Paddy Woodworth is an investigative reporter and journalist whose most recent book, Our Once and Future Planet, considers the case for environmental restoration. Woodworth recently participated in a Q & A with our promotions director, Levi Stahl; you’ll find the full transcript below:
Let’s start with the story of how you came to this subject, because (as I have the advantage of knowing) it’s a good one—and it involves a a couple of other writers.
By a happy accident! In 2003, I had recently published Dirty War, Clean Hands, a book on the very different subject of terrorism and state terrorism in the Basque conflict. On the back of that book, I was invited onto the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Weary of writing about why people kill each other, I was looking for a happier subject in natural history, but I found myself adrift, ignorant, and lost.
Then the great American novelist and naturalist Peter Mathiessen led us on a prairie restoration field trip and discussion. I had never heard this word, ‘restoration’, applied to anything other than houses or paintings. The idea that an ecosystem might be . . .
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The Folio Prize is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world—an alternative to the Booker Prize (UK) and the National Book Award (US), featuring an international cast of nominees, that aspires, “to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.”
On Monday, the Folio committee announced their shortlist for the inaugural 2014 Prize, which followed rounds of nominations from their Academy and requisite letters of support from publishers. We could not be more delighted (truly!) to see Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel A Naked Singularity (published in the UK by Maclehose Editions) among the finalists, praised by Lavinia Greenlaw, chair of the judges, for its “detonating syntax.” Here’s the whole list, which certainly constitutes good company:
Red Doc by Anne Carson
Schroder by Amity Gaige
Last Friends by Jane Gardam
Benediction by Kent Haruf
The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner
A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava
Tenth of December by George Saunders
The winner will be announced March 10. Congrats to all the finalists—but we . . .
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From Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West by Erin Hogan:
The morning after my Spiral Jetty foray, I was ecstatic. So far I was doing exactly what I had set out to do. I had left Chicago with some trepidation, but I had pushed through 1,664 miles and hit my first landmark. Flush with success, I spontaneously decided to try and find Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1976). Holt was Smithson’s wife, an artist in her own right, who shared his drive to marry the natural world with the personal artistic statement. The Sun Tunnels are four giant concrete tubes (eighteen feet long and about nine feet in diameter) in the middle of nowhere, positioned such that at dawn and sunset on the summer and winter solstices, the sun rises and sets in alignment with the tubes; they perfectly frame the sun. At other times, holes in the sides of the tubes form constellations in their interior when the sun shines through them.
I liked the idea of this temporal precision—and the uncertain nature of the work’s existence for the thousands of minutes every year that it . . .
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The PROSE Awards (or, the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence) are unique to the scholarly and professional publishing communities—not only prestigious, but selected from “over 535 entries of books, reference works, journals,and electronic products in more than 40 categories,” juried by a community of peer publishers, librarians, and academics. In addition to offering congratulations to all the winners, we are delighted to point you toward those books from our own list that received either a PROSE Award or honorable mention for general excellence:
Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North
By Peter John Brownlee, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens
Biological Sciences (Honorable Mention)
The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics
By Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress
The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time
By Lance Grande
Education, Justice, and Democracy
Edited by Danielle S. Allen and Rob Reich
Environmental Science (Honorable Mention)
Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the . . .
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This past weekend saw the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Life Itself, a doc biopic about the life of Roger Ebert by Hoop Dreams documentarian and native Chicagoan Steve James (a sensitive aside on the Festival’s blog notes, “In his review, Ebert wrote that Hoop Dreams ‘gives us the impression of having touched life itself.’”). The fact that the film was partially crowdfunded should testify to Ebert’s legacy: as one of the most erudite yet approachable critics of the medium. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a long piece on life after Ebert, focusing on his widow, Chaz, and her many projects in development that build off of Ebert’s “brand”—everything from a cartoon series and a film studies center at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to RogerEbert.com and the long-standing Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, now in its sixteenth year. As the article noted:
“Maybe Roger knew that he was going,” Chaz Ebert says. “Why else would he give me his secret password to his Twitter code or his Facebook code? He had never given those to me before. Why else would he admonish me in the hospital every time I’d visit: ‘You must keep my Twitter account alive. . . .
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