Timothy Egan, the prize-winning journalist and author, presented the first Cecil D. Andrus Lecture at Boise State University on November 28, 2012. The lecture was free and open to the public in the Jordan Ballroom of the Boise State Student Union Building.
Egan’s talk dealt with the state of American politics in the wake of the 2012 elections, and he discussed his latest book, recently published by Houghton Mifflin, and entitled Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.
“Tim Egan’s ‘Opinionator’ pieces on the Times’ website are required reading for anyone who hopes to understand the state of our politics,” said Andrus Center President Marc C. Johnson. “Tim is consistently among the most thoughtful analysts of the American experience. His appearance in Boise for the Andrus Lecture, coming as it does after a very contentious election and coinciding with the release of his latest book, could not be more timely.”
Egan worked for The New York Times for 18 years as Pacific Northwest correspondent and a national enterprise reporter. His column on American politics and life as seen from the West Coast appears on The Times’ website on Friday. He also often writes for the Op-Ed pages of the print edition. In 2001 Egan was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that wrote the series “How Race Is Lived in America.”
Egan has written seven books, including the National Book Award winning The Worst Hard Time, a history of the Dust Bowl-era in the 1930’s, and The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America,” a fascinating history of the devastating forest fires that swept across northern Idaho in 1910.
Egan’s current book Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher focuses on one of the largest individual anthropological enterprises ever undertaken. When Curtis began his great undertaking in 1896, Native Americans were at their low ebb, with a total population that had dwindled to less than 250,000. Curtis set out to document lifestyle, creation myths and language. He recorded more than 10,000 songs on a primitive wax cylinder and wrote down vocabularies and pronunciation guides for 75 languages. The result was his magnum opus, “The North American Indian,” a 20-volume text-and-image extravaganza, published between 1907 and 1930, that was praised and then forgotten in short order. Curtis died alone, a pauper, in a small Southern California apartment.