Eduardo Galeano: Because of You, We Will Remember

galeanodouble-webEduardo Galeano sat at my dining room table in my Chicago apartment on Lill Street one block away from Guild Books, pen poised and a stack of books to be signed at his side. Breakfast consumed, he had reluctantly agreed to sign some books in advance of his appearance at the bookstore later that Saturday, 1988.   He was anxious, it seemed, and we had been warned that his health was mending after some heart issues. We didn’t press him to sign books, but were delighted when he agreed with our suggestion that some folks might just want to purchase a signed copy without talking with him. After a walk in the neighborhood he arrived at the bookstore. He began to read.

The crowd hung on his words, as he read in English but also in Spanish, and then answered questions, altogether about an hour and a half, and then began signing books, as the line snaked throughout the store. He talked with each person as much as the person wanted; he took pictures with the customers and their children. I stood at his side doing the task that all booksellers do in this situation: open the books to the pages preferred for the signature. And about 45 minutes into the signing ritual Eduardo turned to me with a broad but incredulous smile: “They like me. They really like me!”

Before he left, Eduardo toured the 3,000 square feet of the book store and spent some time looking at the political and labor posters we had for sale, on display in a rack. He fingered the display, took some notes, and left. The next morning friends of ours recorded an interview with him on video and took him in search of Haymarket Square, a search that proved unsuccessful.

Some years later he returned for a reading of the Book of Embraces. In a section entitled “Forgetting,” about Haymarket and about Guild, he wrote:

Bk of EmbracesAfter my fruitless exploration of the Haymarket, my friends take me to the largest bookstore in the city. And there, poking around, just by accident, I discover an old poster that seems to be waiting for me, stuck among many movie and rock posters. The poster displays an African proverb: Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

 

In 1995 Guild Books had been closed for two years, but the Guild Complex hosted Eduardo for his newest book, Walking Words. Diana and I drove him to the reading location, a settlement house in the Wicker Park area, and on the way crossed the Chicago River. Walking Words is a book of myths, some modern, some older, many of water spirits and animals, in a collaborative with Jose Francisco Borges, whose woodcuts illustrate the stories. Diana told Eduardo stories about the Chicago River, whose history included years of being set on fire from the materials polluting the waters, years of being unsafe to drink for the animals that populated the river, years of being attacked by the manufacturers who degraded the water supply and the people who lived on its banks. Eduardo listened, intent, with evident pain in his face. “But wait,” Diana said, “the river had its revenge. Last year the river refused to be contained by the man made barricades, burst through into the tunnel through which the subways run and up into the streets of the city, causing millions and millions of dollars of damage.”

“The earth has memory,” Eduardo said. “That is important. Memory is important. I want to know more about memory.”

A decade had passed between the time I first tried to get Eduardo Galeano to come to my bookstore and the publication party for Walking Words. By the time Book of Embraces was published, Susan Bergholz (Eduardo’s agent) had negotiated a contract with a different publisher, W.W. Norton, whose list more adequately represented the independent ideas expressed by Galeano. How could Eduardo possibly remain with Random House, the publisher who had fired Pantheon’s manager, Andres Schiffrin? Which had been taken over by European conglomerate Bertelsmann? Whose corporate leadership reveled in the literary (meaning sales) qualities of Danielle Steele?

Not knowing at all. Forgetting. And recovering memory.

We know now where the Haymarket was, where the rally was for which the Haymarket martyrs were arrested and imprisoned and executed. In 2006 Henry Holt published Eduardo’s Voices of Time, continuing the epigrammatic form he has worked with, this time “stories that I lived or heard.”   At the Guild Complex we convinced Susan Bergholz to take Eduardo’s strenuous tour through Chicago once more. He read for us at the Museum of Contemporary Art to a packed audience. For many, this was the culmination of what Guild Books had been about. For us, it was an opportunity of bringing memory, forgetting, and not knowing at all together, these themes that strike at the heart of Galeano’s work and of the revolutionary process.

May Day, 2006, just weeks earlier, I walked among almost a million Chicagoans along a route from Union Park to Randolph into the Loop and Grant Park. The steel, concrete and glass canyons resounded with the chants of marchers, many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” reverberated from the walls of those buildings, the marchers swelling into the streets in a mass farther than anyone could see.

But before coming to the loop, just a few blocks out of Union Park, we came to Randolph and Des Plaines. I stepped to the sidewalk, stood in the shadow of the corner building and looked north as the throng walked by me. The contingent from one union, also looking north, paused briefly and saluted the sculpture across the way – a recreation of the platform from which the speakers addressed their audience that May, 1886.

To bring this reality of American consciousness to the reading that Eduardo was going to do, we made sure that some of those union leaders representing the marchers introduce Eduardo. And so they did, and we had the chance to talk about the sculpture, the march, and that although many marchers did not know where Haymarket square was, and we noted the fact that their march reclaimed not only the memory of the martyrs but the reality of the struggle which continues.

My life after Guild Books led me to become an assistant manager in Barnes & Noble. This essay closes with a morning meeting, the kind of meeting that corporations think is necessary to get everyone on board for the day’s sales. This day was May Day. So I took the opportunity to dig out The Book Of Embraces to read to the opening staff the words about this historic day. Most listened in respectful silence, Open Veinsone or two said they knew about this, I noticed a sneer and some uncomfortable whispering. But when the meeting was over, one of the receivers (the department responsible for unpacking books and getting them ready for shelving) came over to me. He was a Scottish immigrant going to school while working. His expression was intent, excited. “You mean the workers holiday,” he said, “international workers day started here, in Chicago? I did na’ know that. That’s amazing!”

I want to be clear about this: while this piece is about Eduardo Galeano; and while it is about what kind of bookstore Guild Books was; and of course about my relationship to both; fundamentally it is about literature and revolution. It is about history and lions and how, by recovering memory, of making known what is unknown, the lions begin to write their own history.

On this day, April 13, 2015 we learned that Don Eduardo Galeano has died. Eduardo, we will remember. Because of you, we will remember.

 

 

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The Guild Complex Presents Voices of Protest: Screening and Reading

Voices-of-Protest-FINAL-flyer

This is an extraordinary event of tremendous consequence!

 

 

Scott Turow On Why Amazon Is Bad For Books

[The article below gives solid reasons for fearing Amazon’s monopolistic position.  Here is another aspect of the fear, akin to the fear of Walmart and its treatment of workers. ]

Why We Should Fear Amazon

Author Scott Turow on why the online mega-retailer is bad for books.
March 14, 2012  |

Late last week, the Justice Department warned Apple and five of the nation’s largest publishers that it was planning to sue them for price fixing. At issue is the agency model, a method of wholesaling e-books in which the publisher sets the retail price and the retailer takes a 30 percent cut. Most print and many e-books are sold under the traditional wholesale model, in which publishers sell books at a discounted price, and the retailer can resell them for whatever price it likes.

The unnamed player in this drama is Amazon, which had been selling e-books at a loss until two years ago, when the iPad came along and publishers used the emergence of the new device to pressure the online megaretailer into adopting the agency model, too. If Amazon wanted to sell e-books from the Big Six (as the six largest book publishers are called), it could no longer sell those titles for $9.99.

Publishers actually make less money with the agency model, so why have they insisted on it? The change was designed to limit the growing dominance of Amazon over American book retailing. On Monday, Scott Turow — the bestselling author of “Presumed Innocent” and other legal thrillers, and the president of the Authors Guild — posted a letter to members on the Guild’s web site. In it, he pronounced the Justice Department’s actions bad news for authors, “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture,” and (contrary to first impression) ominous for book consumers. I called him up to find out more.

What are some of the Guild’s problems with Amazon?

First of all, so that I don’t get dismissed as an ingrate, I should say that Amazon has been a boon for bestselling authors. Authors get paid on the basis of the cover price for a hardcover book. By discounting, which is something that chain stores started and Amazon continued, they have lowered the barriers to book buying in ways that have been personally extremely beneficial to me.

Because you get paid the same amount regardless of how much the retailer charges for the book, and the discounting encourages more people to buy the book?

Exactly. These are not personal complaints. There are lots of things about Amazon for which they deserve credit. They’re innovative. There are lots of very, very happy Amazon customers. I’m not here to dispute that Amazon has been personally good for me or to say that they haven’t been, so far, good to their customers.

So what’s the problem?

The concern is that they are getting so large and they compete so ruthlessly that there’s a lot of fear for what the world with Amazon in charge is going to look like.

The Guild’s beefs with Amazon became pronounced over the issue of the resale of new titles some years ago. This was something that Amazon pioneered. They would sell you a [just-released] book on Day One, buy it back from you on Day Two, and then resell it to another customer on Day Three. This was legal, but certainly not what anybody ever intended.

Traditionally, in hardcover, that’s been basically a split of the proceeds between the author and publisher. (An aside: That’s something we’re fighting with publishers about in the digital world.) So Amazon decides to go into competition with the publishers by reselling the book they just bought. The publisher gets paid nothing, and neither does the author. It’s a pure profit for Amazon.

Now, the reason you don’t see used bookstores within new bookstores is that the used books compete with the new books and the publishers supplying the new books would object. Either you’re doing business with me or you’re competing with me. I’m not going to sell you books so you can take some percentage of sales.

The problem of course was the Amazon had gotten so big that publishers were afraid to resist that. It’s not the mere fact that they’re competing [with their own suppliers]. I can certainly understand that it’s good for consumers to be able to buy a book two days later at a lower price. It’s the fact that the publishers were afraid to dismiss Amazon.

Which is what they would do with a regular retailer who was doing the same thing but had viable competitors?

Right, and of course, Amazon was undercutting authors in the process. We tried to persuade them to just window this [delay making used copies of brand-new books available for a period of time, the way the release of the DVD of a movie is delayed until after it has played in theaters]. That didn’t work. It was a muscle-flexing exhibition by Amazon, saying, “We’ve got so much market power, you guys can’t do what you’ve traditionally done and take your goods elsewhere. We represent at least 30 percent of the book market.”

I don’t like losing sales, but the real problem is at the margins. Midlist authors have been struggling to survive for decades now. If you start eating into the publishers’ returns, then at the bottom of the food chain, those books are just not going to get published. We have seen that happen.

Are there other examples of Amazon using its predominance?

They now control the print-on-demand market. That’s when you buy a book and only then does a service print a copy — literally on demand. [This is a method used by academic and small presses, as well as by authors with otherwise out-of-print books.] Amazon bought a POD service called BookSurge. Then they informed their customers — university presses and some other publishers who the Guild had organized to do POD for Authors Guild members — that they would not list their books on Amazon’s site unless they paid BookSurge more for their services.

I don’t know how they defend themselves on this one. That’s another very ominous sign to the book industry and authors.

What about their history with e-books?

They deserve a lot of credit for the Kindle, for yoking e-ink with this nationwide wireless network. It’s a great innovation. And they said to the publishers, “It’s really important to us in introducing this platform that e-books appear at the same time as the hardcover edition.” Publishers said, “Oh, we’ve seen your tricks before, Amazon! Why would we ever do that?”

So Amazon says, “We’ll pay you the same amount we pay you on a hardcover.” So publishers think that sounds fine, how can they complain about that? They agree and are then stunned when Amazon announces that they’re going to sell every e-book at a loss, for $9.99. That’s an average loss of $4 to $5 a book.

Why would Amazon do that?

I suppose they could argue they were doing it to sell devices and that may well have been one of their intentions. It had the additional benefit of making it much harder for any of their competitors to enter the market.

For example: A lot of people have the habit of going into a physical store, looking at books and then turning around and buying the e-book wirelessly from Amazon. Had it not been the case that you had to sell an e-book at a $5 loss, bookstores would have been able to say, “Sure, bring your device with you and we’ll sell you the e-book right here.”

Bookstores are pretty hard-pressed by book discounting as it is, and the idea of selling ebooks at a loss made it impossible for them to enter the marketplace in competition with Amazon.

What about the proprietary format of Kindle? Didn’t that also make it hard for competing e-readers to enter the market?

You couldn’t read all those books you bought from Amazon on a competitor’s device — you can now, if you have an iPad, but you couldn’t then.

The nook is widely regarded as the better e-reader device, but if you’ve accumulated a library of Kindle titles, you can’t take them with you if you decide to switch. [Technically, you can, but most users would find this quite challenging.]

Barnes and Noble developed the nook because they really had no choice but to compete with Amazon. They were struggling at that point, and I personally don’t think they’d have been able to survive while losing $5 on every book. There simply were not a lot of people jumping into that market to compete, not with the prospect of losing $5 on every book sale. From the outside, it looks like the pricing was not just a loss leader on the devices, but a way to discourage competition.

How did Amazon’s e-book pricing affect authors?

One way that 25 percent of net became the standard royalty for e-books was because publishers said, “We all know they can’t go on selling e-books at a loss forever and sooner or later this pricing structure has got to change.” They told authors they couldn’t agree to a different royalty because everyone knew that Amazon wouldn’t be paying them $14 to $15 per title indefinitely.

You’re implying that Amazon planned eventually to use the consumer’s habituation to $9.99 books to force publishers to charge Amazon lower wholesale prices for books. They’ve tried to do that recently with some small presses, removing their titles from Amazon unless the presses agree to sell their books at rock-bottom wholesale prices. And publishers would have no choice but to agree because every other competitor would also have been driven out of the market by Amazon’s predatory pricing?

Certainly, that’s what publishers assumed.

The other thing Amazon could have done once they had the market to themselves — and this is virtually inevitable — is that they would have raised prices to consumers.

That’s part of the less-known history behind anti-trust laws. Once a large company has spent its capital to fund predatory pricing and drive its competitors out of business, there’s no reason to keep selling for cheap. The low prices don’t last.

Right. Look, if what they’re into is maximizing profits, then if they were to have a monopoly there’d be no rationale not to use the monopoly power to increase prices to consumers. Now, if I were on the other side, working for Amazon, I’d say “Show me where I’ve done that.”

Presumably, they haven’t done it yet because they haven’t achieved the monopoly yet. Historically, that’s what monopolies always do.

Correct. That is historically what monopolies do. There is plenty of precedent for that. It’s only rational to fear what they’re going to do with this accumulation of power.

Again, the concern from the author’s perspective is that e-books are putting a tremendous downward pressure on the price of books in general. That’s putting tremendous pressure on publishers to survive. And I think a world in which online book selling is driving bookstores out of existence is a pity.

How did Amazon respond to the entrance of Apple and the agency pricing system?

Apple offered to sell books on the iPad using the agency model — which is what they use for iTunes — and the publishers one by one agreed to that. Then they told Amazon they were going to follow this new model, and that they were going to produce the e-books themselves rather than Amazon doing so.

When the first publisher, John Sargent [of Macmillan], told them that, Amazon responded by removing the buy buttons not just from all of Macmillan Publishing’s e-books — about which you can say, yeah, there’s a legitimate dispute — but from their print books, too. Paper, physical books! It was another demonstration of their ability to abuse their market power.

They used their market power over an item where pricing was not in dispute to punish a publisher for taking what Amazon regards as an unfavorable position in a different market.

Why should where their books are bought make a difference to authors?

New authors traditionally are nurtured by bookstore personnel, especially in independent bookstores. These people literally hand sell books to their customers, by saying, “I’ve read this. I think you’re going to love it.” Not to mention the fact that a bookstore is a small cultural center in a community. That’s definitely a loss.

Again, my concern is for the sake of literary diversity. If the rewards to authors go down, simple economics says there will be fewer authors. It’s not that people won’t burn with the passion to write. The number of people wanting to be novelists is probably not going to decline — but certainly the number of people who are going to be able to make a living as authors is going to dramatically decrease.

When that decreases, the diversity of the literary culture decreases. The store of new ideas and the richness of the discussion all decreases.

Further reading

Scott Turow’s letter to the Authors Guild membership

The Wall Street Journal on the Justice Department’s threat to sue Apple and five book publishers for price fixing

Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of “The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia” and has a Web site, magiciansbook.com.

Censorship by Bullet in Mexico

PEN American Center, the PEN Club de México, and the Committee to Protect Journalists present:

STATE OF EMERGENCY: CENSORSHIP BY BULLET IN MEXICO

An Evening of Solidarity with Mexican Journalists
Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 7 p.m.

The Great Hall, Cooper Union, NYC

Featuring readings by Luis Miguel Aguilar, Paul Auster, Jon Lee Anderson,
Don DeLillo, Laura Esquivel, Alberto Ibargüen, José Luis Martínez,
and Victor Manuel Mendiola
And a conversation with Carmen Aristegui (CNN en Español) and Adela Navarro Bello (Tijuana-based Zeta), moderated by Julia Preston (The New York Times)

New York City—At least eight journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2010 alone and many more have been kidnapped, threatened, or disappeared. As violence soars around the country, press workers in Mexico are regularly attacked by drug traffickers, targeted by corrupt local leaders, and harassed by federal forces. Their persecutors are seldom brought to justice. Still, in towns and cities throughout the country, journalists are daily defying Mexico’s “censorship by bullet” to expose critical truths.
In solidarity with Mexican journalists, PEN American Center, the PEN Club de México, and the Committee to Protect Journalists present State of Emergency: Censorship by Bullet in Mexico, an evening of readings, reflections, and public conversation to be held on Tuesday, October 19 at Cooper Union’s Great Hall (NYC). The event will bring attention to this ongoing crisis with readings by authors Paul Auster and Don DeLillo, London-based New Yorker staff writer Jon Lee Anderson (who has reported extensively from Mexico), novelist Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate), Alberto Ibargüen (President of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation), José Luis Martínez (Editor of Milenio‘s literary supplement, Laberinto), and poets Victor Manuel Mendiola and Luis Miguel Aguilar. In addition, Carmen Aristegui (anchor of Aristegui, CNN en Español) and Adela Navarro Bello (general director of the Tijuana-based magazine Zeta) will join Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for The New York Times Julia Preston to discuss what can be done on both sides of the border to stem the violence and fortify free expression.
These renowned writers and journalists from Mexico and the U.S. will reflect on the current situation on the ground and explore a range of urgent questions: What is the impact of soaring drug-related violence on freedom of expression and civil society in Mexico? Is the United States helping to promote or to counter the violence? What can human rights organizations and the international community do to confront criminal syndicates and other “non-state actors” that are operating with impunity in Mexico and around the world? Above all, what is it like to be a journalist in Mexico today, and what must be done to ensure that journalists can safely carry out their work?
This event is co-sponsored by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Cooper Union.

Please come and join us.
Sincerely,
Jennifer Clement
President
PEN Mexico

www.jennifer-clement.com

10 Questions: Interview with Barbara Kingsolver

The following interview is reprinted from Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/376.Barbara_Kingsolver?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Nov_newsletter

10 Questions with Barbara Kingsolver

November, 2009

Barbara Kingsolver Barbara Kingsolver
As a master’s student in evolutionary biology, Barbara Kingsolver struggled to complete her thesis on the social life of termites. Thankfully, Kingsolver dropped the bugs and took up the pen—writing books with strong political motifs. The Poisonwood Bible, her best-known work, analyzes post-colonial inequity in Africa, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an autobiographical tome about planting and eating locally grown food. Her latest book, The Lacuna, follows the son of a Mexican mother and American father. Harrison Shepherd stumbles into Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Leon Trotsky as he witnesses history take shape in the United States and Mexico, from pre-World War II turmoil to McCarthyism. We asked Kingsolver why she believes that literature will always be political.

Goodreads: It has been nine years since your last work of fiction, Prodigal Summer. When did you begin work on The Lacuna and what inspired you to canvas midcentury Mexico and the United States?

Barbara Kingsolver: I’ve always wondered about the uneasy relationship between art and politics in the U.S. In most other places I’ve been, the two are completely intertwined. Mexico, particularly, has historically celebrated its most political artists as national heroes.

I began writing The Lacuna in February 2002. The previous autumn, after the terrorist attacks on the U.S., I had expected that we might use that challenging time to examine our role in the world. But that was not the national mood. Patriotism is strongly identified with the notion of our country as a perfect finished product—as in, “love it or leave it.” Mexico is so different; their revolution is always a work in progress. I wanted to write about that.

I went poking into history, hoping to find a formative era when these modern political identities took shape, soon after World War II. And what a surprise, I found a thrilling seven-year project.

GR: The story is told through protagonist Harrison Shepherd’s diaries and letters, but also through other devices, such as newspaper clippings. What kind of research did you conduct, and how much historical source material did you incorporate?

BK: The research was daunting: It felt, in the beginning, that I was undertaking to move a mountain with a teaspoon. But I like doing research, I told myself, spoon in hand. Beyond the historical and political sleuthing, a novel is made of details. Characters have to wear clothes, use transportation, cook, listen to radio programs, and speak in the particular jargon of an era. In this case, “the era” involved dozens of different locations in two countries, crossing nearly thirty years. I traveled in Mexico, of course, visiting settings from the coastal jungles to Mexico City’s art museums, the homes of Rivera and Kahlo, Trotsky’s personal archives, the amazing pyramids at Teotihuacán, every place I would have to translate for the reader using all my senses. I also studied the U.S. settings, particularly Asheville, North Carolina.

That was the fun, adventurous part. But the lion’s share of the work happened here in my study. I sat and read for years. Everything written by Trotsky, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo, and everything written about them. Thousands of newspaper and magazine articles documenting everyday life in the U.S. during World War II, and then the postwar freeze-up. Old photo collections. Many newspapers now have electronic archives, but the best material is not online. I had to get my nose into a lot of dusty places. But I loved the surprises. For example, I learned that contrary to popular belief, the continental U.S. was attacked during WWII. The New York Times ran photos of the aftermath. The Japanese sent a submarine up the Columbia River and deployed a floatplane bomber, with the goal of setting the Oregon forests on fire and throwing the country into a panic. But the plan was rained out. History hinges on things like this, events that get forgotten—this is the soul of the story I wanted to tell. First I had to learn it myself. My heart was in my throat more or less the whole time.

GR: You are noted for your skill with dialogue, often using vernacular speech. This book includes many historical figures, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Is it more difficult to find the voice of these real characters compared to your own fictional characters?

BK: Dialogue is my favorite thing to write. It can be an elegant way to package some of a novel’s most crucial information. But you do have to work hard to keep it vernacular and well paced. I construct the fictional conversations in my head and listen carefully. It might seem easier to put words in the mouths of my own invented characters than the historical figures who also appear in the story—Frida and Diego, for example. But really there was little difference. By the time I’d read their personal diaries and everything else, their voices were coming through loud and clear. Sometimes their words came straight from the record. The conversations with my protagonist, Harrison Shepherd, are all invented, of course, but it was engaging to fit everything together.

When I went into the studio to record the audio book, I realized I was hearing these characters plainly in my mind, so I did my best to replicate those accents and intonations. This meant acting out conversations between characters who were Mexican, Russian, French, Mexican American, Ashevillean, and so forth, in various combinations. If I thought too much about it, my brain might blow a fuse. So I just channeled the voices as I heard them.

GR: You are the founder of the biennial Bellwether Prize, which celebrates socially responsible literature by awarding (and guaranteeing publication of) a work of fiction that includes an element of social change. Over the ten years of the prize’s history, the United States has witnessed the 9/11 attacks, a country at war on multiple fronts, a sea change in political power, and now the economic recession. Have you observed any trends in the sociopolitical topics being tackled by authors? What role will literature play in the political landscape as we move further into the 21st century? (Readers: Vote here for your favorite books that include an element of social change!)

BK: It’s an interesting question, which I can’t answer. We get hundreds of submissions for each cycle of the Bellwether Prize, and I don’t see any manuscripts until our energetic panels of readers and judges winnow the pile down to a few finalists. So I don’t know whether the submissions reflect any trends in the political landscape. But I have noticed that new writers are often tackling the novel form rather bravely, both in terms of craft and content. Twenty years ago the cool thing in writing workshops was minimalism: a conversation between a cashier and a bored lady buying cigarettes, posited as a story, heaven forbid it should have any noticeable beginning or end. Now you see more writing in the “maximalist” line, with extremely unusual devices and thematic material. I love the courage of these efforts, and sometimes they succeed.

Literature will always be political: It cultivates empathy for a theoretical stranger by putting you inside his head, allowing you to experience life from his point of view. It can broaden your view of gender, ethnicity, place and time, power and vulnerability, all the elements that influence social interaction. What could be more political than that?

GR: We asked for questions from your readers, got a huge response, and selected a few for you. Goodreads member Elizabeth says, “In the preface of The Poisonwood Bible you wrote that you waited nearly 30 years for the wisdom and maturity to write that book. As an active writer with that sort of ethic, do you ever find it difficult to have enough material for which you feel ready to write? What else do you do, when the wisdom and maturity are still cooking?”

BK: Excellent question, Elizabeth. When a project feels compelling but too scary, for practical or moral reasons, I keep it on the back burner but don’t give up on it. I pondered The Poisonwood Bible for ten years before I felt ready to tackle it. During that time I collected clippings, books, and jotted down thoughts I hoped would someday help me frame the big questions I wanted to ask. In the meantime, I wrote novels and nonfiction books that were more modest in scope, with more familiar settings and fairly linear, manageable story arcs. The most important part of this paragraph is: “but don’t give up on it.” The most daunting ideas turn into the best books.

Backing up a few more years, I can tell you that long before I felt ready to write my first whole book, at around age 30, I wrote short stories, poems, articles, reviews, anything. Writing is writing, it all adds up. Freelance journalism was the best training for becoming a novelist. Every day I had to pull on my boots and go make myself an “expert” in whatever an editor had assigned me to write about. The essential ingredient of authorship is authority. You hunt it out in a library, you chase it down the street, or you knit it from the fiber of your own will. From somewhere, you get it. You begin.

GR: In reference to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Goodreads member Amy asks, “I’d love to know if you are still gardening and eating all local foods. Did the experiment stick?”

BK: Yes, we’re still eating locally. Our garden expands every year, and our local farmers’ market also keeps growing. How could we turn our backs on that bounty? It feels great to be an active part of one’s own food chain. Given the worrisome state of globalized, fossil-fueled infrastructures, we all seem to be headed in a more localized direction, and I recommend embracing the change. Where food is concerned, it’s overwhelmingly a change for the better.

GR: What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?

BK: Now that I’ve finished reading hundreds of arcane books about the Mexican Revolution, Life magazines from the 1940s, et cetera, I’m thrilled to be digging into my backed-up personal-reading pile that has been waiting. My last five books devoured and loved: Milan Kundera‘s The Joke, Margot Livesey‘s The House on Fortune Street, Annie Dillard‘s The Maytrees, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray, and Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

Also 5/18: Barbara Kingsolver at Swedish American Museum

Also happening Friday, May 18, 7:30 pm

Swedish American Museum Center, 5211 N. Clark St.

Note: This is a ticketed event. Admission is free with the purchase of a book ($26.95 plus tax).

Companion tickets are available for $5.00. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Angelic Organics, a community-supported agricultural farm located in Caledonia, IL.

Barbara Kingsolver & Steven L. Hopp
7:30 p.m.: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life

In her first book of narrative non-fiction, novelist and essayist Kingsolver (The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible) details the year she and her family ate only locally produced food, much of which they grew or raised themselves. For Kingsolver, who trained as a biologist, the colorful events of the year provide a springboard for deeper exploration of the larger issue at stake: the effects of Agribusiness on the quality of our lives. Part memoir and part investigative journalism, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is vintage Kingsolver – wry, candid, levelheaded, wise, humble, intelligent, rueful, and undeniably entertaining. Kingsolver will be joined in tonight’s discussion and presentation by her husband and co-author, biologist Steven L. Hopp.

‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’
By BARBARA KINGSOLVER
Reviewed by JANET MASLIN
“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a wonderfully neighborly account of stunt eating.
Review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/11/books/11book.html?8bu&emc=bu