(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.) – Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Sixth Extinction,” and David Simon, the Baltimore-based journalist and author who created the critically acclaimed HBO drama, “The Wire,” will speak at Williams College on Monday, September 12, at 8pm, and on Wednesday, September 14, at 7:30pm, respectively. Both talks take place on the MainStage of the college’s ’62 Center.
Kolbert will hold a conversation about “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” which is the Williams Reads book selection for fall 2016 at Williams College. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015, and investigates the future of planet Earth and the possibility of human extinction by examining natural history and her own reporting in the field.
Kolbert is also the author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change” and “The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit,” and is the editor of “The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009.” Her three-part series on global warming, “The Climate of Man,” from which “Field Notes” was adapted, has won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award.
Kolbert grew up in the Bronx and went on to study literature at Yale University. After being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Universitat Hamburg, she wrote for the New York Times in Germany as a freelancer in 1983. In 1985, she went to work for the Times’s Metro desk, and served as the Albany bureau chief from 1988 to 1991. She wrote the Metro Matters column from 1997 to 1998. She’s been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1999, writing numerous book reviews, political profiles, and articles about climate change.
This event is part of a year-long campus initiative on Confronting Climate Change and is sponsored by Williams Reads, which aims to foster new connections among students, staff, faculty, and community members by exploring diversity through a common reading experience.
David Simon’s talk is titled “The Audacity of Despair,” which is also the title of his blog. Simon was born in Washington and later moved to Baltimore in 1983 to work for the Baltimore Sun as a crime reporter. While at the paper, he wrote two narrative non-fiction works that were later brought to television. “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,” an account of the year Simon spent with the Baltimore city homicide squad, became the basis for an NBC drama airing from 1993 to 1999 for which Simon wrote and produced after leaving the Sun in 1995. “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood,” chronicling the year Simon spent on a West Baltimore drug corner, became an HBO miniseries and won three Emmy Awards in 2000.
Simon later created the critically acclaimed HBO drama “The Wire,” for which he served as executive producer, head writer, and show runner of all five seasons. Set in Baltimore, the show studies the relationships between law enforcement and different institutions within the city, including illegal drug trade, the school system, and print news media. It is often considered to be one of the greatest, best-written TV series of all time.
Simon served as writer and executive producer for HBO’s “Generation Kill,” a mini-series following U.S. Marines in the first 40 days of the invasion of Iraq. He also co-created the HBO series “Treme,” which depicted New Orleans residents rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Katrina. “Treme” was nominated for two Emmys and won a 2011 Peabody Award. Simon then wrote the HBO mini-series “Show Me a Hero,” which focuses on efforts to desegregate public housing in Yonkers, N.Y., from 1987 to 1994.
Simon is the first speaker in the Class of ’71 Public Affairs Forum on Inequality. His talk is co-sponsored by the Public Affairs Forum, the Lecture Committee, and the Program in Leadership Studies. The next speakers in the series are Van Jones on September 28 and Maxine Burkett on October 6.
Both events are free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission. Tickets can be reserved online at ’62 Center picked up at the ’62 Center box office the night of the event.