Book Launch | Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet
NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute invite you to the launch event for Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet, featuring the author Will Hunt in conversation with Ted Conover.
When Will Hunt was sixteen years old, he discovered an abandoned tunnel that ran beneath his house in Providence, Rhode Island. His first tunnel trips inspired a lifelong fascination with exploring underground worlds, from the derelict subway stations and sewers of New York City to sacred caves, catacombs, tombs, bunkers, and ancient underground cities in more than twenty countries around the world. Underground is both a personal exploration of Hunt’s obsession and a panoramic study of how we are all connected to the underground, how caves and other dark hollows have frightened and enchanted us through the ages.
In a narrative spanning continents and epochs, Hunt follows a cast of subterraneaphiles who have dedicated themselves to investigating underground worlds. He tracks the origins of life with a team of NASA microbiologists a mile beneath the Black Hills, camps out for three days with urban explorers in the catacombs and sewers of Paris, descends with an Aboriginal family into a 35,000-year-old mine in the Australian outback, and glimpses a sacred sculpture molded by Paleolithic artists in the depths of a cave in the Pyrenees.
Each adventure is woven with findings in mythology and anthropology, natural history and neuroscience, literature and philosophy. In elegant and graceful prose, Hunt cures us of our “surface chauvinism,” opening our eyes to the planet’s hidden dimension. He reveals how the subterranean landscape gave shape to our most basic beliefs and guided how we think about ourselves as humans. At bottom, Underground is a meditation on the allure of darkness, the power of mystery, and our eternal desire to connect with what we cannot see.
Will Hunt is a writer and visiting scholar at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge. His writing, photography, and audio storytelling have appeared in The Economist, The Paris Review, Discover, Audible Originals, and Outside, among other places. He has received grants and fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the MacDowell Colony. Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet is his first book.
Ted Conover is the Director of NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is the author of six books, most recently Immersion: A Writer’s Guide to Going Deep. His best-known work is Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, an account of his ten months spent working as a corrections officer at New York’s Sing Sing Prison. Newjack won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001 and was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Amherst and of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He contributes to publications including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, T Magazine, National Geographic, and others.