By 1979, we knew all that we know now about the science of climate change—what was happening, why it was happening, and how to stop it. Over the next ten years, we had the very real opportunity to stop it. Obviously, we failed. Nathaniel Rich’s groundbreaking account of that failure—and how tantalizingly close we came to signing binding treaties that would have saved us all before the fossil fuels industry and the Republican Party full committed to anti-scientific denialism—is already a journalistic blockbuster, a full issue of The New York Times Magazine that has earned favorable comparisons to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is the story, perhaps, that can shift the conversation. In Losing Earth, Rich is able to provide more of the context for what did—and didn’t—happen in the 1980s and, more important, is able to carry the story fully into the present day and wrestle with what those past failures mean for us in 2019. It is not just an agonizing revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it’s truly too late.
Nathaniel Rich is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and his essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, and The Daily Beast. He is also the author of three novels—King Zeno, Odds Against Tomorrow, and The Mayor’s Tongue—and a book about film noir, San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and young son.
“King Zeno offers a gritty, panoramic portrait of the Big Easy, from its brothels and concert halls to the mansions of the Garden District . . . Full of sharply rendered characters, gallows humor and finely observed descriptions . . . A remarkable achievement.”
—John Michaud, The Washington Post
New Orleans, a century ago: a city determined to reshape its destiny and, with it, the nation’s. Downtown, a new American music is born. In Storyville, prostitution is outlawed and the police retake the streets with maximum violence. In the Ninth Ward, laborers break ground on a gigantic canal that will split the city, a work of staggering human ingenuity intended to restore New Orleans’s faded mercantile glory. The war is ending and a prosperous new age dawns. But everything is thrown into chaos by a series of murders committed by an ax-wielding maniac with a peculiar taste in music. The ax murders scramble the fates of three people from different corners of town. Detective William Bastrop is an army veteran haunted by an act of wartime cowardice, recklessly bent on redemption. Isadore Zeno is a jazz cornetist with a dangerous side hustle. Beatrice Vizzini is the widow of a crime boss who yearns to take the family business straight. Each nurtures private dreams of worldly glory and eternal life, their ambitions carrying them into dark territories of obsession, paranoia, and madness. In New Orleans, a city built on swamp, nothing stays buried long.
Nathaniel Rich is the author of two novels: Odds Against Tomorrow and The Mayor’s Tongue. He is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and his essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, and The Daily Beast. He is also the author of a book about film noir, San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present. He lives in New Orleans.