Cheap Land Colorado author Ted Conover in conversation with Aspen Journalism

RSVP to Ted Conover Event January 5, 2023

Capacity is limited for the free event with hosted wine and light appetizers, so please RSVP in the below form by Dec. 23.
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About Ted Conover

Aspen Journalism is hosting a public conversation and book signing with author Ted Conover on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Aspen Meadows Campus Albright Pavilion.

Conover’s career in immersive journalism has taken him from a nuanced exploration of local culture for his 1991 title Whiteout: Lost in Aspen to a year-long stint as a prison guard resulting in Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. For his latest critically-acclaimed book released this earlier month, Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge, Conover returned to his home state, living off and on for four years in the San Luis Valley in an effort to better understand the divisions that have increasingly riven the American social and political consciousness.

The conversation at the Albright Pavilion with Aspen Journalism Editor and Executive Director Curtis Wackerle will center on a tale of two counties — Pitkin and Costilla in the San Luis Valley — geographically close but at seemingly opposite ends of the great American divide. 

“I’ve come to see Costilla County as like a photo negative of Pitkin County,” Conover said. “I look forward to discussing my experience in both places, and what can be learned by comparing them to one another.”

Conover, who grew up in Denver, is the author of seven books, as well as a professor or journalism at New York University. Whiteout was the result of two years living in Aspen during which Conover worked as a taxi driver and reporter at The Aspen Times, informing his examination of the town’s mystique and contradictions, exploring how hype lives up to the reality.

“I feel lucky to do what I do,” Conover says on his website bio. “I write about real people, often by living their lives for a while — visiting their lives, you might say. Trying them on for size. Though there are easier ways to make a living, I suppose, none strike me as a fraction so interesting.”

Capacity is limited for the free event with hosted wine and light appetizers, so please RSVP in the above form by Dec. 23.

Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge

From the Pulitzer Prize finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Newjack, a passage through an America lived wild and off the grid, where along with independence and stunning views come fierce winds, neighbors with criminal pasts, and minimal government and medical services.

“In these dispatches, [Conover] invites readers to ride shotgun along an unraveling edge of the American West, where sepia-toned myths about making a fresh start collide with modern modes of alienation, volatility, and exile…. In a nation whose edges have come to define its center, this is essential reading.”—Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century 

In May 2017, Ted Conover went to Colorado to explore firsthand a rural way of life that is about living cheaply, on your own land—and keeping clear of the mainstream. The failed subdivisions of the enormous San Luis Valley make this possible. Five-acre lots on the high prairie can be had for five thousand dollars, sometimes less. 

Conover volunteered for a local group trying to prevent homelessness during the bitter winters. He encountered an unexpected diversity: veterans with PTSD, families homeschooling, addicts young and old, gay people, people of color, lovers of guns and marijuana, people with social anxiety—most of them spurning charity and aiming, and sometimes failing, to be self-sufficient. And more than a few predicting they’ll be the last ones standing when society collapses.

Conover bought his own five acres and immersed himself for parts of four years in the often contentious culture of the far margins. He found many who dislike the government but depend on its subsidies; who love their space but nevertheless find themselves in each other’s business; who are generous but wary of thieves; who endure squalor but appreciate beauty. In their struggles to survive and get along, they tell us about an America riven by difference where the edges speak more and more loudly to the mainstream. 

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