“Why are you talking about this essay that you never talk about?”

In this week’s episode, Eve and Julie speak with Jo Ann Beard about Festival Days, her extraordinary new collection of essays, some of which took decades to write. Jo Ann describes her deeply reflective, painstaking process and shares why so many of the pieces in Festival Days involve life and death moments and the kinds of reminiscences that emerge from thoughts about death. She discusses, too, her most famous essay, “The Fourth State of Matter,” and wonders aloud about herself, “Why are you talking about this essay that you never talk about?” Published in The New Yorker in 1996, “The Fourth State of Matter” depicts a mass shooting at the University of Iowa lab where Jo Ann worked. “How do you take something like that, which is essentially meaningless, and infuse it with meaning?” Jo Ann asks during this Book Dreams episode. And she offers an answer to that heartbreaking question.




Festival Days


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

"An impressive return... [Beard's] topics range from the quotidian to the fantastic, but all are anchored by observant, beautifully written prose that's sure to rank among the year's best."―Town & Country (Must-Read Books of Winter 2021)



Go Deeper

Jo Ann Beard

“The Fourth State of Matter,” The New Yorker (1996), by Jo Ann Beard

Festival Days, by Jo Ann Beard

In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard

The Boys of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard

Robert Stone

Matthew Salesses

Ep. 50 - “It’s Time to Rethink the Way We Tell Stories” ft. Matthew Salesses

Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction, Writing, and Workshopping, by Matthew Salesse

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe

Eve Yohalem

Julie Sternberg

Book Dreams Podcast

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