This interview was originally broadcast on Fresh Air on March 26, 2012. When God Talks Back was released in paperback on Nov. 13.
While attending services and small group meetings at The Vineyard, an evangelical church with 600 branches across the country, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann noticed that several members of the congregation said God had repeatedly spoken to them and that they had heard what God wanted them to do.
When Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg were working on the film Lincoln, they had many conversations with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is about Lincoln's relationship with his cabinet. Both her book and the film showcase Lincoln's remarkable political skills.
It seems that every time you turn around, you find another anniversary of some big cultural or historical event. I'm weary of the media's habit of playing all these things up, so I'm abashed to admit I'm about to do just that.
But you see, in the same three-day period I recently saw the new James Bond picture, Skyfall, and Crossfire Hurricane, a new HBO documentary about The Rolling Stones. And because the Bond movies and the Stones both turn 50 this year, I began thinking about how they might fit together.
Tony Kushner based his screenplay for Lincoln in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of the president, Team of Rivals — but he read many other histories and biographies, in addition to Lincoln's own writings.
Credit Joan Marcus-Hires / DreamWorks Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox
Kushner is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America. He also co-wrote the 2005 film Munich.
Tony Kushner spent years writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's film Lincoln, but that wasn't the only heavy lifting he had to do. It also took some effort to overcome Daniel Day-Lewis' reluctance to play the title role.
"I wanted to write to him and say, 'Daniel, apart from the fact that you're like one of the greatest actors ever, look in the mirror. God is trying to tell you something — you look like Abraham Lincoln!" Kushner tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.
In 2009, Susannah Cahalan was a healthy 24-year-old reporter for the New York Post, when she began to experience numbness, paranoia, sensitivity to light and erratic behavior. Grasping for an answer, Cahalan asked herself as it was happening, "Am I just bad at my job — is that why? Is the pressure of it getting to me? Is it a new relationship?"
But Cahalan only got worse — she began to experience seizures, hallucinations, increasingly psychotic behavior and even catatonia. Her symptoms frightened family members and baffled a series of doctors.