February 25, 2008 — Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Biological Diversity Editor
Writes Critically Acclaimed Novel About Extinction
TUCSON, Ariz.— Center for Biological Diversity staffer Lydia Millet’s new novel How the Dead Dream tells the story of an ambitious young California real estate developer who, in the wake of a personal crisis, becomes obsessed with rare and vanishing animals and starts breaking into zoos at night to be close to them.
The first major American novel to explore the emotional and aesthetic implications of the extinction tragedy, How the Dead Dream has attained immediate acclaim:
"The writing is always flawlessly beautiful, reaching for an experience that precedes language itself." —Salon
"A frightening and gorgeous vision of human decline." —Utne Reader
"How the Dead Dream synthesizes the two styles of Millet's fiction — the harrowing and the madcap — with a new elegance…the outrage in her fiction achieves an unprecedented depth of focus." —San Francisco Chronicle
"How the Dead Dream focuses on the quiet existential crisis that arises from living in a dying world... Yes, there's an argument for environmental protection here, but what more profound is Millet's understanding of the loneliness and alienation in a world being poisoned to death." —Washington Post
How the Dead Dream is Millet’s sixth novel and the first book in a coming trilogy. Her fifth novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, explored the moral and cultural legacy of nuclear weapons by bringing atom bomb physicists Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi to modern Santa Fe. It was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was named in more than 10 Best of 2005 fiction lists in the United States and Canada. Millet won the PEN-USA Award for Fiction for a 2002 novel, My Happy Life.
Deeply engaged in political and social themes, Millet obtained a graduate degree in environmental policy at Duke University, worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York from 1996 through 1998, and joined the Center for Biological Diversity in 1999. Her best-known early book, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, told the comic story of a trailer-park dweller named Rosemary who stalks President George H.W. Bush during the Persian Gulf War.
“I want fiction to involve both characters and readers in a conversation about the idea of life beyond the personal self — the longing, often buried, that people have not to live in a world where everything begins and ends with the individual,” said Millet. T., the conflicted protagonist of How the Dead Dream, struggles by night with ideas of human aloneness and what it might mean to be a “last” animal, meanwhile building sprawling subdivisions by day, grappling with a depressed mother and absent father, and defending himself from attacks by a brutal business partner. When he discovers endangered kangaroo rats have gone extinct because of one of his developments in the California desert, he begins breaking into zoo exhibits at night seeking encounters with other disappearing animals.
Millet lives in Tucson, Arizona, works as the Center for Biological Diversity’s media editor, and is married to Center founder and executive director Kierán Suckling, with whom she has two children.
Contact: Richard Nash, Counterpoint Press, (917) 804-0716
Additional reviews are available at http://www.lydiamillet.net/dream_reviews.html.
Reading Group Guides to help spur discussion in book clubs and classes are available at http://www.softskull.com/files/HtDDguideB.pdf.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.