Monday, July 8, 2013

Matthew Goodman

Matthew Goodman's nonfiction books include The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York and Jewish Food: The World at Table. The recipient of two MacDowell fellowships and one Yaddo fellowship, he has taught creative writing at numerous universities and workshops. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and children.

Goodman's new book is Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World.

From his Q & A at The Gaudy Interview:

Gaudy: Eighty Days makes us remember the fabulous West Wing episode, “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” (S02E05). In the episode, First Lady Abigail Bartlet (Stockard Channing) chastises the President (Martin Sheen) for not paying enough respect to Nellie Bly, and by extension, other women whose contributions to the country have been overlooked. Why do you think Bly’s story (and Bisland’s) continues to have significance over 100 years later for journalists, readers, even screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin? Do we remember them as symbols, as individuals, or some combination thereof?

MG: I love that episode! As it happens, I’m a big fan of The West Wing; I’ve always felt that it was one of the few TV shows – The Sopranos and The Wire are two more — from which writers could really learn their craft, about dialogue, pacing, revelation of information, and lots more. But in truth, I didn’t remember Abby’s oration about Nellie Bly until I was already working on this book, and somebody reminded me about it; then I went to YouTube and watched it with a big smile. In fact, as you point out, the First Lady is actually chastising the President for not remembering Nellie Bly, not giving her the credit to which she is rightly due as a pioneering female journalist.

That’s been my experience with Eighty Days as well — a lot of people sort of know Nellie Bly, they vaguely recognize the name, but are not quite sure why they know her or exactly what it was that she did. They don’t know, for instance, about how she actually feigned madness to get herself committed to the Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum, so that she could experience first-hand the horrors endured by the female patients there and then subsequently write an expose of the place. That was incredibly courageous of her, because there was no guarantee that once she got in she would ever be able to get back out. (In fact it took all of Joseph Pulitzer’s doing to get her back out.) Since Eighty Days has come out I’ve heard from lots of female readers who were excited to find out about these daring, courageous women from more than a century ago; it’s actually been...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Matthew Goodman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Eighty Days.

The Page 99 Test: Eighty Days.

--Marshal Zeringue