When essayist Jo Ann Beard came on the show in 2018, she swore she was done publishing books. While some writers knock out novels every year, Beard takes decades to assemble a small collection. But she realized these past 23 years had produced nine pieces and, together, they worked.
The consequence of taking this much time at craft are essays so distilled, the reader feels like an ant under Beard’s sun-pierced glass. Not all the pieces are pure nonfiction. Beard blends factual events with imagined inner lives to create experiences so searing, it’s difficult not to flinch. As a writer, Beard never flinches. She takes us all the way into a young woman’s final moments with Dr. Kevorkian. She forces us to jump from a burning building. We endure the agony of a beloved dog’s last hours.
Beard joins Marrie Stone to talk about Festival Days, a book the NYT calls "ferocious" by an author they call a "towering talent." She is as compassionate an interview subject as she is a writer. She takes us inside her mind, her creative decisions, and her private obsessions. Enjoy the ride.
(Broadcast date: May 26, 2021)