Book festival begins 20th year with a new Literary Cocktail Hour

BRATTLEBORO — Think California, make your favorite drink, and join author and Pulitzer Prize finalist William Souder on Friday, Jan. 8, at 5 p.m., for a discussion of his book Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck.

The first full-length biography of the Nobel laureate to appear in a quarter century, Mad at the World illuminates what has made the work of John Steinbeck an enduring part of the literary canon: his capacity for empathy.

Souder explores Steinbeck's long apprenticeship as a writer struggling through the depths of the Great Depression and his rise to greatness with masterpieces such as The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath.

Angered by the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants who were starving even as they toiled to harvest California's limitless bounty, fascinated by the guileless decency of the downtrodden denizens of Cannery Row, and appalled by the country's refusal to recognize the humanity common to all of its citizens, Steinbeck took a stand against social injustice - paradoxically given his inherent misanthropy - setting him apart from the writers of the so-called “lost generation.”

Steinbeck wrote around 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction, and 10 of his books were made into movies. Bill Souder will be in conversation about Steinbeck with Vermont writer Tim Weed.

This event is free and open to the public, register at Registered participants will be able to interact with the author in a question and answer session. You can also watch the event live-streamed on the Brattleboro Literary Festival's Facebook page without registering.

Souder lives in Grant, Minn., and is the author of three other books. Published in 2000, A Plague of Frogs follows the investigation of outbreaks of deformed frogs across North America. Under a Wild Sky, a 2004 biography of John James Audubon, won numerous awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, was published in September 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Carson's Silent Spring. It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was named one of the 25 Best Nonfiction Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews.

Weed is the author of a short fiction collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing and a young adult novel, Will Poole's Island. He serves on the core faculty of the Newport MFA in Creative Writing and as an instructor at GrubStreet in Boston, the country's largest independent creative writing center. He is a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers' Bureau and also a member of the Brattleboro Literary Festival committee.

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