As you might have noticed if you’re part of my Twitter, Facebook, or G+ life (which would be impressive, considering I don’t have a G+ life), I’m no longer a full-time freelancer.
In June, I joined the staff at DealBook, the financial news service within The New York Times. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of fun projects – everything from Wall Street interns to MMA-fighter CEOs to sonnets about donuts. As I cover Wall Street culture, I’ll continue to work on my second book, CRASH BABIES, about the lives and times of young Wall Street bankers and traders.
I’ll be updating this space periodically with big articles or other news, but for more regular updates, read DealBook regularly or just keep tabs on my author page. (But really, you should do the Twitter thing. I’m marginally more fun over there.)
In March, ESPN The Magazine sent me to The Four’s, one of the biggest and most famous sports bars in Boston, where I was assigned to spend several days doing all the things a regular employee does – cooking wings, washing dishes, serving Bud Light to Bruins fans. The goal was to see how a big-time sports bar operates, and what kinds of hidden secrets I could pick up during a four-day immersion.
Between St. Patrick’s Day, the Hockey East tournament, and a Celtics game, it was one of the craziest weeks at The Four’s all year, and one of the wildest experiences of my life. Thanks to Peter Colton and the rest of his staff for letting me invade their place for a long weekend, and to Mark Peterson for taking the only-slightly-mortifying photographs of me working the late shift.
Dalio is such a fascinating character, and hisapproach to radical transparency reminded me of this legendary piece by my friend A.J. Jacobs about another guy, Brad Blanton, whose obsession with truth-telling has made him a lightning rod. I want to be in the room when these two meet.
Last spring, I was speaking at my friend Mark Hurst’s great GEL conference about The Unlikely Disciple. I thought it was a cool opportunity to tell my story to an audience of media/tech-centric New Yorkers who wouldn’t know much about Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, or the evangelical world in general.
So at the post-conference reception, I was surprised when another attendee came up to me, told me that he knew the world of evangelical Christianity intimately since he had grown up in Colorado Springs (which, as you probably know, is sort of to churches what Manhattan is to cupcakes), and introduced himself as Marcus.
Son of Ted Haggard, the pastor who was booted from his 14,000-member megachurch in 2006 for engaging in sexual acts and drug use with a male escort.
So after I recovered from THAT, we got to talking, and it turned out that Marcus had an amazing story. His dad, he said, had very nearly written a story about going undercover at a Christian college – in his case, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa – before converting and becoming a pastor. In essence, Marcus said, we’d had the same idea, 35 years apart.
Even though I’ve been writing mostly about Wall Street lately and have a book to finish, I decided I couldn’t let a story like this pass me by. So I called Ted, who agreed to let me come out to Colorado Springs and interview him about what’s happened to him since the scandal.
The result was the most challenging and fascinating (and judging from the e-mails I’ve gotten, the most controversial) assignment I’ve ever been handed. And, I’ll confess, it made me miss writing about religion.
Just a quick update: after more than a year of waiting, The Unlikely Disciple is now out in paperback and audiobook!
Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both selling paperback copies for $10 and change (click here to order a copy), and the audiobook is available on both iTunes and Audible.com.
But here’s the really big news.
If you’re a regular visitor to this site, you probably noticed a big blue button up on the right. It’s there because I’m running a new social campaign based on my experience at Liberty University. I’m biased, but I think it’s really exciting.
It’s called The Jonah Project, and its goal is to give pairs of people from opposite sides of the political and religious spectrum a chance to have civil, non-violent conversations about faith, politics, and the culture wars. (The name comes from one of my favorite Bible stories, one in which God and Jonah argue about the fate of a city called Ninevah.)
I’m giving away 500 books as part of the Jonah Project’s initial push, and here’s how the giveaway works.
You can receive two copies of The Unlikely Discipleabsolutely free, no questions asked. BUT, you have to be willing to:
Give the other copy to a friend, relative, co-worker, classmate, or acquaintance who disagrees with you about politics, religion, or both.
Talk about the book (or any related issues, really) with your partner, making sure to keep things civil.
Post a recap of your conversation (in text or video form) on the Jonah Project blog.
My hope is to create 250 of the world’s strangest two-person book clubs, and to show that talking with people who disagree with you completely (as I did every day at Liberty) can be fun and beneficial to both people involved.
I wrote an introductory post on the Jonah Project site, which explains a bit more about the project and how to participate.
There’s an FAQ page if you’re interested in participating but still a bit confused.
Once you’re sold, you and your partner can sign up here to get your free books.
My friend/mentor A.J. Jacobs was nice enough to plug the Jonah Project on BoingBoing.
And here’s a video of my talk at this year’s GEL (Good Experience Live) conference, where I introduced the Jonah Project and the motives that led me to start it – relevant info begins at around 11:00.
Despite my extreme blogging torpor of late, it’s been a busy few months here at Roose HQ. Since graduating from college in December and moving to Brooklyn in January, a lot has happened to me:
I went back to Liberty U. to watch two of my friends – both from Dorm 22 – get married. (Not to each other, mind you.)
I continued to speak to colleges, churches, and book groups (still booking dates for 2010!) about my experience at Liberty. Most recently, I visited Bristol, Tennessee, home of King College, where I had a great time doing my spiel as part of the Buechner Institute lecture series.
I narrated the audio version of The Unlikely Disciple, which will be released along with the paperback version in June of this year (not January 2011, as I’d originally reported). Check back here in a few weeks for details about the paperback launch.
And, with apologies for burying the lede…
I’M WRITING ANOTHER BOOK! The ink on the deal has barely dried, but I’m really excited about the topic, the chance to work with the wonderful folks at Grand Central again, and the opportunity to dive into one more insular, politically powerful subculture my parents can’t stand.
Anyway, I’ll leave the description to Publishers Lunch:
THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE author Kevin Roose’s CRASH BABIES, an embedded narrative that will follow several first- and second-year Wall Street financiers, examining their hopes, dreams, and schemes, and sketching a nuanced, human portrait of young Wall Street culture in the post-collapse era, to Ben Greenberg at Grand Central, by Kate Lee at ICM (NA).
If you’re surprised that I’m writing about young financiers, well, that makes two of us. Finance is a relatively recent obsession of mine, but I think (and I hope you’ll agree) that it’s high time for an in-depth exploration of young Wall Street culture in the post-collapse era – when being a twenty-something investment banker isn’texactlyfashionable.
I’ll save the rest of my elevator pitch for a later post, but suffice it to say that I’m really excited to dive into this project.
It took Noah a hundred years to build a wooden ark, so I don’t feel too bad about letting life – schoolwork, work-work, and not-work – take me away from this blog for a few months. But I do want to get back to tending this space regularly after I finish my final exams and officially graduate from college. (Six more weeks!)
Until then, a few noteworthy nuggets:
Thanks to all who have written, commented, and tweeted about The Unlikely Disciple in the past few months. The book is still moving around in hardcover – garnering the oddnewshit from time to time – and has gone into three more printings since the summer. So that’s good! I just got word from Grand Central that the paperback version (and the audiobook!) will be appearing in January 2011 – I’d tell you to mark your 2011 calendar, but I don’t think they’re selling those yet.
I’ve gotten a few e-mails asking about my Liberty friends, and what they’re up to these days. I can happily report that although 2009 hasn’t been thebestyear for Liberty’s public image, my friends from LU – or at least the ones I keep in touch with regularly – are doing quite well. I’ll be back in Lynchburg this winter for a couple of my hallmates’ weddings (got to love those ring-by-spring Christians) and I’ll report back with news from campus.
Speaking of friends, Year of Living Biblically author (and my former boss) A.J. Jacobs has a great new book out. It’s called The Guinea Pig Diaries, and it’s a collection of his funniest, most radical lifestyle experiments – everything from outsourcing his entire life to India to spending a month living like George Washington (complete with tricorner hat). Check it out at A.J.’s site, or read some (less overtly biased) reviews on Amazon.
The September issue of Christianity Today had a long article about Liberty, its massive growth, and the new directions it’s taking under the leadership of Jerry Falwell Jr. It’s an interesting (if relatively uncritical) look at what’s been going on in Lynchburg since I left LU, and sheds some light on the fascinating, often contradictory forces at work behind the scenes. For example, the article makes a big deal out of the growing ideological diversity on Liberty’s campus – the fact that it’s no longer just an enclave for Baptists and homeschoolers. The writer even quotes a Nepali student, Priti Sitoula, who says (surprisingly, if you ask me) that her Hinduism “has never been a conflict” in her Liberty classes or her social life. But a few paragraphs later, when talking about changes in Liberty’s admissions process, Jerry Falwell Jr. is quoted saying that he wants to be “a little more selective in the type of kids who are compatible with our mission spiritually.” Which makes me wonder: would a new emphasis on spiritual mission mean that non-Christian students like Priti would no longer be welcome at Liberty? Is Chancellor Falwell actually making an attempt to accommodate students of all faiths? Or is Liberty trying to narrow its focus to conservative evangelicals? It seems like an important question, and it’s one I hope somebody will address soon.
On a lighter note, thanks to the blog reader who forwarded me a link to Liberty Counsel (LU’s legal arm) and their new “Adopt a Liberal” program. (Tagline: “Have you prayed for a liberal today?”)
Also, just as a reminder: if you like your updates from me frequent and short (or just short), feel free to connect on Twitter or Facebook, where I’m (slightly) less negligent.
Tonight’s New England Cable News broadcast featured a great segment on my Liberty journey and its aftermath. It’s embedded below, or click here.
Of note in the segment: my mediocre Frisbee skills (which NECN kindly edited to remove the worst flubs), the slightly stilted but nevertheless funny cameos by my friends Jason and Jenny, and my chat with Beth Shelburne, the anchor who produced the piece, and who is a lovely interviewer and a consummate professional. Big ups to everyone involved.
Following a few weeks of relative media quiet, I was lucky enough (blessed, even) to be asked to talk about The Unlikely Disciple on NPR’s “All Things Considered” last week.
The highlight of my trip to NPR’s New York bureau was writing my name in the official NPR guestbook. I scribbled my signature, looked at the line above mine, and saw “T. Morrison” in large, loopy letters.
“Is that…?” I asked the receptionist.
“Toni Morrison?” he said. “Yeah. She was in the studio right before you.”
Luckily, I came down from lit-geek euphoria (and the anxiety of having to follow a Nobel laureate) in time to have a relatively smooth interview with charming Weekend ATC host Jacki Lyden, which you can listen to here.
A few other book-related items of note:
Jon Acuff, founder of the hugely popular Stuff Christians Like blog, is giving away five copies of The Unlikely Disciple on his site. The giveaway ends TOMORROW, so enter now! If you’ve never been to SCL before, go to the full roundup and poke around – there’s some hilarious stuff. (i.e. #90: “The Tankini”)
A great review came in this week from The Christian Manifesto, a well-written Christian culture blog. Check it out here.
Not much of substance has happened on the Liberty College Democrats front, it seems – the Dems are still revising their group’s constitution to meet some (or all) of the requirements set forth in last week’s meetings, and Chancellor Falwell is still demanding a public apology for certain statements made by members of the club. A sad situation all around.
Nathan Schneider, a Brown grad and writer who blogs at The Row Boat (among other places), has written an extremely good review-essay on my book. His piece, titled “Undercover at Falwell’s Liberty University, Finding Common Ground,” seeks to explain why, after so many years of galvanized culture warring, the American public seems to be taking a conciliatory turn and seeking to build bridges rather than tear them down. The whole thing is available at Religion Dispatches, and here’s an excerpt:
Throughout Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and into his administration, he has tried to work his words around the culture wars. He speaks of “abortion reduction” rather than “choice” or “life.” A supposedly new-and-improved faith-based initiatives office stands at the center of the domestic agenda. We press on in Afghanistan and Iraq, even as the president heads to Muslim countries in search of dialogue. Meanwhile, Newsweek has proclaimed “The End of Christian America”; with the Bush administration gone and churchgoing on the decline, perhaps the great, religion-infused culture wars of recent decades are over.
…We no longer need (since we are all “we” now) to muckrake and expose the other. Now, the necessary work is understanding, compromise, and shared humanity.
I'm a Brooklyn resident, a freelance journalist (but I'm repeating myself), and the author of "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University," which is available on Amazon.com , BN.com , and Borders.com , or at your local bookseller.