Wednesday, November 30, 2011

American Nations, the audiobook

Just in time for the holidays, American Nations is now available as an audiobook edition from Gildan Media. Walter Dixon narrates.

If you don't see it at your local bookstore -- or, indeed, if your local bookstore ceased to exist -- you can find it at, or you can download it to Kindle, iPhone, iPod, and various other newfangled devices via (This being the 21st century, Audible is a subsidiary of Amazon; there is no escape.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Charleston Post & Courier, Jefferson Public Radio on American Nations

My thanks go out again to PBS News Hour, whose interview with me broadcast on Thanksgiving evening has given enormous attention to American Nations.

This Sunday, the Charleston Post & Courier weighed in on the book, the first review from the birthplace of the Deep South. I came out o.k. "In places, Woodard stretches some to get his supporting details, and it's easy to see bias against a particular culture," the reviewer writes. "But maybe it's not so much a bias as it is anger at the regions that won't come together for the good of the country. Woodard points out that the United States doesn't have a whole lot holding it together besides its central government; if that government ceases to function effectively, he argues, this country might go the way of the Soviet Union."

Last week, I spent an hour with Jefferson Public Radio, which broadcasts across the sprawling territory of the abortive State of Jefferson in far northern California and southern Oregon, a region I argue to be divided between Left Coast and Far West. The interview and call-in is now online.

Friday, November 25, 2011

PBS News Hour interview, Annapolis Capital Thanksgiving message

I was a guest on PBS News Hour last night, talking about American Nations. The segment -- filmed recently at a historic tavern in Alexandria, Virginia -- is now online for those who missed it. My thanks to Margaret Warner and her team for both their interest in the book's thesis and their incredible preparation and engagement with the material.

The segment is, of course, fabulous exposure for the book, especially coming on the heels of the Washington Post's review and being this week's featured author in The Week. It's wonderful to have it catching on right at the opening of both the gift-giving and U.S. presidential campaign seasons.

I also also enjoyed this sweethearted, American Nations-inspired Thanksgiving editorial from The Capital in Annapolis, Maryland. "Thanksgiving is being celebrated today in all of Garreau's nine nations and Woodard's 11 regional cultures," The Capital's editors write. "These feelings aren't different in Woodard's Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, Yankeedom, Deep South or anywhere else under the Stars and Stripes. They aren't limited by politics. And they unite us - even if it's only for one day - with each other."

Finally, a Black Friday reminder for those of you in southern Maine: I'll be joining 25 other authors to meet readers and sign books at the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Holiday Book Sale today, 12-3 at the Portland Public Library. Come if you can.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My PBS News Hour interview, airing tonight

Thanks to my father's media habits, I've been watching the PBS News Hour since grade school, back when it was still called the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and the wonderful Nova Scotian, Robin MacNeil, was co-hosting. I still turn to it as an antidote to the frenetic, sensationalized network and cable news, coupled with the half-hour fix of the BBC carried by my local public television network.

So I'm especially pleased to have been interviewed by the News Hour's Margaret Warner about my new book, American Nations, for a segment that's scheduled to run tonight, Thanksgiving evening. If you live in Maine or New Hampshire, that's at 7pm, though its sometimes broadcast earlier or later in other parts of the country. We filmed the segment at the Gadsby Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia, a structure dating back to 1785, when it served as sort of the Willard Hotel of its age, a gathering place for past and present presidents, Senators, and cabinet officials of the Early Republic.

Please tune in whilst you digest your turkey.

If you're looking for other ways to idle away the holiday, Washington Monthly has just posted my latest American Nations-fueled piece on U.S. politics, this one on Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and Yankeedom and provocatively titled "Can the Dems Flip Utah?" Its one of a series of pieces at their Ten Miles Square blog tapping off my feature in the current issue of the magazine. Have a look, and let me know what you think, particularly if you live in Utah.

And Happy Thanksgiving.

[Update, 1/25/2011: The interview is now online as well.]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Signing books with 25 other authors, Portland, Black Friday

For those of you in Greater Portland preparing your Black Friday shopping plans: consider including the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Holiday Book Fair in your plans.

I'll be joining 25 other Maine authors to meet readers, sign books, and support MWPA and their indie bookstore partners on Friday, Nov. 25 from 12 to 3 at the Portland Public Library.

Also scheduled to attend: Liza Bakewell, Crash Barry, Robert Chute, Susan Conley, Mary Morton Cowan, George Daughan, Paul Doiron, Gerri Eastment, Robin Hansen, Jamie Hogan, Hannah Holmes, Lily King, Jessica Kinney, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Wesley McNair, Maria Padian, Elizabeth Peavey, Richard Roberts, Sandy Seeley Walling, Caitlin Shetterly, Susan Hand Shetterly, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Sarah Thomson, Chris Van Dusen, and James Witherell.

Buy local, support arts & letters, and have some fun.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Week's Author of the Week

The latest update from the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion (which seems to have seized control of this blog in recent weeks):

I received my latest copy of The Week magazine in the mail, and was pleased to find myself featured in the "Author of the Week" space on page 27. (You need to subscribe to the see The Week's material online.) The magazine quotes from two recent interviews in the online versions of Rolling Stone and Miller-McCune magazines. (American Nations was also reviewed by the Washington Post on Sunday.)

Thanks much to the magazine's editors for the kind attention!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Washington Post features American Nations

The Washington Post's review of my new book, American Nations, is on the front of the Outlook section today, with the official two-page "nations" map after the jump. The online version of the review -- by The New Republic's Alec MacGillis -- is up as well.

The inevitable pull quote: "a compelling and informative attempt to make sense of the regional divides in North America in general and this country in particular....Woodard provides a bracing corrective to an accepted national narrative that too often overlooks regional variations..."

I've been delighted with the media attention the book has been receiving, including the Boston Globe, Daily Beast, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arizona Republic, Bloomberg, Rolling, Maine Sunday Telegram, and Raleigh News & Observer. I've also been able to demonstrate the analytical utility of the paradigm in understanding current political developments in a feature and blog posts at Washington Monthly.

For those of you in northern California and southwestern Oregon, I'll be on Jefferson Public Radio tomorrow morning from 9 to 10 am Pacific. (Yes, everyone else, that's as in the "State of Jefferson.")

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street's regional strengths and weaknesses

Interviewers have been asking me what the American Nations paradigm -- that the continent is really divided into eleven "countries," most of them centuries-old -- can tell us about the prospects of the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements.

Analyzing the Tea Party was relatively easy, as they've been engaged in electoral politics from the beginning, creating a wealth of data; my feature in the current issue of the Washington Monthly shows why the movement is doomed to failure in large swaths of the country. The results of last week's off-year elections bolstered the argument.

But the Occupy movement offers much less of a data trail: its newer; it has thus far spurned electoral politics; there's no "OWS caucus" in Congress to track. I've hypothesized that the movement would also face stark regional differences in popularity and leverage but, until today, didn't have any evidence to test the idea.

Today's article at the Washington Monthly's Ten Miles Square blog offers preliminary evidence that OWS is strongest in the very same "nations" where the Tea Party is weakest. But there's a surprise too: OWS appears especially strong in in the Far West, suggesting the (Tea Party-steered) G.O.P. coalition may be vulnerable to fracture. Enjoy the piece, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Talking US politics on WGAN, once again

This morning on WGAN's weekly Eye on Politics segment, former state senator Phil Harriman and I discussed the GOP presidential nominees, the future of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Gov. Paul LePage's proposal to drug test welfare recipients. The segment is now up online for those who want to listen to it in non-real time.

Question of the week: will Ethan Strimling return to this show now that he's no longer running for mayor of Portland? And what's with the sudden flurry of public appearances here in Maine by former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talking American Nations on New Books Network

I was the guest this week on the popular New Books In History Podcast, part of the New Books Network. Its a liberating, long-form format, with over an hour to really talk about the implications of one's book. You can download it at itunes as well.

The host, Marshall Poe, is a former Atlantic staffer who wrote this enjoyable piece in a recent issue of the magazine on his personal odyssey in researching a book on Wikipedia. (He pitched a "big idea" book, but in digging into his subject wound up with -- alas -- a mere book of ideas.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

American Nations in Publishers Weekly, MHQ

This summer, Publishers Weekly named American Nations to its "Top Ten Politics" list for the Fall season but, oddly enough, no review of the book appeared before publication, as is their usual practice.

Today, though, they've rectified that, with a starred review no less. American Nations' "compelling explanations and apt descriptions will fascinate anyone with an interest in politics, regional culture, or history," PW writes. That makes up not only for the late review, but for misspelling my name. (Curse ye, Bob Woodward, for teaching them thus.)

Also, there's an excerpt of the book in the new issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, for which I'm a frequent contributor. "Colin Woodard casts a new light on the rift in American discourse," MHQ notes, "a split often couched in terms of conservative and liberal, of red states versus blue."

Reminder for southern and midcoast Mainers: I'll be giving my American Nations talk at the Yarmouth Historical Society tonight at 7:30.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Talking American Nations in Yarmouth, Maine, Nov. 14

I'll be giving my American Nations talk at the Yarmouth Historical Society this Monday evening, November 14, at 7:30. The event - held at the Town Hall Community Room in downtown Yarmouth, Maine - is open to the public. (Books will be available for purchase/signing thereafter, if you find the thesis compelling.) Come if you can.

Also, Nov. 25, I'll be among the many Maine authors signing books at the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Book Sale at the Portland Public Library. This would be an excellent addition to your Black Friday shopping plans.

I'll be giving my talk again at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, Maine at 10 am on December 15, an event sponsored by the Maine Coast Bookshop.

For more on the book, check out last week's review in The Daily Beast, and yesterday's analysis of the 2011 elections at Washington Monthly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On the 2011 elections, the Tea Party,and the American Nations at Washington Monthly

For those interested in what the American Nations paradigm might have to say in regards to the results of the 2011 off-year election, please have a look at my blog posting on the topic over at Washington Monthly's Ten Miles Square.

In short: results in Maine, Ohio, and Kentucky indicate that the Tea Party is in trouble not just in the sprawling "nation" I call Yankeedom and its allies -- the topic of my feature in the current print issue of the magazine -- but in the Midlands and Greater Appalachia as well. A Deep Southern political agenda -- and that's what the Tea Party and, foolishly, the governors of Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin have partially embraced -- is alienating the mainstream in these other regional cultures, none of which embrace the notion that the society should be organized around the interests of an oligarchy.

For more on this, I welcome you -- nay, beg you -- to read the book.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

LePage, transparency, and public records

Governor Paul LePage has pledged to run the most transparent government in Maine history. But he and his staff sometimes have trouble applying it to themselves, even when a request for information or public records would help the governor.

My piece in the new Portland Phoenix describes some of my recent adventures with the governor's staff in this regard, and their efforts of late to make their actions more difficult to track by reducing or concealing much of the paper trail associated with them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Portland's cruise ship terminal finally complete, but still in the red

Maine's largest city has finally completed its cruise ship terminal at a cost of nearly $30 million. While political leaders were smiling at the ribbon cutting ceremony, I asked if the facility is paying for itself yet. The answer -- in the new issue of Working Waterfront -- is "not yet."

Its certainly a positive development that, with the "megaberth" completed, proper cruise ships are finally able to use the city-owned terminal. As the article notes, its not clear if it should have been built in the first place.

For more background on Ocean Gateway and the Portland waterfront, start here, and continue here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

American Nations in Christian Science Monitor, News & Observer, the Yukon

A few more media "hits" for my new book, American Nations:

The Christian Science Monitor reviewed it yesterday, giving it positive marks, though the reviewer was looking for a slightly different book. On Facebook, some of my friends and I played around with crafting the inevitable pull-quote from the review. The reviewer's punchline was: "a fascinating new take on our history – but not enough insight into our future." I suggested editing it to just "a fascinating new take on our history...", but cleverer colleagues suggested "A fascinating new take on our history... insight into our future" and -- my personal favorite -- "‎fascinating...but not enough." In any case, enjoy the review.

Meanwhile, a columnist at the Raleigh News & Observer has used American Nations to demonstrate some of the ironies of the current immigration debate as it relates to the region I call El Norte. Good stuff.

Finally -- and I know you've all been waiting for it -- here's my interview with CBC Radio in Whitehorse, Yukon. Yes, the Yukon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Daily Beast: American Nations "a true triumph"

The Daily Beast/Newsweek has just published a glowing review of my new book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

"[In] offering us a way to better understand the forces at play in the rumpus room of current American politics, Colin Woodard has scored a true triumph," Beast reviewer Steve Kettmann writes. "The key to the book’s effectiveness is Woodard’s skill—and irreverence—in delving into history with no qualms about being both brisk and contrarian....Yankees come off the worst...and Woodard seems particularly aghast at their eagerness to claim the U.S. narrative as their own."

I particularly enjoyed that last bit, as it's indeed true. Yes -- as some Deep Southern sympathizers have pointed out -- I'm from Yankeedom; but what they don't realize is that I'm also a native Mainer and, thus, raised in a regional subculture that was conquered by -- and has remained skeptical of -- the Puritan project, including the seizure of the historical narrative of both the region and the federation. (For more on all this subregional discord, please see my second book, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and The Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier.)

And I certainly don't mind being lumped in with Jon Stewart, who remains far and away the most forthright and insightful political commentator on U.S. television. (Happy to lend a hand, Jon, anytime you need someone on the show.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

American Nations on WAMC, in Slate

From the Department of American Nations Promotion:

I was a guest this morning on Northeast Public Radio / WAMC's "Roundtable" program, which is broadcast across a great swath of upstate New York, plus western Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont. You can hear this latest American Nations interview online.

Meanwhile, my Washington Monthly feature describing why the Tea Party is doomed to failure over a great swath of the United States has been receiving a bit of attention and commentary, including this plug from Slate, another from Free Flight New Media, and this posting at Daily Kos.

Finally, last week ran this review of the book by the elusive Marty Dodge.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Portland mayoral race: Following the Money

My home city of Portland, Maine is having its first mayoral election in 88 years, the result of a successful ballot referendum and popular disgust with the city council's handling of a proposed development on the Maine State Pier. Fifteen candidates are on the ranked-choice ballot, making it especially difficult for voters to become educated about the would-be mayors.

As regular readers know, I'm a big proponent of following the money in politics, but under current law, mayoral candidates didn't have to file campaign finance disclosures until last Friday evening -- just eleven days before voters go to the polls. (An effort to change this law for future elections has been stalled in Augusta.) Media coverage of the content of those reports has, to date, been focused merely on how much money each candidate raised, rather than from whom these resources came.

My piece in the new Portland Phoenix delves into the leading candidates' donor pools, identifying interest clusters, putting faces to some of the faceless Limited Liability Companies that donated to some candidates, and even ensuring the disclosure of the contributors to a Political Action Committee that thought it wouldn't be revealing such until months after the election. Curious how Ethan Strimling raised such a staggering sum of money? (Hint: Bob Baldacci) Want to know who Jed Rathband's secret admirers are? Curious who backs Nick Mavodones and Michael Brennan? Read on for answers.

One positive development to report: Until recently, my website was the only place you could find electronic copies of Portland campaign finance disclosures. as the city was unwilling or unable to post them itself. That's now changed. Not only is the City Clerk's office posting new returns online within days of them being filed, they've also posted all previous ones back to 2005. (Unfortunately, cities across Maine destroyed older campaign reports on the faulty advice of a mid-level bureaucrat at the Maine State Archives, a story I broke in 2009, which resulted in the the relevant law being changed.) Score another point for transparency.

Finally, if you haven't already, check out the detailed results of the Down East/MPRC poll on the mayoral race. Don't miss the projected round-by-round elimination section in the back. Will be interesting to see how accurate it proves to be.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maine Turnpike Authority defends board...poorly

In the October 2011 Down East, I reported on the effort to reform the Maine Turnpike Authority in the wake of a disgraceful expenses scandal and the exposure of other questionable practices at the quasi-public agency.

Although the article concludes that interim director Peter Mills is putting the agency back on track, the MTA's two long-serving board members -- Lucien Gosselin and longtime board chair Gerard Conley -- didn't take to the suggestion that they might have some degree of responsibility for the state of affairs. The result: their letter to the editor you'll find in the current issue of the magazine, one that's remarkable in its slipperiness. You'll find my withering response there too.

The letter suggests Mr. Mills has his work cut out for him. Even in the midst of a debacle of this scale, some of his bosses on the board remain defensive when one might expect contrition.

A side note for Turnpike watchers: among the board's newer members is none other than former Portland mayor Jim Cloutier, a partner at Mr. Conley's law firm, and a man best known to readers of Down East for his questionable role in the Maine State Pier scandal. Also, since the article and letter were produced, Mr. Gosselin has been replaced by Lewiston pol Robert D. Stone.

For more background on the Turnpike, see this earlier article.