Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Daphne Kalotay talks about her astonishing new novel Blue Hours, culture class, privilege, and the deep bonds of female friendship

Daphne Kalotay is the author of Calamity and Other Stories, short listed for the 2005 Story Prize, and her debut novel, the national and international bestseller Russian Winter, which won the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Fiction Prize, made the long list for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and has been published in over twenty foreign editions.

Daphne’s second novel, Sight Reading, was a Boston Globe bestseller, a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Fiction Prize and winner of the 2014 New England Society Book Award in Fiction. “Relativity,” from her collection-in-progress, was the 2017 One City One Story Boston selection. Daphne lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and teaches at Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing.

Her latest novel BLUE HOURS is just mind-bendingly great. Just look at these raves:
“Rich and layered ...Kalotay’s sense of place — the physical geography as well as emotional landscape — is as savvy and sharp as her portrait of the friendship between these two women. The novel unfolds cross-continentally, cross-class, cross-hearted, moving from New York City in the early ’90s to Afghanistan in 2012, and in Kalotay’s skilled hands the novel is both richly human and deeply political.” —Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe

“A sharp portrait of an isolated woman seeking to understand a defining relationship of her past. ...The novel successfully raises important questions about decisions made on both intimate and global levels, and their consequences.” —Publishers Weekly

“What a terrific novel. Only a book this good could move so well from the intensities of youth to the disasters of the global world—love’s joys and miscalculations from the East Village to Afghanistan. Beautifully written, Blue Hours did that rarest of things, it took me places I never expected to go.” —Joan Silber, NBCC award-winning author of Improvement

Thank you so much for being here, Daphne!

I always think writers are somehow haunted into writing their books—what was haunting you?

At first, it was simply the ghost of New York City in the early 90’s—the struggles of that time (AIDS, the recession, the first Gulf War) along with the youthful energy and blithe naivete, which really does seem lost forever, swept away by the economic boom that put the city out of reach for young hopefuls and by, more broadly, 9/11 and our country’s wars in the Middle East. Then it was my dear friend Xavier, who works for the Red Cross, telling me his headquarters in Libya had been bombed; that was in 2012, less than a year before I heard on the news about an American serviceman being held by the Taliban. I started thinking about these two types of overseas work—military and humanitarian aid—and ideas for the book began to percolate.

What I loved so much about your book was how it zoomed from NYC to Afghanistan, from issues of race and class and how they impact our lives. This seems especially timely today.

I’m struck by the ways that wealth and whiteness cocoon so many of us (I’m no exception) from facing truths about Western imperialist behavior, including our (my) own. I would include in this our very American tendency to ignore what might be happening in non-Western, non-white countries—even when it’s our own country’s foreign policy shaping these countries’ events. In terms of class, I’m struck by the fact that so many people who join the military do so for lack of other options, while the wealthy can avoid it, and the way that this inequality probably warps our nation’s policy decisions. I wanted to show the consequences of these decisions at the granular level, through personal lives and loves.

 I also loved the friendship between two very different women—and the stakes of that friendship.

Girls often look to other girls and women for examples of how to be, and for Mim, Kyra has the added glamour of being rich and seemingly carefree, while simultaneously sort of slumming it as a dancer in the Village—but really the qualities that define Kyra are compassion and clarity of vision. She’s one of the people who help nudge Mim into a greater awareness of herself and the world around her. The irony is that while Mim sees Kyra as the brave one, Mim herself does something just as gutsy and generous when she decides to go help find her.

 What kind of writer are you? What’s your process and how do you wish it were different?

I’m a terribly impractical writer. My process is basically to sit down and open an notebook and write down thoughts and ideas, and at a certain point, when I worry I’m going to lose the notebook, I type it all into my computer into various not very organized documents, hoping some are enough of a kernel of something—a story, a novel—for me to continue working on them. If I need to learn more for a project, I do research by reading, seeking out experts, watching documentaries, anything to gain information that will allow me to write with some sense of authority. As for what I wish I did differently: I wish I could begin with a concept that was saleable as a project and go from there.

 What’s obsessing you now and why?

Right now, I’m obsessed with the migrant ships that are being turned away from port after port, and what it must feel like to have fled one’s country and risked one’s life and now be literally and metaphorically adrift. My father was a refugee, so part of this is personal, but I’m also compelled by the sheer drama of these stories. I was captivated a few weeks ago by the rescue ship captain who finally gave up and docked at Lampedusa and was immediately arrested; I’m interested in the quandary of all parties involved—the migrants rescued at sea, the volunteers who rescue them, and the countries who feel they’ve been pushed to their limits.
What question didn’t I ask that I should have?
Maybe what I see as my job as a writer?

To keep my readers engaged enough that they keep turning the pages, while creating something vital and meaningful enough to be reread.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

A brilliant historical novel that is also a legal thriller: Award-winning David Marlett talks about AMERICAN RED (great title, no?)

David Marlett is an award-winning storyteller and bestselling author. David is a professor at Pepperdine Law School, has been published in a number of magazines, was Managing Editor of OMNI Magazine, and regularly guest-lectures on story design. He is the father of four, a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, and currently lives in Manhattan Beach, California. AMERICAN RED, an historical legal thriller, is his second novel. (The highly praised Fortunate Son, was his first.) How could you not lvoe a novel that features both Clarence Darrow and the Pinkertons?

I'm so honored to have him here.  Now take a look at some of the praise:

“Amazing storytelling. A legal thriller that holds you till the last train out.”
— Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Bosch series

“A cracking good tale! Part love story, part espionage thriller.”
— Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“Vivid, well researched and told bare-knuckled across a tapestry that is both broad and nuanced...with characters who are outsized and real.”
— Mark Sullivan, international bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

“A gripping story…unforgettable characters…fascinating.”
— Adam Benforado, New York Times bestselling author

“A stellar novel of intrigue, adventure, engaging characters, and a fascinating backdrop. A true gem of a story.”
— Steve Berry, multiple New York Times bestselling author

“An important story of intensity and emotional pull. Be prepared to be captured by this gifted storyteller.”
— Jeff Kamen, Emmy-winning NPR and NBC journalist and author

I always want to know what is haunting a writer into writing a particular book. What was haunting you?

I love this question. It is a pleasure to talk with someone like yourself who, as a fellow novelist, clearly understands the writing mindset/process.

What originally fascinated me was an overarching question: At the turn of the last century, in the wake of Marx, many countries were beginning to gravitate toward national socialism and in some instances communism. And in many it took root—perhaps Russia most notably—obtained through bloody revolution. So why not here? I was fascinated by what it is about America—the people and the land, the culture and values—that led to our zealous adherence to capitalism, revulsion for communism, and our acquiescence to the lighter form of socialism that we have today. After all, America was heavily populated by people who—were they to have still lived in their countries of origin—would have been embracing if not fighting for national socialism, and perhaps even communism. So why did they, once here, go a different route? That was the fascination that sparked me to the story that would eventually become American Red—and drove me throughout the research and writing as I began to see glimpses of answers in the mix of our immigrant heritage, the wildness of our west, our religious fervor, the prospect of opportunity, and the evolution of our laws.

But you asked what was haunting me that led to American Red. The law is a fragile, imaginary thing held together only by the collective will of the society in which it inhabits. And the humans that comprise that society have proven, time and again, to be in self-entangled conflict with their nature—prone to great love and sacrifice while being vulnerable to an instinct for violence and extremism. We are no different today. As we were not a hundred years ago. So, I would say that it was that precarious duality, that swirling conflict with the personal and societal self, governed only by a collective belief system known as the law, that haunted me—and haunts me still.

There is something so fascinating to me about a historical novel which is also a legal thriller. Perhaps it’s because the law is a product of the times’ mores, pretty much, so we get that whole extra layer. But American Red is also a deeply moving love story! How difficult was it balance those three different kinds of novels into one extraordinary whole?

 First, I am flattered that you might think I found some balance of the three. I hope so. Yes, it was indeed a challenge. As for it being historical fiction, for me that is pure fun. The research, the time-travel. Going into those rooms, onto the streets, trying to inhabit the space and moment and bring the reader with me. Seeking out those elements that give the moment texture and immersive relevance while also propelling the story. This is the area of the three where I have to do the most editing. American Red is already a long book…woe to the reader if I hadn’t had a good editor!

As for the legal thriller through-line, that is more of a philosophical study for me. In fact, at its core, the legal aspect isn’t a story of the past, but only happens to be told there. Indeed, as the bulwark of our current legal system is founded on judicial decisions and axioms born decades if not centuries ago, the legal machinations in my novels speak as heavily about who we are today as they consider the events of the past. (It was that element that led me to my first historical legal thriller, Fortunate Son, which tells the amazing true story surrounding a 1746 trial that is the basis of our modern attorney-client privilege.) In addition, the modern reader is familiar enough with the legal system, from the crime to the investigation to the trial, that those processes can serve as a guide rope through what—in the instance of American Red—can be a complex plot.

And, ah yes, the love stories. That is what made me write American Red. Not long after Fortunate Son was published, I read Big Trouble, the deeply detailed non-fiction tome by J. Anthony Lukas that examined the events leading to the 1907 murder trial of William “Big Bill” Haywood. Though it sparked my interest in the events, the basic humanity, it lacked sufficient heart to inspire me to tackle the narrative as a historical novel. So, a couple of years went by, but I kept returning to the fascinating events, hoping to discover the soul, the spark that might conjure it alive. It wasn’t until I researched Neva, Big Bill’s wife, that I began to see a story that I wanted to tell. Unfortunately, little was recorded about the women in these very male-dominated events, but I began to gather bits and pieces. Eventually, I came to better understand the relationship between Neva and her sister and her husband, her journey with polio and her faith, and saw glimpses of her lovely relationship with another man. Also, anecdotes began to develop which would become Jack and Carla. With those two love stories, I knew it was a book I had to write.

  This book was so much to read, with delicious and specific details lighting up the book like electric sparks. What was your favorite character to research? (I loved Clarence Darrow who was not as gold-hearted as he has been made out to be, and of course, the infamous Pinkertons) and why?

 The humanity of Clarence Darrow was indeed interesting. His extraordinary legal talent was clearly rooted in his ability to connect with others, to understand the heart and mind of juries, to use language to manipulate and motivate belief systems regarding right and wrong. And I enjoyed exploring his conflicted morals—his willingness to compromise his values, his advocation for the downtrodden while also representing some of the greatest terrorists in American history.  (In Angeles Los, my next historical legal thriller based on a true story—a continuation of some of the characters in American Red—Clarence Darrow defends the bombers of the Los Angeles Times only to get himself indicted for a felony.)

But to answer your question about my favorite character to research, I would have to say it was the aging Pinkerton, Chief Detective James McParland. (I would say it was Neva, Nevada Jane Haywood, as she was a favorite. But there was less to research as the historical record is more circumstantial about her, rather than direct.) McParland was an interesting man—timeless in his humanity while grappling with the passage of time. When we meet him in 1906, he sees his career nearing its end, perhaps his life—a life of rich stories all behind him then, all embedded in the 1800s. Technology and society are passing him by. But he wants one final accomplishment to cap off a very storied career: to bring down Big Bill Haywood. I admire him yet feel his distance—from his wife whom I made sure we never meet, to the young men whom he knows will soon replace him. Researching his background and coming to understand why he was willing to do what he did, was quite enjoyable.

 What surprised you in your research? Did any research derail what you thought was your plot?

 The only major research-induced surprises came in first discovering the audacious events themselves, those that would comprise the spine of the plot. In other words, no surprises in the research derailed a previously anticipated plot line, though a few altered or led it. There are so many crazy actual events in the story, but little in the historical record connects them narratively. So a fair amount of my work was to imagine the bridge, what motivated characters from point to point. For example, when I learned what Adams did to that family in San Francisco, I knew I had to take the story there. It then became a task to give the story the framework to make that happen. Other research surprises ignited opportunities for detail and scene placement but didn’t alter the overall plot. Such things include the opening of department stores, the recent San Francisco earthquake and fire, the museum and zoo in Denver, early auto races, the advent of the Maxim machine gun, the touring theatrical performance staring Ethel Barrymore, and many others. Perhaps the most extraordinary surprises which definitely informed the plot were what Clarence Darrow did regarding Adam’s testimony, and what became of Big Bill Haywood. (Hopefully I am being sufficiently cryptic so as not to give anything away.)

I always want to know what you took fictional liberty with and why?

Well, this is a bit of the magician showing his tricks, so I am somewhat hesitant to go into much detail. But I’ll take a stab at it. First, I’ll say that my historical novels are intended to be modestly impressionistic paintings—leaving the real-life painting of the events to historians and non-fiction writers. That said, the vast majority of the characters in American Red were real people, and I tried to be true to what is known of their personalities and styles. (I list at the end of the book all of the actual characters, leaving the reader to induce who was invented.) And the real characters are doing things close to what they actually did—at least with regard to the major plot events. And in some circumstances, where there is written evidence (a trial transcript or other contemporaneous writing), they are saying what they actually said, or close thereto. The primary fictional liberties I took were in the timing of the events. I condensed some elements to fit within the time frame of the book, but hopefully not so such much as to violate the meaning, importance, or relevance of the event itself. For the characters whom I invented, they are inspired by actual people (usually an amalgamation of multiple actual people) but were dramatized to serve the story.
And I also want to know about the title—how and why you chose it.

First, I wanted a name that was a touch abstract, rather than on point, to better align with my style of historical fiction being similarly impressionistic. That said, the “American” part was clear to me from the beginning of the name search. As I mentioned, an early curiosity of mine was how Americans uniquely engaged with the pressures toward socialist revolution taking hold in other major nations at the time. Also, the story examines the American criminal justice system at an inflection point in its evolution. And the plot involves a number of archetypal Americans and American institutions, including Clarence Darrow and the Pinkertons. As for the “Red” part, it seemed ideal, being such a seminal stand-in for blood, passion, fire/explosion, anger, love, life, and socialism (albeit more for communism than socialism). And by modifying it with the word American, I like the implicit suggestion that perhaps our shade of red, in its representative meanings, is unique. And finally, the underlying heart of the book along with the representative nature of the title informed my abstract design of the “red cardinal at war with itself.” So, there you have it: American Red.

You do so many different kinds of writing. Do you have a method and does it vary from fiction to nonfiction to scripts?

 My first thought in response to this interesting question is, “Not really…writing is writing. I just jump in and get going.” But in truth, that’s probably only accurate about non-fiction. To write fiction I have to take a journey. I have to teleport into the environment and exist there. Sit in it. Feel it. Listen to the people speak. Smell the room. Especially for historical fiction. Over the past couple of years, my kids received this response a few times: “I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was still in 1907.” Or, “Don’t text or call me unless it’s an emergency. I’ll be in 1907 most of the day.” For historical fiction I usually begin with a caffeine surge, both literally and figuratively—with the figurative being to pick up a book I’ve been using as reference and flip through it. Or, more likely, I’ll go back and read the previous day’s work and let it ramp me into the action of the story. Then I just let go and write as it flows, fairly unconcerned with length or even structure sometimes. That said, I do enjoy using historical detail to slow myself down…to stop and research how that wall telephone worked, the fabric of her dress, the explosive yield of three sticks of dynamite, or if the derogatory word “gollumpus” was in use at the time.

Screenwriting is more methodical, more prone to bursts, more dialogue centric. I know the scene and I slowly shape it as I go, continually trimming lines. But I am acutely aware that the reader of the script is not the audience, but rather it is the producers/actors/director. So, that informs the writing—its need to adhere to a set of guidelines.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I’m currently deep into my next historical legal thriller, Angeles Los, which takes place in 1910 and 1911 in Los Angeles and continues some of the lead characters from American Red, including Jack, Carla, and Clarence Darrow. Angeles Los is based on the true story at the intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney's "Venice of America" kingdom. Like American Red, Angeles Los will also be operating on three levels: a historical look at the social fabric that made Los Angelesa legal thriller of the terrorists’ murder trial wherein Clarence Darrow himself was indicted—and a love story focusing on the challenges of young marriage.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

My goodness, I think you’ve covered it. That said, had you asked about other media forms for American Red, I would tell you that the audiobook is currently in production, and film rights discussions are underway for a premium series.

A brilliant post-apocalyptic novel that also is a love story dazzling with hope: Kimi Eisele talks about THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE

I'm always dazzled by debuts (nice alliteration, right?) and Kimi Eisle's THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE is absolutely glorious. Gorgeously written, unnerving, and also one of the most moving love stories I've read. I'm honored to host her here. 

 P.S. come to The Strand in Manhattan on July 30 because I will be interviewing Kimi. 

Here is just some of the praise:

July 2019 INDIE NEXT Pick (IndieBound)
Indies Introduce Summer 2019 Selection
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Summer 2019 Selection
Powell’s Books’ We Can’t Wait: The Best Reads of 2019
Readers’ Digest 15 Best Summer Books to Read in 2019

I always want to know what was haunting you into writing this novel, what was the why now moment as to writing this story. Was there a question you were trying to answer?

Before I wrote THE LIGHTEST OBJECT IN THE UNIVERSE, I had been struggling to write nonfiction essays about American exceptionalism and what it meant to live in a superpower country and benefit from some of the privileges that can offer. The US was at war with Iraq over non-existent weapons and greed and I knew about the long history of US economic imperialism and US support of totalitarian regimes in Latin America and elsewhere. It was difficult to reconcile my privileges as a white woman with an education and status that had enabled me to view and learn about this unevenness with what that unevenness meant for millions of people. Meanwhile, the US remained a kind of beacon—dare I say dream?—for so many I people I’d met across the border to the South.

The essay I was trying to write went on and on and on and never found coherence. So I decided to hand over the struggle to fiction.

On a personal level, I was trying to answer a question about how to live with this contradiction—knowing my privilege and comfort rested on the disadvantage, discomfort, and sometimes despair of entire global regions. On a larger level, the question became: How might we re-envision or rebuild America, once it came crashing down?

What I so loved about this novel is that even though it’s marked as dystopian, it didn’t really read that way to me. It seemed more real, more ground in human drama, and that was part of my delirious delight in it.  Was this your intent?

Before I began the book, we lost a dear family friend to cancer. We visited her husband in New York City from time to time. One evening he excused himself from the table to call to someone in California he’d met through an organization that connected bereaved spouses for phone conversations. I don’t think it was a romantic connection, but I was struck by the intimacy of it, and how he was finding comfort there. Sorrow is solitary but often what keeps us going is human connection.

Also, I had worked with a lot of young activists and recognized their zeal for wanting to make the world more just. I began to wonder what would happen if the chipping away at dominant structures actually worked. What would the activists do if the world they wanted to topple actually toppled? That felt like a personal question as much as a political one.

I was less interested in the mechanism of collapse than I was in how a shared catastrophe might bring make us kinder—or not—towards one another. I thought a lot about the personal losses we experience in life—deaths, of course, but other disappointments and failings also—and wondered how those losses would be re-scaled in the wake of a national or global unraveling. It seemed unlikely that personal grief would dim. But maybe it could expand in some kind of meaningful way. So yes, the personal dramas and sorrows were always forefront for me. Also, I knew from my review of the literature that most apocalyptic stories were about gloom and doom. Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road came out early on in my process, and I thought, Oh crap, how can I compete with that? But after reading it, I thought, Yay, my book is nothing like this. My book has light! It really does. In fact, for a long time there was so much light that friend-readers said it was “too Sesame Street.” I had to keep adding more and more menace, right down to the last edits.

Also, speaking of drama, since one of the perspectives comes from a teenaged girl, there’s a moment to ponder the realities of getting your period in the wake of a systems collapse. I mean, you wonder, right?

I loved the structure, the way we had the lynch pins of Beatrix and Carson on opposite ends, moving toward each other, and then there was Rosie’s story. Did you always plan the structure this way?  When I think about it, it’s a very clear narrative line, but when I read it, it felt so abundantly rich.

From the start, I knew there were two protagonists—Beatrix and Carson—at opposite ends of the country, in part because of that bereavement phone service. Early on in my process, I remembered the lovers in Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and re-read it, realizing its structure was similar and could be useful. I even found the Cliff Notes online and printed out the plot summaries for every chapter, just to understand better how it worked. I was such a fiction novice—and still am. What propels me are pretty sentences and characters, not plot. I often joke that I chose way too complicated a story for my first novel and would have been better off writing simple tale, say, about a girl and her dog. I remain forever indebted to Frazier for writing Cold Mountain, which taught me so much.

Rosie emerged during the writing and became more and more significant with each draft. A key conversation with a friend one night at a bar finally taught me what fiction could do. Without giving too much away, my friend asked about Rosie’s journey and we ended up discussing the geography of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I realized the power I had to make the seemingly impossible possible and that “far-fetched” sometimes just means we can deliver the payoff readers of novels so often want.

What kind of writer are you? Did the story slowly unfold, or were you writing, writing, writing, and then you discovered the story. And can you talk about what you are writing next? (No problem if you can’t. I always get tongue tied and stubborn when asked this.)

I’m the kind of writer that delights in the blank page and what unexpectedly appears there. One of my best writing days was meeting a tribe of orphan girls who’d escaped their group home to take up residence in a circle of abandoned train cars. (Perhaps I was summoning The Box Car Children?) I hadn’t planned them, they just showed up and I loved them. They got edited out of the book at some point, except for a small scene, but I still love them and loved writing them.

I knew the ending all along but was open to being led elsewhere. I think a lot of what I discovered through revision was how to create consequence and causality. If this, then that. And how to raise the stakes and build tension. (Again, lessons in plot!) I also discovered as I went how to trust the reader. My early drafts were so over-written. My poor agent and her assistant had to slog through 500 pages.

Right now I’m working on a memoir-ish thing, which feels imperative, as in something I need to finish before I can write another novel. It’s about trying—and failing—to make a baby and the untidiness of grief and the things I made instead and wanting to become an animal and becoming one.

Do you think our world can and will survive, and at what cost?

I think we will survive if we start understanding that it can fundamentally feel good to care about and support the well-being of others. That sounds cliché, but I do see so much of what’s ill about the world as rooted in greed, not just greed for more money or power but greed for being right and thinking one’s own ideology is better than anyone else’s. This speaks to both capitalism and a jihad that uses terror to win.

Sometimes I think the best thing I can do on any given day is have a conversation with a neighbor or make eye contact with and say hi to someone I might be slightly afraid of.

I do think balms come in the form of stories and art, but I don’t know if that will be enough.
What I think stories and art do is help us feel connected—the way rock concerts and sports games can, but without all the flashing lights and advertising. I’m not opposed to internet connection, but at some point we have to stand next to each other, if only to feel the warmth of each other’s elbows, to remember we breathe the same air.

Air. I think air might be one of the “costs” we could soon pay. Our greed means we forget to care for the things we can’t see. I worry a lot about nature and the way our belief in “jobs” over “workers” and “workplace” means we justify things like C02 emissions.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I’m thinking a lot right now about forests and animals, particularly because in the Southwest, given the intensity and frequency of wildfires, our forests here are not likely to recover. That means, they’ll end. Scientists and dendochronologists know this and speak of it matter-of-factly, but not many people around me talk about it. I don’t think it has sunk in. It’s so hard to fathom a no-forest region.

I’m particularly fascinated with the non-hierarchical, non-linear systems that forests use to survive. Trees communicate via fungal networks at their roots that send messages related to temperature, light, and moisture. They can nourish one another this way and do so even across species. I love that this system is horizontal and turns upside down (ahem) the long-held idea of trees as vertical and linear. I think we have a lot to learn from trees about how to be better humans and live together in community.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

Maybe, something like—Given that it took you over a decade to write the book, is it as relevant now as when you started?

Yes. Maybe more so. For a long time, I worried that I’d missed the catastrophe boat, so to speak. The 2008 economic crash happened and then the 2016 election and the end times kept seeming to close in. But there are always end times in our imagination. Which is why there is always post-apocalyptic fiction. To exist is to also imagine non-existence and future existence. We can’t know the light unless we also know the dark.

More directly, I think we’re in the midst of a seismic shift, particularly in the US, but also globally, given this country’s role in the world. If we agree that the presidency of Donald Trump has pulled back a veil allowing more people to see the dirt that is the oligarchy, the patriarchy, and the white supremacy, and if we agree that climate change and the lack of political will to accept and address it (by those same hierarchies I just mentioned) will irrevocably change both natural and human communities, then it really does feel like an ending is coming. And honestly, I think we need an ending. A country built on genocide and slavery, no matter its other virtues, doesn’t really stand on strong and loving feet. We’re seeing that now. So perhaps it’s time for this America to fall. And if we’re still around to rebuild, let’s build something new. Let’s look into the darkness and reach horizontally to find the superhero in our neighbors and the superpower in our collectivism.

Maybe that’s romantically ideal.