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DQ Blog

LOSS, BIRDS, AND HOPE

November 6, 2019

On the second floor of the Metropolitan Club in New York, overlooking Fifth Avenue, is an ornate, high-ceilinged room with gray marble fireplaces, burgundy drapes, Renaissance-flavored murals, and many yards of decorative woodwork painted gold. It’s not the sort of place to which I would ordinarily take an old friend to lunch, but there we were, and with good reason. The reason was that Audubon New York, the state office of the National Audubon Society, had convened several hundred loyal supporters for its annual awards luncheon, at which I was one of two people being honored. The friend was E. Jean Carroll, a fellow writer who’s been my good pal for forty years. Jean is the longtime advice columnist of Elle Magazine, dispensing wisdom and dauntless good humor under the banner of that column, “Ask E. Jean.” If her name rings another bell, it’s because she is most recently famed for her book What Do We Need Men For?, a funnily serious memoir in which she describes, among other gruesome misadventures, her rape in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department story (an elegant emporium on Fifth, just a block south of where we sat lunching) several decades ago by a boorish real estate developer named Donald J. Trump. The Audubon people were gracious and generous, kindred souls in the struggle to save biological diversity on this fraught planet, and the milieu was so august I had worn a necktie. Seated between E. Jean and me was the actress Jane Alexander, a committed conservationist, a smart and genial woman, and the three of us had great fun talking of family dogs and wild birds. Ms. Alexander’s forthcoming play on Broadway is “Grand Horizons,” with James Cromwell, and you should see it.

Okay, that’s the mis-en-scène, right? Pretty incongruous for a simple country lad like me. Why have I brought all this up? Because I want to share with you what I said after they put the Steuben glass in my hands and let me at the microphone. First they presented their Keesee Conservation

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October 2, 2018

     The working life of a writer is solitary. You sit alone in a room, hour after hour, day after day, and you create pages. It takes years to write a book (five years, for me, is about the minimum on a complex nonfiction project), and once that book is finished, tangledPile330edited, revised, fact-checked, printed, and published, the extrovert part of the job begins. If you’re lucky, people invite you to talk about what you’ve written. And you do that, because, extrovert or introvert, you want folks to buy the book and read it. Social media and public radio and podcasts are nowadays hugely significant dimensions of book promotion; among the nice things about them is that they don’t require you to leave home. But the book tour in its classic form—get on a plane, go to a series of cities, do interviews in person, speak at a bookstore, sign copies—is still an important element too.

October 2, 2018
     My new book, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, has recently been published (August 14, 2018) by Simon & Schuster, and since that date I've been traveling—off and on, but mainly on—to talk about it before a variety of genial and welcoming audiences and interviewers.  Meanwhile the reviews have been abundant and extremely good (generally), the few controversies stirred up have been substantive and worth discussing, and the book has been longlisted (a group of ten candidates) for the National Book Award in Nonfiction.  The Tangled Tree apeared at #12 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller for one week, and after that cup of coffee, it has had two months on the Times list of Science bestsellers.  Simon & Schuster and I are gratified. 

     This week I'll head to Telluride, Colorado, to participate in an exciting new festival of ideas called Original Thinkers, created by the estimable David Holbrooke and his team.  After two lectures and a panel discussion there, I'll fly home to Bozeman for a day, do some laundry, get a haircut, change the water for

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