New York Times columnist and National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan will read from his new book, Short Nights of the Shadow Dancer: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis tomorrow at 7 pm at the Tacoma Main Library.
Short Nights of the Shadow Dancer tells the story of how Edward Curtis’s epic obsession to photograph the Native American nation before it disappeared led to one of America’s greatest cultural treasures. Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history, and the driven, brilliant man who made them.
Egan has described Curtis as “the Annie Leibovitz of his time” – a dashing, charismatic society photographer who was just 32 years old in 1900 when he gave up success as a commercial shutterbug to pursue his great idea of documenting America’s native tribes.
At once a penetrating biographical portrait and a stirring adventure narrative, the book traces the remarkable story behind Curtis’s iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than 80 tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance – six years alone to convince the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate.
Curtis would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his 20 volumes literally years over deadline and more than $2 million over budget. But the charismatic artist with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise and succeeded in creating one of America’s most stunning cultural achievements. “I want to make them live forever,” Curtis said in the early days of his decades-long mission.
Timothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and the author of six books, most recently The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Washington State Book Award. His previous books include The Worst Hard Time, which won a National Book Award and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice. He is an online op-ed columnist for the New York Times, writing his “Opinionator” feature once a week.
Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event. Information: www.tacomapubliclibrary.org | 243.292.2001