S1: It’s time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today we’re talking about gardening and how to grow your own food here in San Diego. I’m Jade Hindman. Here’s to conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. One of San Diego’s gardening gurus , Nancy Sterman , joins us with advice on when to plant fruits and vegetables.
S2: To grow vegetables , spring and summer vegetables. Outside temperatures have to be consistently 50 degrees or warmer overnight.
S1: Plus and will answer your gardening questions and we’ll talk about how recent flooding may impact what you can harvest. That’s ahead on Midday Edition. The annual keepers of the culture event returns to the San Diego History Center on Saturday. Organized in collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. It’s a celebration of prominent black leaders in the community who are shaping culture. Here to talk more about this event and its importance to the community is Getty Phinney. He’s the executive director of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. Getty. Welcome back to midday.
S3: I know it’s been a while since we talked , but , you know , we’re both busy doing things , you know , so it’s always good to hear your voice and also to be interviewed by you.
S1: Likewise , it’s great to have you on. So , I mean , it’s been six years since the first ever keepers of the culture.
S3: And we don’t want those people who are doing things to be forgotten. So what we’ve what we’ve decided to do was to get those people who are still alive that are doing things to contribute to the culture and honor them while they are alive. We are honored to Harold Brown and Chuck Ambers , Willie Morrow , doctor Jack Kimbro. We’ve honored on Blevins , Manuelita Brown , Michaela Dread Keenum and Kamal Kenyatta. We’ve also honored Common Ground Theater starlet Louis , Doctor Robert and Mrs. Ardell Matthews. He’s also honored Alice Cooper Smith , Nathan East , Calvin Manson and Andrea Rushing , and also Ken Anderson , Jeanne Corbo , Eliot Lawrence , Doctor John Warren , and Honorable Leon Williams. And guess what ? This year we’re honoring Supervisor Monica Montgomery step , and also Vernon Sakuma and also the R&B singing group satisfaction , which , I mean , they have such a following because they’ve not been together in years. And so when they come out , people are there. So it is a packed house , a wonderful event that’s coming. Yeah.
S1: The museum has worked with the San Diego History Center to organize this tribute , like you said.
S3: We have worked with all the major museums in San Diego , because we try to bring art to places where it can be held. For instance , you know , if you have expensive art , million dollar art , you just can’t put it anywhere. So we work with a lot of the major museums and the most , the most fun and the most , I don’t know , easy one to work with , if you will. The most compatible one with us is the San Diego History Center. Why that is , I think it has to do with Bill and his staff. But , you know , I’ve worked with MCA and CMA and and man , all of them , the Veterans Museum and all of those. But I really do love working with that , that staff , they’re very , very unstable and work with us so well that I like doing it. So , you know , we and we do so much , you know , that we’ve got also the black arts and cultural district. The city designated us as the managers of that. So that’s also something that we’ve been doing in the last couple of years. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. Well , you know , I mean , I remember I actually moderated the the event a couple of years ago during that event , the honorees were mostly artists. And this year you’re celebrating people who do various work in the community. So before we get into each honoree , what’s the process behind selecting them each year ? Yeah , that’s the board.
S3: The board gets together and talks about who it is we want to honor. And then we have a vote and pick the people we want to honor. Yeah.
S3: But we look at all the different aspects of culture and what people have done. And there’s quite a few people. So we’ve been doing this six years and it’s just how we do it with our board. We we bring it a number of people and everybody gets to recommend. And then we choose what , 3 or 4 people we want to do each year because it’s , you know , we do a nice honor , a trophy that goes with it to honor them. And it takes a lot of work to do this thing. So I’m proud of what we do , and I’m happy to honor these folks.
S1: And I want to talk more about the honorees. And I’ll start with Monica Montgomery. Step. Two years ago , she’s secured the unanimous vote by the city to create the San Diego Black Arts and Culture district in Encanto. Um , as you mentioned , the museum was designated to really look over the district.
S3: We wanted someplace called , as they call it , the spot where black people could go because as even as a resident here , when when guests come , I just don’t know where to take them. I used to like , no , where do we take black people in this town ? And it’s been that way for 30 years. People have wanted it , really wanted it. And so when we were designated to do this , we began the work of making this a possibility. And right now , I could tell you right now , with all confidence , you can talk. And people say to you , have you been in the Black Arts District or we have the Black Arts District is there’s a black artist district that so it does exist now. And I owe it to the Black Arts and Cultural Committee , who has been spearheading that and advising the museum on how to make this work so that Black Arts and Culture committee that sits every Tuesday , every third Tuesday and meet with members of the community , artists , business people , all of that. I think we were we’ve got a lot of ways to go. It’s not that’s no question. We have a long ways to go to do this because it’s because , you know , it’s an art led project. Right ? But it’s also an economic development project because you need lighting , you need wider streets , and you need housing. You want people to buy in and bring in other arts organizations and dance and music and theater and all that. We want to bring that into the community. So we got ways to go. And thank you , Monica Montgomery , for establishing that with us so we can keep it going. So I’m really I’m really grateful to her.
S3: No , no it’s do. She’s she’s been a stalwart in the community. I’ll tell you one day I was going to do an event at once at the Malcolm X library , and I pulled up in my car and it was there. She was cleaning up the the area by herself on a Saturday morning. I said , look at that now. I was , I mean , made me a believer just by herself cleaning up. This is I got to do this stuff. I said , man , you know , probably nobody knows you do that sort of thing , but I saw it with my own eyes. She’s really special. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. And going back to the Black Arts and Culture district over the past few weeks , we’ve talked a lot about the flooding impacts there.
S3: I mean , Sandy Eagle , like I said , some community said it did something crazy in San Diego , San Diego. What they do is sit in rain because it never does. I don’t I mean , it was a shock to everybody. So my heart goes out to all those people. And also this the San Diego Black Arts and Cultural District did get affected. The park where we have Marine Whitman Park has had a lot of problems with some of the housing. Second chance had issues , but we’ve got a lot of help and people are pulling together to help us. We’ve had to pivot a little bit on some of the events that we have to to take them out of the park , that we’re going to be in the cultural district until it gets right , but it’s coming back. It’ll be there. But right now we just have to stay together and work together and get that community back.
S1: Yeah , that’s that’s something. And we hope to have the community back to where it was soon. Uh , you’re also honoring rhythm and blues group satisfaction.
S3: I know a couple of them just throughout history , Floyd Smith and that. And he’s with the fifth Dimension as well. Um , but they when they come out , the people who have heard of them come to support them. The last time I think they did a concert maybe eight years ago , it was sold out. You couldn’t even get in the door. So I don’t know much about them. I’m not a a resident. I mean , a lifelong resident of San Diego. But from what I hear , they bring the people. It should be a fun event. And I really and because of who they are and all , and they have lots of people from the community in the band itself , in the group. So it should be exciting to see them and have them being honored. And they’re going to sing and play , so that should be wonderful.
S1: And Vernon Sakuma is a long time activist , one of your personal heroes , too. He’s being honored.
S3: I studied about him in Minnesota and came here , uh , and met him. And , you know the story ? I was coming out here to take the , uh , professional responsibility bar exam , and this was on a Friday. Um , and so when I saw him , he said , well , we have I’ve got these books by Rosa Parks. And when you go up and hang out with her and she’ll sign , and she signed books for me and I did that thinking , man , oh my God , that was the greatest day of my life , right ? The next day , I got back to take the professional exam exam and guess what ? It was Friday and I missed it. But. But I missed it by spending the day with Rosa Parks. So come on , come on.
S4: It made it. It made the trip worth it.
S3: And it made it. I mean , I mean , who do you tell that story to ? Professional responsibility test that you missed. You would get it wrong. Oops.
S3: But , um. Yeah , but I had a chance to spend a day with Vernon and , uh , Rosa Parks that day. She signed a book for my son , and he. He protects it like his gold. Takes it everywhere he goes.
S1: Now , with Sukumar , he , you know , as I mentioned , he’s a long time activist. But what kind of activist is he ? He’s human. Right ? He’s he’s so many things.
S3: He was part of that group of people. And as was I , by the way , back in the late 60s , believe it or not. So this these organizations that created Kwanzaa were nationwide. And so they taught us a lot of the same doctrine , if you will. So we all studied this around the country during the black national movement back in the late 60s. And I’m sure Vernon Sakuma was part of that movement. I think he was he was a big leader here during that that torrid time of the 60s. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. Okay.
S3: It seemed to have much more black culture. It was black radio stations , and I think even the community in southeastern San Diego was more black. And that has gentrified quite a bit , as has San Diego. Being a military town , black people really are all over the place. There’s not that really black community , if you will , whereas it used to be. And the result of this not having a black community is there’s a loss in terms of how you relate to each other , how when you see each other , whether you eat together , whether you you can go to a black church and see a lot of black people. But many times , uh , because we’re so spread out , you don’t you don’t have a feeling of black community. And that’s one of the things that the black cultural district does is give us a better sense of community. Now we’re looking forward to to effect that change was what San Diego would be like in the future. We’re trying to affect that by what we do with the black cultural District and with the African American Museum of Fine Arts. So whereas it has changed , we’re trying to make sure that as it changes , the black folks in San Diego have a way to communicate , to entertain and to enjoy their culture.
S1: Well what happened ? I mean , where did the , you know , the black radio , black nightclubs ? Um , you know what happened ? No.
S3: I don’t I don’t know , I don’t know. I mean , the population just moved around and there’s those things. They don’t exist anymore , but they need leadership like us to bring it back. So whatever happened to them ? I can’t tell you. I don’t know , but I know one thing. We’re bringing it. Back.
S5: Back. There you. Go.
S3: We have we both we have the two websites. We have our website , CAA , MFA , org , that’s the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. And also the San Diego Black Arts and Cultural District has its own website as well. So you can follow those there and and participate. And so coming up soon we have the Her lens celebrating the black women in filmmaking on March 22nd. We have the power of poetry and and mixer. On April 19th , we have the stop and listen music of the diaspora. On May 18th , we have our big celebration of black music in June , June 29th. And that’s what lyrical Groove Jimenez , Deneen Wilburn , Rebecca Jade and the musical students of the Heartbeat Academy , all that’s coming up this year. Yeah. So we we’re smoking.
S5: I see lots to.
S1: Get plugged into. You know , before I go , I gotta ask , you know , the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art celebrating black history 365 days a year. Talk to me about why it’s important to honor black history , not just during this month , but really every day.
S3: Because if you don’t know your past , you can’t relate to your future. It really is. It’s like one of those things that , you know , we live in. It seems to be we live in a time when a lot of these things are just being taken off the education , they’re not teaching about it. Um , you see a lot of racist activity. The Black Lives movement had had to come about to change things. All this stuff. You know , that Black Lives movement , I think is kind of waning now , believe it or not , it’s just not the same kind of interest in it. Right ? But we won’t stop. We will keep our black culture alive 365 days a year , just as you said. And that’s what the San Diego Black Cultural Arts and Black Cultural District would do. And that’s what the museum will do as well. We will keep it alive knowing of its importance.
S1: I’ve been speaking with Katie Finney , executive director of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. Keepers of the culture will take place at the San Diego History Center this Saturday at 6 p.m. , doors open at five and the event is free. Katie , thank you so much for joining us.
S3: You are so welcome and I miss talking to you. So let’s stay in touch.
S1: Sounds like a plan. Coming up , Beth Accomando explores bugs and the culinary arts.
S1: Welcome back.
S6: You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition.
S1: I’m Jade Hindman. A question for you. Would you eat scorpion kimchi ? How about cricket hummus ? While you have an opportunity to try out both with a bug banquet happening on San Diego State University’s campus tomorrow. Kpbs arts and culture reporter Beth Accomando is actually a fan of edible insects. She spoke with chef Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs and food scientist Xiang Liu , associate professor at Sdsu , about the event and the benefits of eating bugs. Take a listen.
S7: So there is going to be a bug banquet at San Diego State. And this is a really fascinating thing to me.
S8: But truth be told , it may actually be the the agave worm at the bottle of a tequila bottle perhaps as well.
S9: I also don’t remember the exact age , but when I grew up as a kid , I was from China. So my hometown is a Sichuan province in the southwest of China , and we do have a few , like edible insects in the region , like a bamboo weevil. I think the silkworm pupae as well as the cicada nymphs. So I did have experiences growing up eating insects.
S7: And when did both of you kind of become interested in this as like a bigger issue , as something that you really wanted to focus on and try to raise awareness about.
S9: I’m always kind of interested in entomology. I actually wanted to become an entomologist. It didn’t happen , so I ended up becoming a food scientist , which is also a passion for me. Then I also started interested in this food sustainability issues. So I actually get to combine my two inches bugs and the food science and actually use them as a , you know , a more sustainable way of getting high quality proteins.
S8: My interest with insects , or rather cooking and eating with insects , started from an art project when I was approached to cook insects to help conquer a fear of insects. And then I went down the wormhole. I did my research and found the UN , FAO , the food and agricultural organizations report Edible insects future prospects for Food and Food security. And when I began to realize that edible insects and insect agriculture can have an impact on food security , on environmental sustainability , health and nutrition , workforce activation and livelihoods , this gave me a tremendous sense of inspiration and motivation. And ever since I started , uh , it has actually entirely changed my life. And I’m now on this path for a little over six years now.
S7: So here in the US , the idea of eating bugs is probably it’s probably a hurdle you have to overcome a bit. I mean , I think there are other countries where it’s much more commonplace.
S8: And so being able to take these negative ideas and then somehow try to get people to consider these insects , these pests as food , is yet another hurdle. And one of the really big ways that I have utilize to help change the perception and hopefully create the behavioral change is not to focus on the science with great respect to my scientists , colleagues and counterparts , but I focus on the culinary and gastronomical properties to think of insects as something delicious. Over 2000 species of edible insects with wildly different flavor profiles , textures , and functionality that we can prepare absolutely deliciously if we have the culinary acumen and the knowhow , and it’s sustainable and nutrient dense. And then I follow up with the science. And so that’s largely been my approach with with how I introduce people to edible insects.
S9: This is exactly why we are trying to do this event. So we did a survey before , and we found that the willingness in the US to eat insect is not that great. And we identified unfamiliarity with edible insects and the disgust factor to be some of the biggest hurdles. But at the same time , in 2019 , when we first hosted the event , we did a pre-event and post-event survey , and we found that through this kind of cooking and tasting demonstrations , it really changes people’s perceptions on edible insects and promoted their willingness to try them. And also , we are also going to be talking about why should we eat insects , address their environmental benefits , the nutritional values , the opportunities they can bring to the culinary art. So I think that can probably also help people accept it instead as a food.
S7: Give us a little bit of that science as to what are the benefits of using insects for food.
S9: For example , they require much less feed , water and land to farm , and during the process they produce much less greenhouse gases. At the same time , they have a really good nutritional values , for example , the high protein content and the unsaturated fatty acids , vitamins , minerals , minerals with great bioavailability. There are studies showing that the bioavailability of iron in some of the mealworms is actually higher than the sirloin beef , and also , like I would say , insects , is probably the only animal source food that can provide dietary fibers because of their exoskeleton. So there are many , many health benefits associated with , uh , insect consumption as well. So it’s really a superfood if we think about it. Yeah.
S8: Yeah. I think one of the great potentials and innovation around insect agriculture is that it represents the potential to have a regenerative circular ag system , and so we can address organic waste management and feed organic waste to black soldier fly larvae , mitigating it from going into our landfills. And then we have also passed legislation in America and the EU to feed the black soldier fly larvae , as livestock feed for pet food and aquaculture. And so again , we’re decreasing the deforestation of the Amazon that’s being utilized for animal feed and for pet food. And then to close this loop , if we’re creating metric tons of this larvae , a byproduct is something called frass or the excrement of the insects. And it’s mixed together with the SUV , which is the exoskeletons. And this is incredible as a bio organic fertilizer. So there’s so much potential and innovation happening around insect agriculture. And the idea of eating insects really helps to spark the curiosity and interest. But there’s a wide world of potential that exists as well.
S7: So for you as a chef , what are kind of the challenges that you see and talk a little bit just about kind of the different kinds of insects and how they inspire you to different meals or plates of food.
S8: What’s been really amazing is just to see people’s reaction and their initial thought of what they expect insects to be. And for a lot of people that don’t have a lot of knowledge or the culture behind it , they expect insects to taste horrible. So that actually works in my favor because as a chef , I take great pride in making food taste delicious. And so one of the things that I try to employ when introducing people to edible insects is thinking about what food do you really love ? And then I think about how I can bug ify that dish by incorporating insect protein into your favorite meals. When people think about what insects might look like , they might think like , oh , am I going to eat like a whole bowl full of crickets ? And it’s like , no , how about if we were to make a cricket bolognaise ? And make a delicious gravy. This sauce incorporating cricket powder. We don’t even have to see it. And if you’re a big fan of burgers , what if we were to make like a black bean burger with crickets both chopped up and the powder ? What a great possibility and potential to be so inspired to find all these new ingredients and think about how we can reimagine it into familiar foods. The only limitations that we have with insect protein is really our own imagination. And typically , it’s been fascinating to find a person who’s like , my friend dragged me to your event. I didn’t think I would eat it , and I tried the cricket gusher. So French cheese puff and they have this look of surprise. It tastes like food. It actually tastes good. And then something really fascinating happens. As a result of that. They want to try something. Bugger. So I’m luring them in and they’re like okay chef. Let me try something with where I could see the bugs. And maybe they’ll try the black ants with guacamole. And black ants have formic acid as a defense mechanism which gives it an acidic flavor profile. So it pairs perfectly with something like guacamole. And so I think that’s what we really love to do , is just giving people the opportunity , but never shaming anyone or pressuring people to do it. Like , I’m not a bug pusher. I’m not out there like trying to push people to eat them. I’m an educator and advocate and activist who’s actively just trying to give people the option and the knowledge so that they can make the decision themselves.
S7: And chunky , what can people expect from these two events that are happening this week.
S9: This afternoon from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. , we will have the Edible Insect Symposium , in which we’ll have several speakers talking about different aspects of edible insects , talking about their nutritional values , their environmental benefits , and their potentials in the culinary world. Then on Friday , we’ll have the banquet in which we’ll be like offering people delicious food that features edible insects.
S8: The black ants , which I mentioned because of their their delicious flavor and surprising pop. But all in all , I would have to say my hands down , unequivocal grand champion insect for me to cook and eat is the cicada. And this year presents an incredible opportunity because we have the convergence of the brood 13 and 19 cicadas that come out every 17 and 13 years. And this occurrence is happening for the first time in 221 years. And so I’m really excited to to be able to go out into the field and continue my field research and culinary research around around these periodical cicadas.
S7: And , Joseph , people shouldn’t just go out in their backyard and grab a bug out of their garden and pop it in their mouth. Right ? What what do you recommend to people who are curious about this and want to maybe try cooking with insects ? Correct.
S8: One should not go in their backyard and just pick an insect because of the risk of pathogens and contaminants. And so I think like really being responsible and where you get them from. And so we’re very happy to to work with incredible vendors who responsibly source the insects. And there’s one very obvious website who’s a great supporter. Edible insects.com has a great reliable resource for a lot of different insects. And then also , uh , entomology farms that are based up in Ontario , Canada , and three cricketers in Minnesota are some of our favorite and most reliable vendors.
S7: All right. Well , I want to thank you both very much for talking about bugs.
S10: Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Beth.
S8: Will you join. Us.
S8: For either of the events ? But really , for the bug tasting on Friday , I would love absolutely.
S7: Of course. Absolutely.
S5: I am so.
S8: Happy to hear that you will join us.
S1: That was Beth Accomando speaking with Brooklyn Bugs , Chef Joseph Yoon and Sdsu associate professor of nutrition and food scientist Xiang Liu. The bug banquet is tomorrow at noon , but you need to register first information for that. Is at Kpbs. Org. Coming up , we’ll hear from author Susan Orlean about her writing and our relationship to animals.
S11: You’re almost more human when you are relating to a creature than when you’re relating to other people. It’s very unselfconscious. You just are who you are.
S1: You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back. You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I’m Jade Hindman. Writer Susan Orlean has been writing for The New Yorker for more than three decades , and rose to fame when her book , The Orchid Thief inspired the Spike Jones movie adaptation. She’s the author of more than a dozen nonfiction books , including The Library Book about the 1986 fire and the Los Angeles Central Library , and On Animals , a collection of her essays about creatures of all kinds and our relationship with them. She’s part of the Writers Symposium by the sea this week , and will be interviewed with Nick Hornby on Friday. She spoke with Kpbs Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Here’s their conversation.
S12: So in the book on animals , we have a collection of long form essays about animals. But I wanted to start at the very beginning with your introduction. You give us this little taste of your own fascination with animals. And not just pets , but definitely pets.
S11: I think it’s since the beginning of time , there’s been this curiosity about what would it be like if people from another planet landed here , and would we be able to talk to them ? And what if they were like us but not quite like us ? And what if we could communicate , but not in the conventional ways that we’re used to communicating ? Well , we already have that , since animals sort of provide us with. This life form that you certainly know you can communicate with , but not in the traditional way that you communicate with humans. It’s also invariably a reflection when I write about animals , but I think from the very beginning it it brings out something very human in our interaction with animals. And you’re almost more human when you are relating to a creature than when you’re relating to other people. It’s very unselfconscious. You just are who you are. So from the time I was a kid , I just always loved every kind of animal , both the typical pets of dogs and cats and hamsters and mice. But also I love livestock and I loved wild animals. So this was the entire range. I love the way animals look. I love the way they feel when you touch them. I love them on that totally sensory level. I just think it tells you a lot about being a person when you relate to animals.
S12: This book spans decades of work , and I’m wondering if there’s a story that over time , you’ve had the most questions or comments about.
S11: The big surprise for me probably was the story I wrote about having chickens , and I wasn’t even convinced that I should do the story. I had chickens , I loved them , I thought about them a lot. I talked about them a lot , but I didn’t imagine writing a story about it. And my editor convinced me that this was a great subject. The rise of backyard chickens , and what seemed to be a bit of a newfound passion for keeping chickens , which is pretty funny when you think about it. So I wrote the story about my experience , why I ended up with chickens , what it was like having them , and the reaction was a complete surprise. Namely , it was as if I had tapped in to some massive desire on the part of everyone I knew to have chickens , and people simply couldn’t get enough about having chickens and how I got them. And what was it like , and how would they have them , and where could they keep them ? But it also fit. The whole point of the story , which was that there was a very particular reason that at this moment in time , people were yearning to have small livestock. I don’t think it morphed into people wanting cattle or a big herd of sheep. It was very specific to chickens , and there was a fascinating kind of history connected to it.
S12: Now , this one is a very different story. The lady and her Tigers. This is a story about a woman who lived in this otherwise quiet town in America , with a large collection of actual tigers.
S11: There was a little news report that I happened across one day that in this suburb in new Jersey , which is sort of between Newark and Trenton , that in the middle of the day , a tiger was seen walking through the middle of the town. That in itself was , of course , pretty amazing. But more strangely , no one could identify who the tiger belonged to. And you kind of feel like. There wouldn’t be that many places tigers might come from and end up in the middle of a suburb. Lo and behold , it is revealed that there’s a woman in the town who has 27 tigers that she keeps as pets. She didn’t have permits for them , and you would never be able to get permits for them. It’s 100% illegal. And it was an insane story. It was both , you know , just an absurd notion that there’s a woman living in suburbia with almost 30 tigers. It was also fascinating because I began looking into how would you acquire tigers ? And in my shock and dismay , it’s incredibly easy to get tigers. Arguably easier to get a tiger than a French bulldog these days. Wow. So it was just it was just an endlessly interesting story to me. And and talking about , you know , our relationship to these exotic animals that really no one should have even one , let alone 27.
S12: I want to shift gears and talk just a little bit about the library book. This is an astonishing book that’s about the massive 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Central Library , but it’s also about the history of the library system in LA and the very strange characters who’ve passed through the ranks , but also about other lost archives. It struck me as a massive undertaking of research.
S11: Why do we feel so affected in such a deep way at the destruction of a library ? More than we would feel about City Hall burning or , you know , many other parallel institutions that we might imagine being destroyed ? I don’t think you have the same feeling that you have when you imagine books being destroyed , a library being destroyed , and that’s what propelled me from the beginning. Why do books mean so much to us ? Why do libraries mean so much ? And as a consequence , why did this fire affect people so deeply , including me ? And ultimately it was a book about memory and what memory means to us both the collective memory , which is what a library really is , and the act of creating a book , which is to make a permanent record of thought process. So you’re you’re sort of outsourcing memory into this form of paper and ink. Uh , and we’ve been doing this literally since the beginning of time. So there’s something really , really , really human about the act of creating books and the act of creating libraries.
S12: I’m wondering if over the last 25 , 30 years , throughout your career , if you have felt the media landscape change for the kind of long narrative essays that you write , the kind of books you write , um , you’ve likely seen magazine culture changed dramatically since the internet.
S11: It really is. Sometimes I’m writing a memoir right now , and when I’m writing about the early days of my career and thinking about even the like , the fact that I used to write on a typewriter and we would literally cut and paste stories , and then desktop publishing came. And , you know , now , obviously the internet has completely changed the media landscape. I feel like the interest in longform narrative absolutely is there. I don’t see anything suggesting that people aren’t interested in stories that unfold in a , a a really. Expansive way. We’re all used to the idea of the attention economy and people wanting things quick and short and flashed up on a screen and scrollable and all of that. But I think that the counterpoint actually is that. You get a certain amount of stuff now telegraphed to very , very quickly. It’s almost means that you look forward to that chance to really think into a story.
S12: I have one more question about craft , and you’re talking about these expansive stories and most of these things you dive into because there’s an element of mystery to them. I’m wondering how you know when a story is finished , especially when sometimes there’s not a tidy resolution or an endpoint.
S11: Actually , it’s it’s I won’t say it’s a big problem. It’s a big part of the writing process that really matters , especially because. Is so rare that you truly have a conclusion or a neat , tidy end to your story. Um , and most of my stories , most of my books really don’t have a definitive conclusion. Um , I didn’t solve the mystery of the library fire. I never saw a ghost orchid. All of these events that were meant to be the kind of culmination of my work didn’t happen. How I knew I was done , though , was that it’s more of an internal clock of. Feeling that I’ve learned my subject well and I’m ready to tell it to readers. I’m not looking for that tidy end , because life isn’t like that , and most stories don’t. Have that packaging where every loose end is tied up. It’s really more , um , on the writer’s side , that sensation of thinking , I’m ready to tell the story. And that is just a gut feeling. It’s a moment of thinking , I’m ready. I’m ready to tell this. And I see the narrative coming. To its conclusion , even though it’s not with a neat ending.
S1: That was writer Susan Orlean , author of The Orchid Thief and on animals. Speaking with Kpbs Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Orlean will appear at Point Loma Nazarene University Friday at 7 p.m..
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