PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Bestselling author and Brown University alumnus Tony Horwitz will speak at a reception celebrating the publication of his new book, A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. The reception kicks off Monday, April 28, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. at the John Carter Brown Library, at the corner of George and Brown Streets. It is free and open to the public.
Horwitz, the author of Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic and Baghdad Without a Map, is also a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker.
A Voyage Long and Strange details America's often-overlooked early history — from the Vikings in the 10th century to English settlers in Virginia in the early 1600s — and its impact on the present.
Horowitz, who studied history at Brown, said the book was inspired by a trip to Plymouth Rock. That's when Horwitz suddenly realized how little he knew about the span of American history before the Pilgrims.
Rather than simply retell the past, Horwitz traveled for two years in search of traces of early America in the modern world.
"I'm a journalist by training and as interested in the present as in the past," Horwitz said. "I like to go to the places where history happened to see what's there now, and what legacy and memory there is of these long-ago events."
Of the explorers Horwitz discusses in the book, Columbus "was obviously the most significant, because he began the process of bringing the New World into contact with the Old," he said. "Another who left a strong mark on what's now the U.S. was Hernando de Soto, whose rampage across the South from 1539 to 1542 was more destructive to the region and its people than Hurricane Katrina and Sherman's March combined."
Horwitz, who graduated from Brown in January 1981, was invited to return as a visiting scholar at the John Carter Brown Library. In the fall of 2007, Horwitz completed research for his book at the library, where he had access to maps and illustrations.
More than 20 items from the library's collection are reproduced in A Voyage Long and Strange, anchoring the reader in America's earliest days as the text meanders through what has become of Zuni Pueblo and the Vikings' Vinland and Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth.
"Tony took the cover image of his book from one of our books," noted Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library. For those keeping track, it's Olaus Magnus, Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus: Rome, 1555.