Friday, March 27, 2015

Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes is a globally recognized environmentalist, the national coordinator of the first Earth Day, and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. Gail Boyer Hayes is a writer, editor, and former environmental lawyer who has authored books on solar energy and health issues.

Their new book is Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment.

From Denis Hayes's Q & A with Tracy Fernandez Rysavy at Green American:

GA/Tracy: Let’s talk impacts. Our diets have a big impact on the environment and the climate. But your recommendation, surprisingly, was not to go vegetarian or vegan.

Denis: My wife and I admire vegetarians and vegans. We’ve been mostly vegetarian for decades. The more meat a diet contains, the greater its environmental impact, definitely including climate impact. But, according to a poll done for the Vegetarian Times, just 3.2 percent of American adults are vegetarian. I wish that number was ten times larger, but wishing won’t make it so.

Cowed is aimed at the other 97 percent. Unless we can significantly shift that vast majority who are still eating meat—often a lot of meat— we are not going to achieve enough environmental change fast enough to matter.

America has the third-highest beef consumption in the world (behind Argentina, and, of all places, Luxembourg.) The average American male eats 85 pounds of beef a year! And that beef is mostly marbled (a Madison Avenue word for fat) and is typically produced under inhumane conditions in CAFOs.

Someone who eats 85 pounds of beef—and remember that is merely the average for men—is not a prime candidate to go vegan. But if we can persuade those people to reduce their consumption from 1.6 pounds of bad beef every week to, say, one-half pound of good, healthy beef from the right sources, the benefits for human health and the environment will be profound.

Our goal with Cowed is to significantly reduce the amount of beef consumed overall while shifting people to healthier, organic, grass-fed and -finished beef. Because of the way federal subsidies for agribusiness operate...[read on]
Visit the Cowed website.

The Page 99 Test: Cowed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lindsay Hunter

Lindsay Hunter is the author of the story collections Don’t Kiss Me and Daddy’s. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and two pit bulls.

Hunter's first novel is Ugly Girls.

From her Q & A with Luke Goebel for Electric Lit:

Luke Goebel: Alright! Hi, Lindsay Hunter. You wrote the book Ugly Girls (great title, by the way) and it’s a jaw rattler. I keep saying it used my heart as a rag. To clean what is the next question…the heart of the world? The heart of all of us? The holy secular heart? I mean there’s a lot to say on this one, and it’s BIG. FSG release. Kind of book everyone will want to read. Mass appeal, all that, killer speed book, craft out of the top of the head, with all the best prose anyone could want, plus the big story, mindblower, like at times I’m reading something written so good I think it’s As I Lay Dying only it’s 2014 or ’15 or ’16 and it’s Ugly Girls and it’s set in this trailer park – other times I’m clearly reading Lindsay Hunter and it’s still set in that trailer park— but it’s like one of those great books you read in school as a kid (though this one isn’t going to be taught in any kids’ schools anytime soon I doubt, not with some of these scenes!) and thought, HOW THE HELL DID THIS WRITER DO THIS? They must just be one of them [sic] magic writer people, one of them [sic] AUTHORS, who sit away in some lonely place of beauty to write this GOLD that just comes out of them, like, erupts, because they live the Earth into its being, and are geniuses, and all that… I’m trying to give you a compliment… say your book is killer… and with a difference from those old greats, because you do things they would have been shot if they wrote. Really. Killed.

SO… here’s the question, and it’s the ONE I think everyone wants to know when they read a book that rattles their jaws and makes the world seem at once familiar and strange, so the reader thinks “Maybe I don’t know myself, or life at all, maybe I can try again and do better this life.” Question being: HOW DID YOU DO IT?

Where did this novel come from? Who are these characters you found? Did you have help? Was there an editor? How did you write this? At what times of day? From what hilltop or plantation or moor or whatever wetlands? On what machine or by hand? Where did you figure out to have that quarry that is in the book? How did you find this novel inside you? Well… Hunter, will you tell us?

Lindsay Hunter: Luke, thank you so much for saying all of that. It is an enormous compliment coming from you!

I think I trusted that I had a novel-sized story to tell inside me, and then I just kept trusting that every single day. It was very hard at times and it haunts me to this day! Eventually, after years of doubts and self-hatred and all of it, a writer must come to a place where she can trust herself. Or give herself permission, at the very least, to write. So this novel is kind of the culmination of years and years of self-flagellating and wheels-spinning. Eventually I just decided to forge on into the abyss, or whatever that saying is. Is there a saying? I decided to trust the abyss.

You know, this is something I’m learning as a mother, now, too. I resist...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Ugly Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby's best-known books are the internationally bestselling novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, How To Be Good, A Long Way Down and Juliet, Naked. His non-fiction books include the football memoir Fever Pitch and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of his essays on books and culture. He is also the author of Slam, which is vintage Hornby for teenagers.

Hornby's new novel is Funny Girl.

From his Februrary 2015 Q & A at Goodreads:

GR: [In Funny Girl] you have a central character in Sophie who's pointedly unhip about music. Tell me how you decided to make that an attribute of her character and what you feel it says about her.

NH: When I was thinking about the book, I decided for various reasons to set it in the 1960s. I wanted to try and avoid a straightforward swinging '60s theme, which I feel I've seen and read before. Also, the more I thought about it, I felt that to set the book in that world of BBC entertainment, the characters would be a bit squarer, which is different than we're used to thinking about characters in the 1960s. There was a quote, I think from a photographer at the time, "Swinging London was 200 people, and I knew all of them." Their myth has cast a shadow over the whole decade. But there were lots of people doing creative work who weren't aware of that scene, were right on the edge of it, and wouldn't actually feel the effects of it for years to come. Sophie comes from a different tradition, and the Beatles-y, Stones-y mod stuff was just starting as she was beginning to work, so she wouldn't necessarily have seen it coming.

GR: She's also very much her father's daughter.

NH: Right. She works hard, and she hangs out with people who would also be a bit mystified by it all.

GR: I loved the scene where her unquestioned appropriation of her father's politics is disabused. It felt like a major step forward for her from her life in Blackpool, which outside of your book is not a place I'd ever read about. As an American reader, I am tempted to find an equivalent American town.

NH: It'd have to be a fading seaside town that no one goes to anymore because they have more money, so I guess it'd be like an Asbury Park, except Blackpool, being in the north of England, is cold and wet pretty much all the time. It's sort of tragic that people ever went there for...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Martha Hodes

Martha Hodes's new book is Mourning Lincoln.

From her Q & A with Ruth Graham for the Boston Globe:

IDEAS: My impression had always been that there was pretty universal grief at Lincoln’s assassination. That clearly wasn’t the case. Were there certain reactions that particularly surprised you?

HODES: Not just grief on the part of the mourners, of which there was a great deal, but also anger—fury in fact. There were soldiers’ diaries where the men would write about wishing there was one more battle....They wanted to exterminate the enemy they were so angry....And then of course reading the responses of Confederates, the utter glee they expressed when they got the news of Lincoln’s assassination. They thanked the assassin, they praised God. It was clearly a reprieve from the horror of defeat, which they had just experienced.

IDEAS: How did black Americans in particular react to the news?

HODES: African-Americans, North and South, claimed that their loss was greater than the loss of Lincoln for white Americans. White mourners who noted that down did not dispute that fact. They understood that that was true. African-Americans had...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Martha Hodes's author website.

Cover story: Mourning Lincoln.

The Page 99 Test: Mourning Lincoln.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson is the international bestselling author of Somewhere in France. She holds a doctorate in British economic and social history from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar and an SSHRC Doctoral Fellow.

Her new novel is After the War is Over.

From Robson's Q & A with Katie Noah Gibson:

Can you talk about the genesis of After the War is Over? (Readers of Somewhere in France will recognize Charlotte as a dear friend of Lilly, the main character of that book.)

When I first wrote Somewhere in France, I thought of it as a stand-alone book, but as I worked on later drafts, and the character of Charlotte became clearer, I knew she deserved a book of her own. I included a few details of her backstory, such as her childhood in Somerset and her studies at Oxford, but left myself enough room that I wouldn’t feel too hampered later on when it came time to write her book.

How did you decide what work Charlotte would be doing – i.e. helping the poor and those devastated by the war?

It’s only a small detail in Somewhere in France, but at one point Edward and Lilly talk about Charlotte and what she did after leaving work as Lilly’s governess. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to send her to Liverpool and put her to work for Eleanor Rathbone, an actual Liverpool politician and social activist. I’m so glad I did, for Miss Rathbone is a personal hero of mine for her pioneering work as a feminist and social activist. As well, Charlotte’s devotion to her, and determination to live up to her mentor’s high standards, became...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

Writers Read: Jennifer Robson (January 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane's latest novel is World Gone By.

From the author's Q & A with Ivy Pochoda at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

I know that you value story above anything else, but [World Gone By] does seem to have themes that pop up over and over again. No good writer sits down and says, “I’m going to write about the theme of death,” and, “I’m going to write about the theme of this and that,” but there are some overwhelming recurrences. One of them is parenting, a question of fathers and sons. I believe you became a father while you were writing this series, right?

Yeah. I entered into The Given Day as the most cynical human being on the planet, and I exited the entire coffin with two children. I have never been an autobiographical writer, but I am always obliquely writing about whatever I’m going through. The last three books I’ve written have been very child-centric, and partially that’s because I’ve got two kids constantly interrupting me while I’m trying to write.

The strange thing about the parent/child story in this book and in Live by Night is it’s a worst-case-scenario story. It’s not happy. If you’re drawing on your own experiences, you certainly translated them into something tragic.

Basically, these men [in these books] should...[read on]
Learn about Dennis Lehane's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mitchell Stevens and Michael Kirst

Mitchell Stevens, associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Michael Kirst, Stanford professor emeritus, are co-editors of Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education.

From their Q & A with Brooke Donald:

Why does college need reimagining?

Stevens: A golden era of higher education is over. That's the period from the mid-1940s to about 1990, in which there was massive government investment in colleges coupled with almost complete institutional autonomy. That's no longer the case. Since 1990 we’ve experienced overall decline in government subsidy and higher costs, yet a growing demand for a college education. Inherited models aren't sustainable as they are, so it's necessary to come up with a new ways of providing, measuring and experiencing higher education.

Kirst: Just look at the funding. In California, for example, we give community colleges less per pupil than we do to high schools. And we have the least funding and resources at the institutions with the most needy students. We've stressed the four-year residential model and underinvested in community colleges, which are doing the lion's share of the work.

But the ideal "college experience" is the four-year model, correct?

Stevens: No. First, there's the exorbitant cost of residential delivery. There are also tepid learning gains by any direct measure. For some young people, four-year campuses can be dangerous in terms of substance abuse, depression and feelings of alienation. Also, some teenagers just aren't ready or able to commit to that because of money or family obligations. So the notion that the four-year residential model is the best way, the default way to experience college, is a problem. It's important that Americans embrace a much wider diversity of college forms.

Kirst: There is a problem - both in policy and in people's minds - with how college has been framed in the national conversation. We talk about needing to prepare everyone for college, but “college” currently is a loaded word that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

Daniel Torday

Daniel Torday's new novel is The Last Flight of Poxl West.

From the author's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: OK, let's talk about sex.


TORDAY: I knew you'd ask.

GROSS: So there's a couple of sex scenes in the book, but the sex scenes are in the memoir that's within the book. So you're not writing the sex scenes in your voice. You're writing them in the voice of a character. And in so it's kind of, like, doubly distanced. And I'm sure - not having ever written one myself, I'm sure writing sex scenes are kind of challenging.

TORDAY: Impossible.

GROSS: Especially, yeah, if you're somewhat inhibited or shy. One, is this first time you've written sex scenes? And, two, was it easier to do it with this double remove?

TORDAY: So I want to answer those two questions separately 'cause they're both really good, so the second question first.

GROSS: (Laughter) OK.

TORDAY: The spark of this book was almost ridiculous, which was that I had flown to Eastern Europe. And I was at - I went to London. And I had this cousin...[read on]
Visit Daniel Torday's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman is a writer based out of Istanbul. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, and Ecotone among others. He is also a contributor to The Daily Beast, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration. Prior to this, he spent eight years in the military as both an infantry and special operations officer.

Ackerman is a decorated veteran, having earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his role leading a Rifle Platoon in the November 2004 Battle of Fallujah and a Bronze Star for Valor while leading a Marine Corps Special Operations Team in Afghanistan in 2008.

From Ackerman's Q & A about his debut novel, Green on Blue, with Elizabeth Nicholas at Vice:

VICE: What motivated you to write Green on Blue?

Ackerman: When I was in Afghanistan, I spent all of my time as an advisor to Afghan soldiers. I fought alongside these soldiers, but after I left, I knew they weren't guys I could keep up with on Facebook or call and get a beer with. I frankly knew I was never going to see them again. I had this real desire to render their world and show the war as they saw it. The war in Afghanistan is presented heavily through the American experience, and Afghans are made nearly invisible or treated as props. So my goal was to write a novel completely from their perspective.

There's this thread of characterization when we talk about Afghanistan, that people are deceitful, embezzling money out of the country. Those things are true, but what I wanted to do was peel back the outer layers to trace why these things are happening. What is the morality from an Afghan perspective on why someone would embezzle money? Why would an Afghan soldier feel that he needed to commit a green on blue attack? I wanted to take this most deceitful action, a green on blue attack, and trace it back to its inception, so that by the time it occurs you may not agree with it, but...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the novels Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015) and Waiting On The End Of The World (Putnam, 2016), as well as the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction.

From Joy's Q & A with Daniel Ford at Writer's Bone:

DF: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer, and how did you develop your voice?

DJ: I grew up in a really rich storytelling tradition, and I think that had a major influence on me early. My parents had an electric typewriter under one of the end tables and some of my earliest memories are dragging that machine out onto the shag carpet. I can remember the way it would heat up the paper and the smell of the paper, the way the letters sounded as they hammered the page. I can’t really remember any of the stories, but my mother says I was doing that before I could spell. She said I’d tell her what I wanted to say and she’d dictate the keys to press to spell the words. So I think really early on, like five or six years old, I don’t know that I consciously knew that I wanted to be writer, but I think I was fascinated with what a word could do on a page. I wrote my whole life, but I started to take it seriously and know that I wanted to make it a career when I was in high school, and then especially once I got into college. I started young, but none of that early work was any good. I don’t think I wrote anything worth a damn until my mid-twenties and even then it wasn’t what it is now. I’m not a very quick study.

DF: Who were some of your early influences?

DJ: The earliest novels I remember having a real impact on me were Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels. I was a really weird kid. I remember checking out Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the library when I was either in elementary school or sixth grade. I read that and I read Nostradamus. My dad was obsessed with Stephen...[read on]
Writers Read: David Joy.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

--Marshal Zeringue