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"Station Eleven" Author Ponders Life With Art, Without Tech

Twenty years after a flu pandemic wiped out most humans and the technology they relied on, a troupe of actors and musicians travels the Midwest, presenting the works of Shakespeare. One character searches for meaning in old comic books. Another turns a dormant airport into an ersatz museum, replete with dead smartphones and computers. And another leads a mysterious religious cult that may threaten the acting troupe and its work.

This year, the University of Tennessee selected author Emily St. John Mandel’s book Station Eleven as the Life of the Mind reading project for incoming freshmen. In this conversation with WUOT's Brandon Hollingsworth, Mandel says making Shakespeare’s work a linchpin of her narrative was a natural choice. In the book's earliest stages, her husband made a key suggestion.

"He said, people [post-apocalypse] would want what's best of the world," Mandel says. "And that's obviously an entirely subjective definition, but for me personally, one of the best things about the world would be the works of Shakespeare."

Mandel discusses her book, what society might value after a cataclysm and the role of the arts in a college education.