutsch of Seminary Co-op Bookstores
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time talking with people in the book industry about how publishing is evolving in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Some time back, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and others who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present. These conversations have been inspirational to me on many levels. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with a number of friends and colleagues I have met over the many years I have been in the book business. This week’s podcast is one I am really excited about. Jeff Deutsch is the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, which calls itself the first not-for-profit bookstore in the United States whose mission is devoted to bookselling (there are other nonprofit bookstores of course, generally components of literary centers, like Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee, and Writers and Books in Rochester, NY are examples). Last spring I read a report of a Book Industry Study Group panel that included Jeff, and what he talked about immediately caught my attention. Deutsch was reported to have said that the model of bookselling we’ve inherited needs to be rethought: just facilitating more sales, more efficiently, is not the way for bookstores to survive. A bookstore that actually means something to readers will need to carry a deep backlist and to spend time helping readers discover new voices, new texts. During that panel Deutsch said, “The publishing world and distributors—what you value is not our ability to sell books,” because independent bookstores can never sell in the same volume as Amazon. “Yet we all know how important bookstores are,” he said. As publishers and booksellers once knew, developing readerships for books and authors takes time and devotion that have been boiled out of the entire process now. Jane Friedman’s outstanding book industry newsletter Hot Sheet compared Jeff’s approach to the Slow Food movement (I think that idea makes sense – I wrote a manifesto for publishers a few years ago on the idea of Slow Publishing, but never developed it enough to publish). Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Illinois (which has filed a lawsuit against Amazon), also on the BISG panel said “I think it’s like Alice Waters talking for decades about a sustainable food ecosystem and ultimately revolutionizing the food industry that way. That’s the point we’re at.” As Jane pointed out, “independent booksellers will lose every time if they base their worth on the mere transactional value of selling books. His stance—that bookselling has a deeper meaning and cultural value—is indeed how boutique and online retailers outside of the Amazon ecosystem are positioning themselves for success.” Deutsch also said, “We should figure out models that support the work that we’re trying to do, not shoehorn this other model of retail that is really just about buying and selling and not about culture….We all have vocational awe, but couldn’t we have vocational awe and still make a decent living?” This conceptual framework resonates with me and I think is worthy of much more discussion. Why shouldn’t there be a nonprofit bookselling sector to promote literary and other noncommercial books and authors, just as there is a nonprofit theater? Why should we continuously try to fit a crucially important culture activity into a commercial model, and always fail? I hope that hearing Jeff talk about this concept will help stimulate further discussion and concrete action. Please feel free to comment and if you are interested in helping, please be in touch. Connect to the Seminary Co-op Bookstores website here. Before joining the Co-op Deutsch was the director of stores for the Stanford Bookstore Group and prior to that managed the Cal Student Store at the University of California, Berkeley.The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Jeff Deutsch of Seminary Co-op Bookstores first appeared on WritersCast.
37 minutes | Sep 20, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Ben Fox of Shepherd.com
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years talking with people in the book industry about how publishing has evolved in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Some time back, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers, booksellers, innovators, and leaders in publishing from the past into the present. These conversations have been inspirational to me in many ways. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with a number of friends and colleagues I have met over the decades I have been in the book business. Everyone in the book business recognizes the challenge of matching books to readers and vice versa. Search and discovery are the defining issues of this era of vast abundance and creativity in books and all media. There have been any number of efforts to address these challenges that go far beyond what any individual author or publisher can accomplish. One new effort that is trying to address the problem of online book discovery is called Shepherd. Ben Fox is the founder of this book search and recommendation website which he describes as being “Like browsing the best bookstore in the world.” Like so many others who have become involved with the book publishing industry, he was motivated by a love of books and a desire to replicate the experience of browsing in a physical bookstore online. It’s a simple enough proposition in theory, but in practice, we know that nothing is easy for start ups, and especially so for start ups in the book industry. I learned about Shepherd from an author I have worked with who has become a friend. Since I believe we need to foster creativity and innovation in every aspect of the book delivery chain, I wanted to talk to Ben to find out more about what he is doing, how he is doing it, and how he feels he can make this effort a success. In a fairly short time, Shepherd has built a robust offering, with book lists of all kinds, and direct connections on the site to a large number of active authors. Visit Shepherd.com and see for yourself what Ben Fox is doing. It would be interesting to me to hear what you think of it. Does Shepherd help you find books you might not otherwise have discovered? Does meeting authors online make a difference to your sense of their books and your willingness to buy and read them? Does Shepherd succeed in creating an online book browsing experience that matches what a great bookstore can do? “I love walking around the bookstore and browsing until something grabs my attention. I want to bring that experience online. I want to help readers bump into books they would otherwise not find. And, help them follow their curiosity to new places. And, I want to help authors meet more readers. Authors illuminate our world, take us on faraway journeys, and entertain us. There is a growing trend that authors have to become their own marketing team. That concerns me because it takes time away from writing and is very hard to do. One of my long-term goals is to help authors market themselves and give them more time to write.” — Ben Fox It’s pretty obvious that retail shopping is changing. As readers, we need to figure out new ways to discover books, and for writers and publishers, it is crucial that there are a variety of different ways for us to reach out to readers when we have books we want them to know about. I hope Shepherd will succeed.The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Ben Fox of Shepherd.com first appeared on WritersCast.
36 minutes | Aug 11, 2021
Susanne Paola Antonetta: The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here
The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here – Susanne Paola Antonetta – 978-0-8142-5780-7 – 248 pages – paperback – February, 2021 – Mad Creek Books – $22.95 – ebook editions available at lower prices Sometimes one literally chances across a terrific book; it appears unbidden and takes over one’s complete attention. A surprise appearance in the daily maelstrom of life. This remarkable memoir by Susanne Paola Antonetta did just that for me, striking me like a lightning bolt out of the blue, and completely altering the trajectory of my thinking. I’ve read alot of books and loved many of them. This book stopped me in my tracks. Reading it over the course of a few evenings, this author made me think and feel and understand another person’s experience, her deeply felt and beautifully described mind and being. That is quite an accomplishment and makes this a very special book indeed. Antonetta brings us into her youth, the place of “Summerland” and her family’s life on the marshy border of the ocean in southern New Jersey. Like the descriptions of physics and astrophysics she intersperses between her memory pieces, her description of this place, the people in her family, and her own life are simultaneously dreamlike and definitive. Her grandmother and mother are key figures throughout. And then she introduces her own experiences with bipolar disorder, drugs, and the trauma of electroshock treatment woven together with those brilliantly written descriptions of ideas in neuroscience and physics, and then there are her conversations with psychics and meditations on understanding their messages from inter-dimensional spaces. What a journey! This is a memoir with great power and beauty, taking us into the past, the present and realms beyond, where ideas and perhaps the ground of being may or may not be found. I won’t tell you much more about the book. I think you need to discover it for yourself. I loved it, and I really enjoyed speaking to Susanne as well. we had a terrific talk about this book and her writing. This is a book I intend to re-read and work to understand more fully. Once is not enough. “Antonetta tackles nothing less than consciousness and existence, employing an amalgam of science writing and mysticism. It’s hard to imagine another writer who could not only make such a project work but also make it seem natural and necessary.” —Robin Hemley, author of Borderline Citizen: Dispatches from the Outskirts of Nationhood. Susanne Paola Antonetta is has written a number of books, including Make Me a Mother, Curious Atoms: A History with Physics, Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir, A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World, a novella, and four books of poetry. Her work has been published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Orion (one of my favorite magazines), the New Republic, and others. She lives in Bellingham, Washington. Visit Susanne’s website for more information about her and her work. You can buy the book from Bookshop.org.The post Susanne Paola Antonetta: The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here first appeared on WritersCast.
36 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
Nelson Johnson: Darrow’s Nightmare-The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer
Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer (Los Angeles 1911–1913) – Nelson Johnson – 9781948122733 – 360 pages – April 20, 2021 – Hardcover – Rosetta Books – ebook editions available at lower prices One of the great personal joys that working in the book business enables is that I get to work with authors. I’ve done some consulting with Rosetta Books, the publisher of Darrow’s Nightmare, and through the publisher have had the opportunity to meet and get to know former New Jersey judge Nelson Johnson, who turns out to be a terrific person, as well as a wonderful storyteller, historian, and writer. I had known of Nelson Johnson mainly because his earlier best-selling book, Boardwalk Empire, became the basis of the excellent HBO series of the same name. Boardwalk Empire documents the tumultuous story of the Atlantic City in the early twentieth century, a time when racketeers and corrupt politicians ran the city. Boardwalk Empire is a terrific book with incredibly interesting characters and clearly, Nelson Johnson knows how to write history that conveys characters and their stories dramatically for readers. In Darrow’s Nightmare, Nelson turns his attention to Clarence Darrow, one of the greatest trial attorneys in modern American history, in one of the most tumultuous and challenging episodes of his long career. Best known today for his role in the famous Scopes trial of 1925 (and the film, Inherit the Wind), Darrow was actually most famous in his earlier years as a brilliant defender of labor rights, at a time when organized labor was literally battling with business owners across the country for basic freedoms and policies we take for granted today. In 1911, Darrow went to Los Angeles with his wife, Ruby, at the behest of union leaders there. He was to defend two union iron workers who had been charged with the murder of twenty employees of the Los Angeles Times, whose building had been bombed as part of a major labor dispute. After he negotiated a plea bargain for the iron workers (with the help of Lincoln Steffens), Darrow himself was indicted for attempted bribery of a juror in the trial. Darrow was fortunate to be represented by the brilliant (though flawed) California criminal attorney Earl Rogers, who was himself one of the most successful trial attorneys in American history and with the help of Rogers and friendly juries, Darrow was able to escape being convicted in two different trials. He returned to Chicago in disgrace, set himself to rebuilding his career, and went on to take on some of what are now the most famous trials of his era, including the Leopold and Loeb case and the important civil rights Sweet case in Detroit, where he defended the right of a black family to self-defense. Looking over the arc of Darrow’s long legal career, the LA trials of 1911-1913 form the most crucial episode of his life. These trials made national news at the time, but have been mostly lost to history now. Nelson has brought the entire scene to life in memorable prose. He may be one of the few who have read the entire 8,500 page trial transcript. It is quite a story and well worth reading. And Nelson tells the story behind the story in the podcast episode presented here, which I very much enjoyed recording. Darrow captured the imagination of many Americans in his time in history. I think that reading Darrow’s Nightmare, you might be captured as well, and see him as a flawed hero, a human being much more complex than any film could portray. “The marks of battle are all over his face” —H.L. Mencken “A fascinating portrait of Clarence Darrow as we’ve never seen him before—as a criminal defendant. In Darrow’s Nightmare, Nelson Johnson tells the riveting tale of America’s most famous lawyer as he fights for his life, marriage, career, and reputation. I couldn’t put it down.” —Terence Winter, Creator & Executive Producer, Boardwalk Empire Nelson C. Johnson practiced law for 31 years prior to being appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court. During his final five years on the bench, he was one of three judges in New Jersey assigned to litigation, involving product liability claims. In the early 1980s Nelson represented the Atlantic City Planning Board when the modern casino period was beginning. That experience motivated him to write Boardwalk Empire. He has written two other books about New Jersey history. During the past 15 years, Nelson has made more than 200 presentations on his books before a wide range of audiences. He lives in Hammonton, New Jersey. Buy the book here from Bookshop.org. Visit the author’s website here. The post Nelson Johnson: Darrow’s Nightmare-The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer first appeared on WritersCast.
43 minutes | Jun 17, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time talking with people in the book industry about how publishing is evolving in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Some time ago, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers, booksellers, and others who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and in the present. These conversations have been inspirational to me on many levels. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with a number of friends and colleagues I have known over the many years I have been in the book business. Bookstores have been an essential part of my entire life, even from early childhood, one benefit of growing up with a writer as father. Independent bookselling thrived from the late seventies into the late 1990’s, no doubt reflecting the Baby Boomer generation’s enthusiasm for books and ideas. The last twenty or more years have been very different, and now there are far fewer communities that support bookstores than at anytime in the past fifty years. Bookstores (along with public libraries) are a crucial element of a healthy culture, far more valuable than their size and scope would suggest. Local communities benefit from the presence of bookstores in many ways, and literary culture needs them too, as visible representations of a reading culture. Ideas grow and spread from books, but culture is also built around physically being present with one another. So it is important for us to find ways as readers and literary citizens, to support bookstores, and it is equally important for booksellers to locate themselves, create and support communities around their stores, to support their workers and to make themselves meaningful enough to be thrive, despite the challenges of being small businesses in a mass-oriented consumer culture. There are quite a few examples of booksellers who have made just such an impact, and their experiences and ideas are important for all of us to share and understand. It has been a particular pleasure for me to have known and worked with Roxanne Coady, the founder and owner of the exceptional R.J. Julia Booksellers, in Madison, Connecticut. We first met when Roxanne came to Connecticut to establish her new business after pursuing a successful career as a CPA in New York City. Over the years, I have spent many hours browsing their shelves, attending author events, and enjoying the cafe. R.J. Julia has thrived during the period when local bookselling has faced an array of challenges, first from chain bookstores, then from Amazon and the rise of online retailing, and of course most recently, the pandemic. Throughout this time, Roxanne and her staff have innovated on many levels, including creating a drive-by pickup window for busy parents, putting on over 300 events a year (some of which are with celebrity authors), establishing an active email newsletter, providing online sales with speedy service, podcasting, and building an active book club. Throughout, the emphasis on community, care for staff as individuals, and listening to customers have been paramount characteristics of the enterprise. There is a bit of practical magic at work there, I think. After more than 30 years of hard work and success, it’s obvious that Roxanne has quite a bit to say about what it takes to be a successful bookseller, to be a locally based business, and to be a crucial part of literary culture. I believe that our conversation should be meaningful for anyone interested in the future success of bookstores and the importance of building a real literary culture within a society that does not put enough value on books, authors, writing. We need more bookstores! Visit the R.J. Julia Bookseller website and sign up for their newsletter. The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers first appeared on WritersCast.
35 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
Ross Benes – Rural Rebellion: How Nebraska Became a Republican Stronghold
Rural Rebellion: How Nebraska Became a Republican Stronghold – Ross Benes – 9780700630455 – hardcover – University Press of Kansas – 256 pages – $29.95 – January 26, 2021 – ebook versions available at lower prices Ross Benes is a journalist and author who now lives in New York City. But he was born and raised in a tiny town in Nebraska. That experience shaped his early worldview, and of course also makes him suited to understand and explain the culture and politics of his home state to the rest of the world. As the book subtitle lays out, he’s after explaining how Nebraska, like so many other midwestern and southern states, has gone from having a diverse electorate to being viewed as almost monolithically conservative in its views and policies. While the book is focused on Nebraska, much of what he describes about the political culture of his home state broadly applies to much of the rest of our contentious country. Nebraska may be quite similar to many other midwestern states, but as Benes explains, Nebraska has a long history of populism and quite a commitment to direct democracy and even nonpartisanship. This makes it even more curious to try to understand what has happened there over the past twenty five or more years. Nebraska is, except for its urban and college town oases, as purely “Trump country” as it could be. As a native-born Nebraska who has broadened his horizons by living in (heavens protect us) the heart of liberal America and working for (even worse) the so-called “liberal media,” Benes may be an ideal interlocutor between these two wildly divergent Americas. Rural Rebellion gives Benes the opportunity to document Nebraska, past and present, exploring its political history and current explores landscape through the lens of his own personal, family, and small town experiences. There is no question that he deeply cares for his home town and home state, despite the flaws he is determined to call out. In the course of writing this book, he interviewed family, friends, and fellow citizens as well as US senators, representatives, governors, state representatives in the uniquely Nebraskan unicameral governing body, and other political figures, all toward showing Americans not only how we got here, but what we might imagine doing by way of antidote. Benes remains clear-eyed about the difficulty of any sort of success in “healing” the rifts in our body politic and culture. He wishes for a form of discourse that may literally be impossible in a world where some 30% of the overall population, and a much higher percentage of the Nebraska population, simply does not recognize the same reality as many other Americans. Fox News certainly deserves some of the credit, but as Benes points out, small town churches and their powerful anti-abortion, anti-“sin” worldview, and the lack of cultural diversity in rural communities are deeply rooted and provide much to explain how it is we got where we are today. Benes has one foot rooted firmly in the state he grew up in, the other foot is planted in a completely different environment. Because he has experienced both nodes of our dissonant culture, he can see the full spectrum of our anguish. I am not sure anyone can resolve the differences though. And I do not believe that the “both sides” approach of traditional journalism really works anymore. While it is certainly true that people in the Fox News dominated, evangelically oriented. semi-rural heartland are all too often viewed as stick figures by many who live in the more diverse and tolerant urban coasts, it is Fox and the church leaders who create imaginary portraits of the people with whom they disagree in outlook and belief, and the right wing now stokes a belief system that see fellow citizens as less than human to a degree that is impossible to excuse. This is not a situation where “both sides” are equally responsible. In Rural Rebellion, Benes recounts real-life stories that help explain rural Americans’ attitudes about abortion, immigration, and the so-called big government they forget supports their agricultural successes. He also tells his own stories about how his views changed over time away from home, and crucially locates some of the reasons in the ways that what he was taught were impossible. While his argument – that Americans would be less hostile to one another if they just knew each other a little better – makes sense in theory, there are too many powerful forces at work that have a vested interest in keeping Americans at each others’ throats. We want to believe in the essential goodness of our fellow citizens, but there are those that are working diligently to prevent that from happening. No matter where you may fall in the spectrum of belief system, Rural Rebellion is quite useful and a valuable contribution to our socio-political discourse. Ross Benes is the author of The Sex Effect (2017) and Sex Weird-o-Pedia (2019). He has written for Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Lincoln Journal Star, Nation, Omaha World-Herald, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, and others. In addition, he is an analyst at eMarketer. A native of Brainard, Nebraska (population 420), he now lives in New York City but still roots for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. We had a terrific conversation about this book. I hope you enjoy it as well. You can find the book for sale here at Bookshop.org. “Rural Rebellion is informative whether or not you agree with the author’s political views. . . . Benes does a good job connecting past and present, and he asks many of the questions that historians are likely to ask when they look back on the early twenty-first century.” —Nebraska History The post Ross Benes – Rural Rebellion: How Nebraska Became a Republican Stronghold first appeared on WritersCast.
41 minutes | May 18, 2021
Anders Dunker: Rediscovering Earth
Rediscovering Earth: Ten Dialogues on the Future of Nature – conversations with Anders Dunker – OR Books – 9781682195086 – Paperback – 240 pages – $23 – ebook versions available at lower prices Thinking about how to think about climate, earth, humans on it, and the future, are major challenges for all of us who care about the future of our planet. It may be that most of us alternate between despair and rage, and even with an optimist’s outlook, we have trouble dealing with the sheer scope of what is happening to our surroundings (I think using the words “environment” and “earth” and “planet” has now become counterproductive). I am constantly searching for writing, whether it is in books, online or in magazines, that will offer me constructive perspectives, different and hopefully better conceptual frameworks than those we have developed, toward making it possible to be both continually engaged and continually energized. I don’t usually feel I can do that on my own. Anders Dunker’s collection of conversations with some of the deeper thinkers about the future and us in it, turns out to be very useful. The diverse viewpoints, the language of thoughtfulness and care, the commitment to inquiry, are all inspiring elements of this short book. And with such a diverse set of outlooks, it is possible to not lose sight of the core reason for this book to exist – to inspire hope. Dunkers poses this question: “if we know that we are destroying the planet, our habitat, why do we continue to do it?” His dialogues attempt to investigate this question, and thereby come to some sense of how we might go forward, not ourselves alone, but the nature that we rely on, together. This is the challenge we face right now. The challenge will be different in a few years, the unfolding story will force a reckoning. For now, those who read the stories in Rediscovering Earth will be able to come to a better sense of what we can and must do together in this moment. Dunkers proposes that our future, nature itself, will be based on how we navigate the realm of culture, including philosophy, art and literature, the groundwork of our being, as much as or more than in scientific and technological matters. In order to act, we must redefine ourselves, become truly planetary citizens, and recognize how we are all connected, and then act upon, from that, understanding. We had a terrific conversation, not only about the book and the contributors to it, but about how we will uncover the future and live in it together. A very hopeful experience. I came away from our talk fully energized, and feeling stronger. Anders Dunker bio (from his website): Born in Norway, raised in the countryside in a family much dedicated to wildlife and nature. Educated in humanistic subjects and Cultural History at the University of Oslo, with Philosophy, Comparative Religion and Comparative Literature as main subjects. Teacher of Aesthetics and other subjects at the University of Oslo, Philosophy and Cultural History in Rome and Barcelona. Senior lecturer at Kulturakademiet (Norwegian private college) for 10 years, now writer for acclaimed Norwegian & international newspapers and magazines (Le Monde diplomatique, LA Review of Books, NyTid, Vagant, Samtiden, Modern Times Review, Agora). Board member of the Norwegian Writers’ Climate Campaign, Series Editor of Futurum Collection at Existenz Publisher (Norway) and Editorial Board Member at Technophany, a journal for Philosophy and Technology. His current book projects include an essay on the future as seen from California and a volume on Peter Sloterdijk’s philosophy. Anders currently lives with his wife, an environmentalist and animalist singer, in Los Angeles, California. He is also a plein air painter. From Dialogue One: “The Rediscovery of the Earth—with Bruno Latour” Anders Dunker (AD): Historically, the age of discovery is over. Are we none the less in a new age—an age of rediscovery—that can lift our spirits and propel us past the nagging feelings of tragedy? Bruno Latour (BL): Well, it is my way of being optimistic. It is my way of not taking part in the sense of doom. Scientifically and technically, it is perfectly rational to be a pessimist, but I don’t think it makes much sense politically. Optimism has nothing to do with technoscience—DNA plus cognitive science plus robots plus outer space. Instead it is connected with exploring the world we thought we knew. I will borrow the term from you and call our time period an age of rediscovery, even if it is grandiose. What we call local has quite a different meaning in relation to Gaia than it previously had. It now has many different dimensions. The rediscovery of a place is in some ways a cliché—since ecologists have been talking about the same thing for years—but this concept also leads to a different way of framing the world, it leads to another geometry, so to speak. Water gets another meaning. Ice gets another meaning. Industry is considered in relation to the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere. We see things in new ways. Antibiotics have a different kind of globalization than weeds, for example. AD: Traditionally, the concept of the local has had a flavor of subjectivity—existence circumscribed by the immediate horizon—in contrast to the scientific gaze, which purports to see everything as if from outer space? BL: And here lies the error. The local is objective. The gaze from inside the critical zone is completely objective, it is just objective in a different way. What we see is real, but this reality only becomes visible if we learn what different parties are up to, what they need, what they want, what they can accomplish. Buy the book directly from the publisher, OR Books.The post Anders Dunker: Rediscovering Earth first appeared on WritersCast.
43 minutes | May 5, 2021
Frank Figliuzzi: The FBI Way – Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence
The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence – Frank Figliuzzi – 9780062997050 – hardcover – HarperCollins – 272 pages – $27.99 – January 12, 2021 – ebook versions available at lower prices If you have been paying attention to the news for the five years since the US elevated Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States, with the help of Fox News, the Mercer family, the Koch brothers and their associates, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, aided further by the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party, the vapidity of the mainstream media, years of inattention to the teaching of American history and civics in schools everywhere, undergirded by a calculated, systematic conspiracy with the Russian government (that no doubt, was surprised by how easy it was to game the greatest democracy in the history of the world), you have seen and heard the former FBI agent, Frank Figliuzzi, on MSNBC and other news outlets, talking about the visible public corruption that was going on throughout this painful period of our lives. For many of us who remember the fifties, sixties and seventies, when the FBI was a witting tool of a repressive political state, it has been more than disconcerting to suddenly see the FBI as an upstanding exemplar of a rule-abiding democracy – that is under attack from a right wing political party that used to (over) value the rule of law in service to the capitalist enterprise. That attack, surreal as it would seem, is a symptom of the “down is up” necessities of authoritarianism, which is where the Republican party has traveled to over the past few years. Trump was and is not the head of the beast, he was and is simply a tool used by a particular power center that found him as he found them, willing partners in a plan that serves their various contiguous but-not-entirely-shared needs and goals. Do not underestimate the war being waged against reality still going on in full force, even though the dumpster is no longer the head of state. Which brings us back to the matter at hand. Frank Figliuzzi is a throwback to a world that too often does not still appear to be with us. The three words on the cover of his book are at the core of the FBI’s training and belief system: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.” These principles mean everything to him. Cynical as so many of us are today, it is novel, and even heartening to meet someone who believes so deeply and completely in a moral system at a time when even honor systems all too often are not honored (West Point is a good example) and when elected officials so readily ignore their oaths of office. We need people who can remind us by the example of their behavior (and their words), that fairness, honesty, and justice can still exist in our society. Figliuzzi is aware of this. He aims his book at leaders in businesses and other institutions, to demonstrate to them and all of us, the enduring power and value derived from following principles that honor and respect the people that work there, their stakeholders at every level, and the institutions themselves. As I started to read this book, I wondered how the FBI, as a law enforcement organization, could be stood up as a model for profit-making businesses and non-governmental organizations, but Figliuzzi is persuasive, and the ideas he communicates are indeed powerful. Many of the examples he provides to document why the FBI should be viewed as a model for others are surprising, as they demonstrate a commitment to deeply moral values, and to treating individual employees as human beings rather than simply as cogs in an inhumane machine. “It’s times like these” that make books like this one crucial and important. It’s impossible not to be deeply affected by this book in ways that you might not have expected. Figliuzzi is a smart guy, and as an experienced media figure, he knows how to tell a compelling story. I find myself somewhat surprised to say that The FBI Way is a useful and maybe even an important book for our times. I very much enjoyed our conversation and I trust you will as well, though I doubt anyone listening here will be signing up to join the FBI anytime soon. “Figliuzzi’s war stories of hunting terrorists are spellbinding, but equally important is his playbook for how the FBI’s methods for achieving excellence in performance can be duplicated by a wide variety of organizations. This should be required reading in business schools across America.” – Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News Author website here. Buy the book here.The post Frank Figliuzzi: The FBI Way – Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence first appeared on WritersCast.
47 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Angus Yuen-Killick of Red Comet Press
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time in conversation with people in and around the book industry talking about its evolution in the contexts of technology, culture, and economics. Later, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the current and recent past of book publishing, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and others who have been innovators and leaders of all kinds, past and present. These conversations have been inspirational to me on many levels. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with a number of friends and colleagues whose work has influenced my own. One such person is Angus Yuen-Killick, whom I have known since the 1990s when he came to the US to set up an outpost for a small UK publisher I was working with at the time. I was immediately impressed with Angus’ energy, vision and intelligence and since then, he has gone on to have a great career in children’s book publishing, his true love in the book business. After working for several larger children’s book publishers over many years, Angus has now founded his own publishing imprint, Red Comet Press, about which he says: “This is the realization of a long-held dream. The past year has forced us to reevaluate our priorities and reflect on our future. Launching a new publishing company seemed at once a crazy proposition, but also the absolute right thing to do. At Red Comet Press, we will focus on the craft of publishing and curating a list of hand-picked titles. We will shepherd them through the publishing process, from creator to reader, with care and attention to detail. When we acquired these first books, it was a sign. They are inventive, surprising, touching, and multi-layered—and they remind me, upon every reading, of the passion and creativity that drew me to this business in the first place.” Angus was interviewed earlier this year in Publishers Weekly, where he said “When I first started in the business, I worked at a tiny poetry publishing company in the north of England. My dad was an editor there and I was exposed to every aspect of the publishing process. When I left Macmillan last year and was trying to figure out the next step in my career after 30 years in corporate publishing, I realized that my dream was returning to that model of shepherding a list of books from the beginning to the end. This felt like the right thing for me to do next.” Angus has help from his husband, Michael Yuen-Killick, a talented graphic designer, who serves as creative director for Red Comet, and a raft of friends and associates drawn from his many years of publishing. During his more than thirty years in book publishing, Angus has worked in key roles at various houses, including Macmillan, Penguin, Disney, and DK. I doubt there is anyone in children’s book publishing he does not know; he is widely respected and admired by his colleagues, and by many authors and illustrators as well. It is always stimulating and fun for me to speak with Angus, so having him as a guest here is a special pleasure. If you are interested in the particular challenges of children’s book publishing, you will learn a great deal from Angus even from this brief interview. His knowledge and experience is unmatched. His enthusiasm and intelligence are often inspirational. And the books he publishes at Red Comet are going to be fantastic too. I am really looking forward to seeing his first list of books later this year. The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Angus Yuen-Killick of Red Comet Press first appeared on WritersCast.
55 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Kyle Schlesinger of Cuneiform Press
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time talking with people in the book industry about how publishing is evolving in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Later this series broadened to include talks and interviews that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and others who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past, and into the present. These conversations have been inspirational to me on many levels. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. I started out in independent publishing, and early on learned how to set type by hand and operate mechanically operated printing presses that were even then becoming obsolete. I was never a very good printer and admire the poets and editors who have taken up the mantle of what is known as fine press printing to produce books that are artistically innovative and at times handmade. Kyle Schlesinger is a poet and independent publisher whose work I have long admired. His press, Cuneiform (“Poetry, Typography and Artists’ Books) has established an incredible body of work since he issued his first book in 2000, Luisa Giugliano’s Chapter in a Day Finch Journal, published in Buffalo while Kyle was a student in the Poetics Program at SUNY, where he studied with Robert Creeley, Susan Howe, and Charles Bernstein. Kyle first discovered the idea of printing through Will Hamlin, a Black Mountain College alumnus, while he was studying at Goddard College. He learned to print first in Vermont on an 1889 Prouty platen press with metal type. As he says on the Cuneiform site: “We printed the literary review for Goddard College, instructions for using a compost toilet, Gertrude Stein stationery, and a few short poems. I remember building up the letters of William Carlos Williams’ “A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words” early on.” This early experience quite evidently sent Kyle on the path to becoming a fine printer and book designer, and the hand work well suited to his personal design views, as he has gone on to produce a range of excellent writing expressed through fine design and outstanding creativity in book production. After he left Buffalo, Kyle moved to Austin, Texas, where Cuneiform is now based. He teaches at the University of Houston, Victoria. Cuneiform produces books of poetry, artists’ books and even scholarly works, using letterpress and offset printing. Kyle and I had a great conversation earlier this spring. When it is possible to travel again, I am looking forward to visiting Cuneiform and seeing Kyle and the great Vandercook 219 proof press he runs in his shop in Austin. Kyle and I share a number of connections, including poets and old friends, Kit Robinson, Steve Benson, and Kyle printed for years on a press he got from another old friend, Michael Waltuch, as well as a shared interest in Black Mountain College and its many amazing poets, artists and craftspeople. It’s inspiring to see his work, that carries forward the meaningful traditions of poets in collaboration with artists in the making of books. We had a wide ranging conversation about his work, past, present, and future. Visit the Cuneiform Press website – do consider buying some books or subscribing or even donating, as Cuneiform is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit, donations are tax-deductible! The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Kyle Schlesinger of Cuneiform Press first appeared on WritersCast.
36 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt
Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory – Claudio Saunt – 97800393541564 – paperback – W.W. Norton – 416 pages – $26.95 – February 23, 2021 – ebook versions available at lower prices This is a book that should be required reading for all Americans. Even those of us who think we know the story of the Trail of Tears and other important efforts by our white antecedents to eliminate Indians from the eastern United States will learn from the incredibly well researched and carefully documented story told by a brilliant historian. Unworthy Republic documents the reprehensible story of the “Indian Removal” of the 1830s, which resulted in the forced migration of Native Americans whose ancestral territories include what is now North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and to a lesser extent Ohio and western New York state. On May 28, 1830, the United States Congress authorized the forced expulsion of indigenous people then living in the east to a new Indian territory west of the Mississippi, under the false notion that they would be free to live their lives away from white settlers and farmers then pouring into their unceded lands. The US government then set out to forcibly move at least 80,000 Native Americans from their homelands west, usually on foot, and always at their own expense. It was a disastrous undertaking that was shot through with fraud and a racist disregard for the health and well being of the Indians by the white citizenry and politicians who wanted to steal their land, as well as by the military that was used to administer and enforce the effort. As Saunt exhaustively documents, fraud, intimidation, murder and theft were the common tools of the day. Rich planters and politicians created a fictional hypocritical story line to justify their greed and theft. In the course of the removals, many thousands of Native Americans were killed, many more suffered horribly, and almost all lost their lands and what few possessions they had at the time. In the end, the “removal” can be seen for what it was, an unofficial US policy of extermination constructed to benefit southern slave owning planters with the active participation and support of greedy financial speculators, mostly from New York. In this book, Saunt makes three related core arguments: “The state-administered mass expulsion of indigenous people was unprecedented, it was a turning point for indigenous peoples and for the United States, and it was far from inevitable.” It is impossible to read this book and to not be angered, even now that we are almost two hundred years removed from this decade of horror. The actual events that underpin the history ofd the United States must be reconciled with the manufactured myths that we use to tell our own stories to ourselves. It is not a matter only of white guilt (though there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with guilt, if it can be harnessed to positive ends) nor is an intellectual hand wringing a useful response to learning the hard lessons of our history. What we can take from these stories is an understanding of how to be better at living our ideals, and transforming what we have been to something different, that gives voice to the actual people whose land we live on today. The acknowledgment of indigenous people can not be simply gestural. A book like Unworthy Republic must draw us closer to action – as Buddhists often point out – no one is free until all are free. The American correlation is that no one can live comfortably with the land until all of us do. Our history is with us still. Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Nonfiction Shortlisted for the 2020 Cundill History Prize Named a Top Ten Best Book of 2020 by the Washington Post and Publishers Weekly and a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2020 Claudio Saunt is the Richard B. Russell Professor in American History at the University of Georgia. He is the author of award-winning books, including A New Order of Things; Black, White, and Indian; and West of the Revolution. He lives in Athens, Georgia. It was an honor for me to have the opportunity to speak with Claudio about this important and powerful book. Author website here. Buy the book here. The post Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory by Claudio Saunt first appeared on WritersCast.
40 minutes | Feb 27, 2021
The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics by Sydney Ladensohn Stern
The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics – Sydney Ladensohn Stern- 9781617032677 – University Press of Mississippi – 480 pages – 88 b&w illustrations – October 2019 – Hardcover – $35 – ebook version available at lower prices There are any number of characters and influencers in the history of modern American film-making, but among the many greats who contributed to its evolution into the dominant form of our popular culture, the Mankiewicz brothers stand out. Between them, they played critical roles in an incredible array of films that comprise our film canon today. Herman (1897–1953) and Joe (1909–1993) either wrote, produced, or directed (sometimes both or all) more than 150 films, from late era silents to almost modern era big budget productions. Herman is credited with writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane with Orson Welles (though the amount of work done by each of them has long been disputed) and shared the picture’s only Academy Award. Joe won four Oscars altogether, including two for writing and directing All About Eve, which also was awarded Best Picture in 1950. Both the older Herman and the much younger Joe started as writers and then became successful as producers and in Joe’s case as a director as well. They came to Hollywood as upwardly mobile children of immigrants, brilliant intellectually and wildly witty, and feeling extremely ambiguous throughout their careers about the value and importance of their work in film – concerned it seems, to not be recognized as serious artists, as their novelist and playwright friends had been. The conflict between art and popular culture defined their lives and caused them each great suffering. Herman was an early member of the renowned Algonquin Round Table group of wits, and in his unhappiness and self destructiveness, frequently lost all his money gambling. He alienated all the major film studios, and was dead by the age of 55. At the same time that Herman was ruining his career, Joe found significant success as writer, producer, and director, although he was almost addicted to deeply felt romances with the stars he worked with, including Judy Garland, and Joan Crawford, causing terrible suffering to his wife and family. Biographer Sydney Ladensohn Stern spent ten years in researching and writing this comprehensive portrait of twentieth century American film through the lens of two of its most important and compelling figures. She’s written a thorough and highly readable narrative that gives us a chance to understand the complexities of her characters, and for anyone with an interest in modern film history, this book will be irresistible. The Mankiewicz brothers are among the titans upon which the movie business was built – their writing helped to define the language we see now as emblematic of an entire era in American history. This was a very fun book for me to read and I very much enjoyed talking to Sydney about her book. I think you will enjoy hearing our conversation and you should read this book (now available as an audiobook too). “one of the best of the recent biographies of screenwriters … One thing I love about her book are the footnotes that trace the lineage of some of the great Mank stories (“The white wine came up with the fish” and “Imagine that, the whole world wired to Harry Cohn’s ass”…) ” –Tom Stempel Sydney Ladensohn Stern worked as a reporter for Fortune and Money magazines and as an editor and award-winning columnist for the Scarsdale Inquirer before she started freelance writing. Her column, “Suburban Exposure,” covered politics and contemporary culture as well as her family and community, but she discontinued it after her sons left home and stopped providing her with material. She has freelanced for numerous publications including the New York Times. Her first biography is Gloria Steinem: Her Passions, Politics, and Mystique. Author website here. Buy the book here. The post The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics by Sydney Ladensohn Stern first appeared on WritersCast.
46 minutes | Feb 2, 2021
Publishing Talks: Interview with Arthur Attwell
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time talking with people in the book industry about how publishing is evolving in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Some time back, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and others who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present. These conversations have been inspirational to me on many levels. I have gotten to speak with visionaries and entrepreneurs, as well as editors and publishers who have influenced and changed contemporary literature and culture. Today’s guest is another such special individual. Arthur Attwell, who lives in Capetown, South Africa, got his start in publishing working for Oxford University Press as an editor. Impatient with the inefficiencies of publishing, he left to start up his current venture with some collaborators, Electric Book Works, which has been building books since 2006 that are active in multiple formats and versions, from beautifully produced print books to well fashioned ebooks to websites that express the book form in new ways. In addition to the work he has done with Electric Book Works, this energetic entrepreneur has co-created an impactful health care information project, Bettercare, which has created and distributed healthcare learning materials to thousands of practitioners and consumers all over Africa. Although this project, entirely volunteer run, has had to cut back on its activities because of the pandemic, its impact continues with part timers and reduced capabilities. Perhaps the most exciting efforts I have learned about recently is yet another Attwell project, Book Dash. Arthur and his partners created (and have since carefully refined) a process that assembles teams of book professionals to create and publish children’s books, and which also the raises money and support needed for the printing and distribution of thousands of books across Africa, with the stated goal that every child should own 100 books by the time they are five years old! The Book Dash process was built as an intensive one day effort, gathering teams in person, but has quickly adapted to a virtual model, enabling contributors to participate from multiple physical locations. They have made some really terrific books using this process and Book Dash has now distributed over one million books to children in Africa. With the time difference between us, arranging this talk required bit of organizing, but we were able to speak recently by Skype. My original goal was simply to give Arthur an opportunity to talk about Book Dash. But we ended up having a much wider conversation on a range of topics, including distributed print on demand printing, a dream concept we both have explored, and much more. I suspect we will talk further in the necessary follow up conversation I hope to have with him as there are so many exciting ideas to discuss. For now, I hope you will enjoy listening to Arthur Attwell as much as I did. Arthur’s “On Transit” Talk Arthur’s website The post Publishing Talks: Interview with Arthur Attwell first appeared on WritersCast.
42 minutes | Jan 12, 2021
Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas: Jeffrey Ostler
Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas – Jeffrey Ostler – 9780300255362 – Yale University Press – Paperback – 544 pages – September 22, 2020 – $25 – ebook versions available at lower prices “A landmark book essential to understanding American history, Surviving Genocide is an act of courage. Ostler’s brilliant concept of reconstructing ‘an Indigenous consciousness of genocide’ is significant for its insight into how American Indians understood, discussed, and resisted genocidal threats to their families, communities, and nations. His modern vocabulary of ‘atrocities’ and ‘killing fields’ is not for political effect but appropriate to the brutal reality of Indian policy in American history.”—Brenda Child, Northrop Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota Even though many of us feel we are familiar with the story of the “settling” of America by Europeans and the dispossession of indigenous people, reading Jeffrey Ostler’s book, part one of a major two-volume history, will educate every single one of us to a better understanding of the full scope of the takeover of a continent by invading Europeans. Conquest and genocide are terms we seem unable to apply to our own history, preferring still a more sanitized version of the centuries long overwhelming of the people who lived here before Europeans arrived in force. Ostler has spent years of research documenting the governmentally sanctioned use of force to remove or kill the indigenous people who were inconveniently in the way of the relentless expansion of the American republic. In this book he documents the losses from the violence – massacres, destruction of habitat and lifeways, diseases and cultural upheaval suffered sequentially by native peoples for hundreds of years as first colonial settlers and then Americans flooded the continent. This volume covers the story of the eastern United States from the 1750s to the beginning of the Civil War that set the stage for the post-Civil War expansion that is perhaps the better known narrative – buffalo, horses, trains, Crazy Horse and the Lakota being so much a part of popular culture imagery. As Ostler shows, the way this played out was not “inevitable” and Manifest Destiny was neither. The indigenous people were outnumbered, but often not out maneuvered or outwitted, and their ability to survive the nightmares of dispossession and attempted genocide is heroic. As Americans, it is sometimes difficult to look at our own history with honesty. It is often said that the “original sin” of America is slavery, but I think we must grapple with the actuality that there are two essentially economic-based social and cultural wounds at the heart of the American project. First, there is the forced dispossession of the people who were on the land itself, and second, the forced migration and enslavement of Africans for the benefit of white Americans and their economic development. We must learn as much as we can about the history of the last five hundred years in North America in an unromanticized, clear-eyed effort to fully comprehend what our forebears did in the course of creating the American dream all of us are allowed thereby to enjoy. The truth in all its complexity should serve as counterweight to the false narratives and self-serving images we choose to live by, all created as a form of ongoing social control. Indigenous people have survived despite the many attempts to extirpate them or to forcibly transform and bend their cultures into the conquerors’ image of what “civilization” looks like. Still, the traumatic effects of conquest need to be recognized, acknowledged and repaired and it would be no small thing to recognize formally that a genocide was in play, with all the social and political results that term carries with it. This book and presumably the subsequent volume in Ostler’s work, should help us move in that direction. The book is well written, hard to put down and completely engrossing; its authoritative and well-researched approach makes it a powerful document and well worth your time to read. I’m grateful for Jeffrey Ostler for taking the time to talk to me about this book and for Yale University Press for alerting me to it. Jeffrey Ostler is Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History at the University of Oregon and the author of The Lakotas and the Black Hills and The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee. Buy the book at Bookshop.orgThe post Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas: Jeffrey Ostler first appeared on WritersCast.
31 minutes | Dec 1, 2020
Even as We Breathe, A Novel: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Even as We Breathe, A Novel – Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle – 9781950564064 – University Press of Kentucky – Hardcover – 240 pages – September 2020 – $24.95 – ebook versions available for sale at lower prices This has been a good year to read fiction, and I am really pleased to have discovered this author. She is a fine writer whose storytelling is powerful, yet restrained. While this novel has some elements of a mystery, it is really a very personal story about family, love and growing up into the world of western North Carolina during World War II. The book’s main character is nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah, who has grown up in the woods of Cherokee land, raised mostly by his grandmother. The novel is set between the upscale Grove Park Inn, an Asheville resort serving as an internment camp for diplomat prisoners of war and their families. The Inn provides Cherokee men and women with employment off their reservation, and this is Cowney’s first real time away from home. At the core of the story, Cowley is accused of being involved in the disappearance of a diplomat’s daughter and must move back and forth to home as he attempts to understand the basis of the the unfair accusations, and prove his innocence while at the same time wrestling with his newfound love for another young Cherokee, Essie Stamper, and figuring out his complex family history. There is alot going on in this subtle and quietly told novel! And a number of surprises are in store for the reader that bring the story to a remarkable and rewarding close. Even As We Breathe is filled with details and moments that identify the Cherokee tribe and its homeland. The story gives Annette the opportunity to express the meanings of the Cherokee culture as it has survived into the modern world, sometimes still with the values of its people in conflict with the world of white people. A secret room in the Grove Park Inn becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world and try to imagine their futures independent of outsider influences. For awhile, it can feel to them that they have a place of their own. But racism and prejudice are constantly present, and both Cowney and Essie must face disappointment, and struggle to define their identities as Cherokees within a complicated environment that does not give them the space they truly need to be themselves. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), graduated from Yale University and has a masters from the College of William and Mary. Her unpublished novel, Going to Water won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. After serving as Executive Director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Annette (National Board Certified since 2012) returned to teaching English and Cherokee Studies at Swain County High School. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network. “Debut writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle lifts the curtain to show us a South we don’t know, revealed through the struggles of Cowney Sequoyah, a young man growing up within the Cherokee Nation of far Western North Carolina, and yet another surprise setting when he takes a job at Asheville’s fabled Grove Park Inn while it is being used by the US military as a place of internment for Axis prisoners of war during World War II. Even As We Breathe is a wonderful novel, complicated as life itself — thrilling, mysterious, and finally, a revelation!” — Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Marlin This novel was impossible for me to put down and is one of my favorite books I have read this year. It was a deep pleasure for me to speak with Annette about this book and her writing. I believe you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Purchase Even as We Breathe from Bookshop.org to support independent bookselling. Author’s website here. The post Even as We Breathe, A Novel: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle first appeared on WritersCast.
35 minutes | Nov 11, 2020
American Gospel, A Novel: Lin Enger
American Gospel, A Novel – Lin Enger – 978-1-5179-1054-9 – University of Minnesota Press – Hardcover – 248 pages – October 27, 2020 – $24.95 – ebook versions available for sale at lower prices I read Lin Enger’s last novel, High Divide, a few years ago and was really taken with his writing and the mythic fictional structures he loves to tell. Storytelling is certainly humanity’s oldest art form. We use stories to explain ourselves to ourselves. Lin seems to breathe storytelling like air. His new novel is very different than his earlier books, at least that it is set more or less in modern times and in northern Minnesota, a place that Lin is completely familiar and comfortable with. American Gospel begins in 1974 while the rest of the country is fixated on the Watergate scandal, on a north woods Minnesota farm, where Enoch Bywater, a self-styled preacher has had a vision of the Rapture. It is all so real for him, he believes that the end of the world is about to be upon us. His millennial dream is shared by his followers, and then as word spreads about the impending end of the world, his Last Days Ranch attracts a polyglot of dreamers and believers in a completely American quest for emergence. Enoch’s son, estranged both from his father, and from Minnesota, is an aspiring reporter with his own dreams and ambitions who is attracted back home by the potential for a big story – and the possibility of reconnecting with his high school love who is now a Hollywood star, the biggest thing to ever happen to their small rural town. And there is still more intrigue involving other characters with their own complex agendas, and the backdrop of the denouement of the Nixon saga. Lin Enger enjoys telling stories that involve men and their fathers. And he is taken with mythological, almost Jungian figures. In this book we have father figures of all kinds – God, the president, the preacher, and even his son. The psychic wounds of America are on full display and the resonance with our current time is unmistakable. Enger is a compassionate and perceptive writer whose prose is clean and clear. He plainly loves to shed light on who we are and what we must do in order to live together as humans in a complex, disparate modern world. American Gospel is a quietly brilliant novel that I hope will find a large audience. Lin Enger grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Moorhead, where he teaches English at Minnesota State University. He’s won many awards for his fiction, which include the novels, The High Divide (2014) and Undiscovered Country (2008). During the 1990s Lin and his brother, the novelist Leif Enger collaborated (as L. L. Enger) on a series of mystery novels for Pocket Books. I always enjoy speaking with Lin. We had a terrific conversation about this book, and much more for this podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Author’s website is here. You can buy American Gospel from Bookshop.org.The post American Gospel, A Novel: Lin Enger first appeared on WritersCast.
32 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) by L. Annette Binder
The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) – L. Annette Binder – 9781635574678 – Bloomsbury Publishing – Hardcover – 288 pages – July 21, 2020 – $27.00 – ebook versions for sale at lower prices I did not know what to expect when I started reading The Vanishing Sky. Initially, I was looking forward to reading a book that did not focus on the victims of Nazi Germany, but on Germans themselves. Yet I found that it was much more difficult for me to get into than I anticipated. I am not sure why, but I resisted the book and almost set it aside. I wanted to not like the characters. I wanted to not be sympathetic to them, or their situation, my deep-seated antipathy toward mid-century Germany and its people emerging from my psyche. The Vanishing Sky is about a family struggling to survive at a time when World War II is coming to an end. The focus of the book is on Etta Huber, a hausfrau in a small town, whose eldest son had joined the army and gone to fight in the east, now coming home a broken man, and whose younger son, is dreamier and unmilitaristic child-like, and struggles with the country’s expectations for a German male. At the same time, Etta’s husband is a difficult, quite traditional German man, a veteran of WWI, but who does not know how to act in his stage of life during wartime. Binder is a fine writer who builds a slow burning fire from a few tiny sparks and I found myself fully engaged with her characters, and immersed in their lives as I continued reading this book. The story and the characters bring us face to face with uncomfortable realities. These are humans struggling to find their identities in horrible circumstances, where there is nothing approaching normality. And of course, as it is set in Germany in the very final months of World War II, it is not a typical war novel. The book is about the people on the home front and it becomes impossible to not feel an uncomfortable resonance to our own time. It was truly a pleasure to speak with Annette about this remarkable novel and I will be looking forward to reading her next book. The Vanishing Sky quietly sneaks up on the reader and makes us confront our understanding of ourselves with carefully wrought details and a surprising story line. It’s a rewarding novel that requires attention from the reader that is fully rewarded in the end. “The Vanishing Sky reveals the German home front as I’ve never seen it in fiction… Binder tells her story patiently, like an artist placing tiny pieces into a mosaic; this literary novel isn’t one to race through. But I find it gripping, powerful, and a brave narrative, unsparing in its honesty.” — Larry Zuckerman, Historical Novels Review Annette Binder was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado. The Vanishing Sky is her first novel, inspired by her family’s experiences in World War II Germany. Her collection of short stories, Rise, received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Literature. Annette has degrees from Harvard, UC Berkeley and the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. She lives in New England. Author’s website here. Buy the book at Bookshop.org.The post The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) by L. Annette Binder first appeared on WritersCast.
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