Heat and Light achieves pure novelistic virtuosity. It's brilliant beginning to end.” – Richard Ford 


“Paragraph by paragraph, the prose is full of marvelous texture and material sensation.  Heat and Light is an intricate and ambitious novel, firmly grounded in history and our time.  The narrator's encyclopedic knowledge and keen insights about the physical world and social life make the novel a thrilling page turner.” – Ha Jin, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting  


Heat and Light is a stunning book, a grand book, a book of old-fashioned power and scale. Within its pitiless and wide-open sights it takes aim at power and greed, plunder and the profit motive, the rapacity inherent in the American Dream and the complicity of its victims. It works on a wide canvas and contains, before the final curtain closes, all the pleasures of the 19th-century social novel, but with a conspicuous lack of easy moralizing. Just as all politics is local, so Haigh knows that all good fiction is personal, with the texture of the specific, and she writes prose with the spine in mind. This is an unsparing book, and one that sings.” – Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

In Conversation: Jennifer Haigh & Richard Price

Wednesday May 11, 2016
07:00 pm

Tags: Event





Heat and Light is a riveting panoramic tale keying in on the lives impacted by Big Energy’s ceaseless feeding frenzy. In the spirit of Don DeLillo’s Underworld and the novels of Dana Spiotta and Rachel Kushner, Jennifer Haigh’s writing gives full measure to the intimate lives within: Houston power brokers, desperate landowners willing to lease the earth under their feet, and mercenary contractors with gargantuan machinery ready to get at the prehistoric shale deposits below. Heat and Light is a greyhound of a novel; smart, sharp, hyper precise, and near incantatory in its momentum.”—Richard Price


From Flint, Michigan's water crisis to the methane gas leak in Southern California, man-made environmental disasters have become commonplace in the news. In Jennifer Haigh's insightful new novel, Heat and Light, the Rust Belt town of Bakerton weighs its future-- do the citizens forsake economic solvency or do they risk environmental repercussions in the future. Haigh was joined in conversation by lauded author Richard Price.  



About Jennifer Haigh's Heat and Light


Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas. To drill or not to drill? Prison guard Rich Devlin leases his mineral rights to finance his dream of farming. He doesn’t count on the truck traffic and nonstop noise, his brother’s skepticism or the paranoia of his wife, Shelby, who insists the water smells strange and is poisoning their frail daughter. Meanwhile his neighbors, organic dairy farmers Mack and Rena, hold out against the drilling—until a passionate environmental activist disrupts their lives.  


Told through a cast of characters whose lives are increasingly bound by the opposing interests that underpin the national debate, Heat and Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring and ambitious, it zooms from drill rig to shareholders’ meeting to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor to the ruined landscape of the “strippins,” haunting reminders of Pennsylvania’s past energy booms. This is a dispatch from a forgotten America—a work of searing moral clarity from one of the finest writers of her generation, a courageous and necessary book.



Jennifer Haigh is the author of the short story collection News From Heaven and four critically acclaimed novels:  Faith, The Condition, Baker Towers and Mrs.Kimble. Her books have won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Massachusetts Book Award and the PEN New England Award in Fiction. Her short stories have been published in the Atlantic, Granta, The Best American Short Stories and many other places. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she studied at the Iowa Writer's Workshop and now lives in Boston.


Richard Price is the author of nine novels—including The Wanderers, Clockers, Freedomland, and Lush Life—all of which have won universal praise for their vividly etched portrayals of urban America. He also wrote several episodes of The Wire, the acclaimed HBO series. The Whites is the first novel he’s written under the pen name Harry Brandt. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, the novelist Lorraine Adams.