by Jason Fagone
Hi. So it’s Sunday morning and I thought I’d take a few minutes to let you know what’s going on with me. The big thing is that the publication of my book, Ingenious, is one month away now. Books start shipping (or escaping electronically) on November 5. I’m excited. I’ve been thinking about the people in the book and trying to write their story for more than three years. Now others will read and respond, I hope, which is fun to think about.
Ingenious in a couple sentences: It’s about inventors and cars. In 2007, a nonprofit foundation announced a $10 million prize to create a 100-mile-per-gallon-equivalent car. This was before the Chevy Volt, before the Nissan Leaf, before the Tesla Model S. You couldn’t go to a dealer and lease a 100-MPG car for $250 a month like you can today. Because $10 million is a lot of money, more than 100 teams set out back then to build the car of the future. Mostly they were people you’ve never heard of — not big automakers but garage hackers, students and teachers, real-estate developers, race mechanics and engineers, coders, startups. I picked four teams and followed them through the competition and for three years after. The book is the story of the amazing things they achieved.
My first reading is on Saturday, October 19 at Philadelphia’s 215 Festival. The festival lineup this year is impressive: Nicholson Baker, Neal Pollack, Amanda Petrusich, Steve Volk. If you’re in Philly on Saturday, please come out. I’m reading with my friend Volk. I’ve seen him read before. He is really good. I’m going to try to keep the formal “reading” part short; instead I’ll try to show some slides, some pictures of cars, and just tell stories from the book. I’ll also talk about how the auto companies lost their way, how they let cars get heavy and bloated and aerodynamically offensive and why this is bad and stupid and what you can do about it.
Another thing: Recently I spoke with Matt Tullis for Gangrey: the Podcast. He mostly asked me about a long story I did for Philadelphia magazine, a story about a breakthrough in cancer research and how it transformed a 58-year-old carpenter named Walter Keller. If you’re into writer interviews, please do check out the Gangrey podcast — a lot of fascinating people have been on.
Thanks for reading. This is a strange way of making a living but it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else and I couldn’t do it without you.