Wild River, Green Thoughts
Pen World Voices Festival
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
Eleven writers including Geert Mak, Gary Shteyngart, Roxana Robinson, Moses Isegawa, Billy Collins, Janne Teller, Colson Whitehead, Jonathan Franzen, Pico Iyer, Marilynne Robinson, and Salman Rushdie, stood at the podium at Cooper Union Great Hall in New York City tonight to read about the subject of the natural world. The natural world, our planet, which is everybody’s home, as Salman Rushdie pointed out when he related tonight’s subject to this week’s overall theme of PEN’s World Voices Festival Home and Away in his introduction.
And it strikes me soon after listening to the first speaker Geert Mak talk about warmer winters in the Netherlands and the potential disaster movie just starting, that writers have a crucial role to play in moving the global conversation about environmental “issues” forward — or outward anyway. For any writer worth their salt appreciates paradox and complexity — and — one would hope — views oversimplification and/or oversentimentality as roadblocks in their quest to understand.
In the readings tonight, there were laughs — Gary Shteyngart brought down the house with his reading of George Saunders short story in which the narrator boasts of 130 degree Syracuse days where two child-melting SUVs morph into one color. In his reading, Jonathan Franzen noted that we had “an ethical responsibility to consider other creatures besides ourselves,” and read Jane Smiley’s The Greenlanders, calling it a parable about human addiction, desire, and the wild in wilderness. In it, an adopted polar bear, whose human father has taught him to read and speak, eventually returns to his innate and terminal master — hunger. With a mix of humor and poignancy, Colson Whitehead told the audience how he celebrated reading Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic, The Road (2006) over baby-back ribs and beer and soon found himself fighting back tears in public.
Marilynne Robinson spoke with the most gravity. With eloquence, she read from her own work, and referred to the stories of Genesis, which “made it clear that our deficiencies are enough to bring the whole world down.” About the environmental movement (which she felt had failed), she suggested that the public focus on specific events sadly often led to the dismissal of wider issues — “as if such phenomena were singular and exceptional.” After the lecture, I asked her to expand upon this comment, and she graciously replied, “We all know that the sea is in trouble. And the sea is directly related to the atmosphere. Yet, we focus too closely on each isolated problem as if these problems could actually be separated!” She went on to point out that there are so many more complex ways to discuss environmental issues and yet, we usually revert to the same old predicatable polemics.
And it does seem true that we often cling to familiar arguments instead of addressing hard truths and venturing out into new uncomfortable territory.
— Kim Nagy, Commissioning Editor
Tonight, when the lights dimmed in the arched assembly hall of Cooper Union, acclaimed authors from a half dozen countries took their turn at the single podium to speak on the global environment for the PEN World Voices Festival. Their topics, culled not from their own writings — in most cases — but from other poets and authors of their choosing, were as diverse as the authors themselves.
Salman Rushdie, a long time supporter of PEN America and festival masters of ceremony, opened on a serious note by stating that while the week long festival was a literary event, it carries a political element. “As it should be,” Mr. Rushdie added, and went on to say that “America is in danger by stopping the talk with the rest of the world.” Several authors followed in a similar tone.
Geert Mak, from the Netherlands, talked about the warming in his own country where apricots blossomed in January, and April was the hottest month on record. “Nothing is eternal in my country anymore,” he said. Ugandan author (Abyssinian Chronicles & Snake Pit), Moses Isegawa, choose a poignant and somber piece which spoke of the oppressed and the oppressors, those who own the ‘machines’ and the wealth, and those who continually work the machines. The seriousness of his selected piece reflects a life lived in Uganda during the reign of dictator, Idi Amin.
But it was Marilynne Robinson who garnered the most environmentally charged impact with the audience by reading her own essays of planet destruction, describing nuclear power as going from the fire to the frying pan. Her comment that wilderness is a place where the intolerable can be hidden, brought to mind recent events currently taking place near my home in southern California, where the war-profiteer company, Blackwater, has plans to purchase 824 acres of wilderness land for private mercenary training of soldiers.
Interspersed between the more serious were, Gary Shteyngert, Jonathan Franzen, and poet Billy Collins who used the creative device of humor to engage the audience and lighten the mood — because sometimes the painful truth can only be accessed through laughter.
Author Pico Iyer was a unique voice of among the impressive list of writers tonight. He spoke like a true Buddhist of “the open spaces in the mind,” (a landscape of our own choosing and therefore not subjugated by outside influences). Iyer turns to ‘the greats,’ he said, such as Emerson and Thoreau, for inspiration, and read from one of the foremost contemporary writers on nature, Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard. For six, too short, minutes, we were lost in mossy Himalayan mountains.
While talk on global issues often winds up in a frenzy of hand wringing and preaching to the choir, and some of tonight’s offering were no less so, most of us in the audience felt a sense of gratitude for these writers committed to the task of enlightenment, one story at a time, and for their varied and eloquent voices to carry the conversation forward.
— Angie Brenner
West Coast Editor, Wild River Review
Pico Iyer, Green Thoughts, April 24, 2007 — photo credit: Dale Cotton
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson
VOICE FROM SYRIA
WRR at LARGE – WILD ENVIRONMENT
Freelance writer and illustrator, Angie Brenner, is a contributor to the online magazine, Wild River Review, covering PEN World Voices Festival and Los Angeles Times Festival of Books events, international topics, current events, political issues, and author interviews such as those with Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, and Pico Iyer.
Brenner is currently writing a cookbook with co-author and Wild River Review founder, Joy E. Stocke, Anatolian Kitchen: Turkish Cooking for the American Table, to be published by Burgess Lea Press in the fall of 2016. Her first book, a travel memoir, also co-authored with Stocke, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses, and Saints was published in March, 2012, by Wild River Books.
Brenner left the security of a managerial job to follow her passion and opened a travel planning service, Journeys by Angie, where she created personalized travel itineraries for clients that included researching history, art, and cuisine. Later, she bought and operated a travel bookstore, Word Journeys, in Del Mar, CA. For nearly ten years, Brenner nurtured her inner travel bibliophile by buying and selling travel literature. She closed her store in order to travel and write.
With a business background, Brenner worked in the health care industry in Southern California for several years, and later as Business Manager for a public school district. Yet, a love of travel and a curiosity of foreign cultures led her to explore Europe, East Africa, Vietnam, and South America. For over twenty-five years, she traveled the four corners of Turkey, and became immersed in all aspects of Turkish culture from food, to politics and religion. She is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
It was during a research trip to Turkey that Brenner began to sketch and watercolor, and to create the illustrations that are included in her memoir. A certified yoga instructor, Brenner lives, writes, and facilitates weekly yoga classes in Julian, California.