Eli Saslow is a friend, a Pulitzer-Prize winner at the Washington Post, and the author of the book, Rising Out of Hatred. For the latest episode of the podcast, he and I talk about the piece that "just rolled me," he says.
For "Into The Lonely Quiet," Eli spent time with the Barden family six months after their 7-year-old son, Daniel, was killed in the Newtown massacre. The point of the piece wasn't to relive the horror of that shooting but to feel everything that followed it, when the country's attention turned away from Newtown, as the Bardens flailed at each other and other residents and any politician who said the right thing but did nothing. (Which was almost all of them.) Brilliant, restrained, the story was also the most difficult Eli's ever done. Talking with him about it moved me because of the hard truths he learned: about reporting the moments that are beyond intimate, about honoring someone's pain, about the human condition.
We recorded the episode before the latest mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Eli doesn't preach solutions in his storytelling and so I won't today either. I ask only that you live beside the Bardens for 50 minutes because you'll come to understand them and maybe yourself a little better.
What Inspires Eli
Eli reads a lot more fiction than non-fiction. He reads so much in fact that selecting his favorite books is tough; he begged out of naming names in the episode. But he and I have loved and talked in the past about Rachel Cusk's Outline (which gets a second plug in as many weeks from me) and Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, which he called"epic and imaginative."
When he does read non-fiction, Eli gravitates to other narrative non-fiction writers. We both adored David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon. It's so good that even on my own book tour, I kept telling audiences about it. Another master non-fiction author is Eli's editor at the Washington Post, David Finkel. Thank You For Your Service is a book we discussed on the podcast, a daunting feat of reporting and our favorite book on the war in Iraq.
It was made into a movie a few years ago.