Ben Fountain first joined us at The Nantucket Book Festival in 2014, after winning the National Book Critics Circle award for his debut novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.
He returned in 2019 to discuss his pivot from novelist to journalist in Beautiful Country Burn Again -- his reportage of the 2016 presidential election.
"We do have a beautiful country. And it has burned twice before," he told us then, referring to the Civil War and The Great Depression. "And it sort of feels like we may be on the cusp of a third burning."
When we checked in with Ben during the first wave of the pandemic, at his home in Dallas, we began with this question: Are we still on the cusp? Or are we burning? And are there any answers in those bookshelves behind him? You'll see.
THE BONUS BACKSTORY
When we decided to touch base with Ben this summer, a Google search quickly turned up a short story he'd written for The Chronicles of Now, an inspired new literary project created by a former features and fiction editor at Esquire Magazine named Tyler Cabot.
The Chronicles of Now has a fantastic tag line: "Short Fiction Torn From Today's Headlines." And it delivers.
What headline was Ben given as a launching point?
Where did his imagination go?
You'll have to watch our conversation to find out.
And after you do, we recommend sampling The Chronicles of Now below. Why?
As they say in their mission statement: "Because in a world gone haywire, sometimes art is the only thing to make sense of it all."