Sunday, September 30 at 3pm - John Kaag presents "Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are" in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Megan Marshall
Please join us on Sunday, September 30 at 3pm, when local author John Kaag discusses his new work of nonfiction, Hiking with Nietzsche. He will be in conversation with Megan Marshall, Pulizer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Bishop, and The Peabody Sisters.
John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was an NPR Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He lives west of Boston with his wife and daughter.
Megan Marshall is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Margaret Fuller; the author of The Peabody Sisters, which won the Francis Parkman Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006; and the author of the biography Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast. She is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor and teaches narrative nonfiction and the art of archival research in the MFA program at Emerson College.
A revelatory Alpine journey in the spirit of the great Romantic thinker Friedrich Nietzsche
Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are is a tale of two philosophical journeys—one made by John Kaag as an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later, in radically different circumstances: he is now a husband and father, and his wife and small child are in tow. Kaag sets off for the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria where Nietzsche wrote his landmark work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both of Kaag’s journeys are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, yet they deliver him to radically different interpretations and, more crucially, revelations about the human condition.
Just as Kaag’s acclaimed debut, American Philosophy: A Love Story, seamlessly wove together his philosophical discoveries with his search for meaning, Hiking with Nietzsche is a fascinating exploration not only of Nietzsche’s ideals but of how his experience of living relates to us as individuals in the twenty-first century. Bold, intimate, and rich with insight, Hiking with Nietzsche is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and madness, and coming to grips with the unobtainable. As Kaag hikes, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he recognizes that even slipping can be instructive. It is in the process of climbing, and through the inevitable missteps, that one has the chance, in Nietzsche’s words, to “become who you are."
The epic wisdom contained in a lost library helps the author turn his life around
John Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands of New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking. Hocking was one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendent of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology, with whom Kaag feels a deep kinship. It is James’s question “Is life worth living?” that guides this remarkable book.
The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But he resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a thrilling journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy—self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence—and to a brilliant young Kantian who joins him in the restoration of the Hocking books.
Part intellectual history, part memoir, American Philosophy is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one’s life around.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Pulitzer Prize winner Megan Marshall recounts the trailblazing life of Margaret Fuller: Thoreau's first editor, Emerson's close friend, daring war correspondent, tragic heroine. After her untimely death in a shipwreck off Fire Island, the sense and passion of her life's work were eclipsed by scandal. Marshall's inspired narrative brings her back to indelible life.
Whether detailing her front-page New-York Tribune editorials against poor conditions in the city's prisons and mental hospitals, or illuminating her late-in-life hunger for passionate experience including a secret affair with a young officer in the Roman Guard Marshall's biography gives the most thorough and compassionate view of an extraordinary woman. No biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.
Since her death in 1979, Elizabeth Bishop, who published only one hundred poems in her lifetime, has become one of America's most revered poets. And yet she has never been fully understood as a woman and artist. Megan Marshall makes incisive and moving use of a newly discovered cache of Bishop's letters to reveal a much darker childhood than has been known, a secret affair, and the last chapter of her passionate romance with Brazilian modernist designer Lota de Macedo Soares.
By alternating the narrative line of biography with brief passages of memoir, Megan Marshall, who studied with Bishop in her storied 1970s poetry workshop at Harvard, offers the reader an original and compelling glimpse of the ways poetry and biography, subject and biographer, are entwined.
Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody were in many ways our American Brontes. The story of these remarkable sisters -- and their central role in shaping the thinking of their day -- has never before been fully told. Twenty years in the making, Megan Marshall's monumental biograpy brings the era of creative ferment known as American Romanticism to new life. Elizabeth, the oldest sister, was a mind-on-fire thinker. A powerful influence on the great writers of the era -- Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau among them -- she also published some of their earliest works. It was Elizabeth who prodded these newly minted Transcendentalists away from Emerson's individualism and toward a greater connection to others. Mary was a determined and passionate reformer who finally found her soul mate in the great educator Horace Mann. The frail Sophia was a painter who won the admiration of the preeminent society artists of the day. She married Nathaniel Hawthorne -- but not before Hawthorne threw the delicate dynamics among the sisters into disarray. Marshall focuses on the moment when the Peabody sisters made their indelible mark on history. Her unprecedented research into these lives uncovered thousands of letters never read before as well as other previously unmined original sources. The Peabody Sisters casts new light on a legendary American era. Its publication is destined to become an event in American biography.
This book is highly recommended for students and reading groups interested in American history, American literature, and women's studies. It is a wonderful look into 19th-century life.