“I think not enough people are writing about the Civil Rights Movement—those who lived through it are passing on, and many of them did not document their stories. But one person’s involvement in a period is just as important as an overarching history—I think there needs to be more of that. It encourages individuals to be courageous and work to correct what’s wrong in their countries, their lives. I think curious students and history buffs will read it, but above all, I hope it will empower African-Americans and women.”
“I feel like most stories are really two stories. In putting those two together, I found the echoes between them. This one is very discernibly two stories. And it means a lot more as the last story of the collection, because then you see that this old Hungarian couple are echoes of my own grandparents, and that this survivor’s guilt the characters feel has a lot to do with mine. Even the little museum that Jed constructs has references to other stories in the collection. Not so overtly that it would be cheesy, but I want the sense that what he’s doing with that museum is what I’m doing with this collection. This sense of being an artist and a survivor in a world where a lot of people don’t make it.”
“I’m more interested in challenging the broad belief that genre/form categories are solid or important. I consider this the first lesson of art history: there is no platonic form. No novel, or poem, or play (or woman, or white person, if we branch out of the arts). These categories exist as cultural reference points for better and worse, but the fences are arbitrary and constantly shifting.”
Many environmentalist-minded readers believe the nature writer of today’s turbulent, climate-changing times should function as both artist and activist. If David Gessner’s All the Wild That Remains (Norton, April 2015) is any indicator, the modern nature writer indeed should embody both roles—and could even expand his or her repertoire and master memoir, essay, biography, travelogue, and/or literary criticism. Via these and more seamlessly braided forms, Gessner’s book calls readers to action, inspiring outdoors-appreciating-yet-non-activist readers like myself, for instance, to question our own sense of place in this world.
I met the dancer Bobbi Jene Smith at the Batsheva Intensive in New York City last year. Bobbi is a beautiful force, an intensely gorgeous, honest, and strong mover. And on top of all this, she’s intelligent and insightful. The Batsheva repertoire she taught at the intensive, as well as her words, will not leave me, and her presence and influence continue to circulate.