When Brooke Gladstone, the cohost (with Bob Garfield) of the popular podcast On the Media, began working on her new book, The Trouble with Reality (Workman), her brief was to “provide a consolation” to readers troubled by the recent presidential election. “I don’t think I did,” Gladstone says. “But I did provide an explanation, of sorts, and I think that’s kind of consoling.”
In the book, Gladstone discusses the ways each of us shapes our own reality, or allows our reality to be shaped by others, and how we massage facts—or ignore them altogether—in an effort to keep that skewed reality intact. Touching on the psychology of stereotyping and the phenomenon of demagoguery, Gladstone offers a guide to understanding why, during and after the election, “our reality broke”: why half of the country seemed to be living in a different universe than the other half.
“If we’ve lived long enough, we’ve all had presidents that we have loved, that we have loathed, that we have feared,” Gladstone says. “But this felt like something different, something beyond politics. This felt existential.”
Gladstone broadens the investigation of her themes by citing a range of writers and thinkers, among them Arthur Schopenhauer, Neil Postman, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Gladstone says she was surprised by the relevancy of older writings to our situation today. “Particularly Walter Lippmann in the ’20s and Hannah Arendt in the ’50s showed me that we’ve been here before, that this was not unprecedented, and that the republic survived,” Gladstone says.
The book encourages readers to examine their own prejudices, assumptions, and willful distortions, and in the course of writing it, Gladstone began to examine some of her own. “I’ve been a reporter my whole professional life, and I should have known by now that facts will not change people’s minds,” Gladstone says. “But I didn’t understand why they didn’t, until I wrote this book.”
At BookExpo, Gladstone will moderate a panel centering on “the tension that can arise between a publisher standing for particular values, and serving as a more neutral enabler of an open marketplace where all views are aired,” according to Suzanne Nossel, executive director at PEN America. Panelists include Zoë Quinn, a video game developer and a central figure in 2014’s Gamergate controversy; Patrisse Cullors, a cofounder of Black Lives Matter; John Podhoretz, a conservative columnist at the New York Post and the editor of Commentary; and Scott Turow, an author and lawyer.
Today, 11:30–noon. Brooke Gladstone will sign The Trouble with Reality at the Workman booth (2807).
Today, 12:30–1:30 p.m. Gladstone will moderate the panel, “PEN America Presents the First Amendment Resistance,” in Room 1E 12/13/14.