Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Richard Reeves

Richard Reeves's new book is Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It. From his MarketWatch interview with John Coumarianos:

MarketWatch: As an immigrant to the United States, how long did it take you to realize how stratified the classes were here?

Reeves: It was a combination of looking at transitional matrices [tables showing mobility] during the day — the U.S. is pretty sticky at the top — and listening to people talk and operate on the weekends and evening. In the U.K. we do class in plain sight. Here’s it’s more quiet. There’s a kind of collective national self-denial about it.

Q: You write: ‘Far from abandoning marriage, college-educated Americans are busily rehabilitating the institution for the modern age, turning it into a child-rearing machine for a knowledge economy.’ All of that sounds like a pretty unerotic business.

A: America is where the most powerful women in the history of the world are more likely to get and stay married. It might have been hard to imagine that the most educated and economically powerful women would get married at high rates. But there is an acknowledgment that this is the best way, especially for the kids. If it’s not “‘til death do us part,” it’s at least “til the last high-schooler departs.” So there is some empty-nest divorce, but not much. People are getting married later so they have their more romantic experiences...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gian Sardar

Gian Sardar's new novel is You Were Here. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've said that you've "always been fascinated with invisible layers." How did that fascination lead to the creation of You Were Here?

A: I love the idea that we’re inside a living, breathing history. That everywhere and everything we touch is full of a life we just can’t see, and that sometimes we might sense those past stories in ways that don’t seem logical; a strange moment of pause on a street corner where someone took their last breath, an unexpected feeling of happiness in a place where someone said “I do,” or a feeling of loss in a place where someone said a final goodbye.

I’ve always been fascinated by those invisible worlds that came before us, as well as with the stories of the past that create our present, yet another layer.

Everything that came before us forms the platform on which we stand and I love to imagine how far back that might stretch - whether it’s your life, your parents’ lives, or even a life you could have lived before.

In so many ways our histories began long, long ago, and it’s that idea and that fascination that led me to write a book in which one layer is exposed.

In You Were Here, you see the past, and with that you understand the history of objects and places, as well as glimpse the components that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jesse Eisinger

Jesse Eisinger is a senior reporter and editor at ProPublica, and the author of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives. From his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Pulitzer-Prize-winning business reporter Jesse Eisinger, who's a senior reporter and editor with ProPublica and author of the new book "The Chickens Club: Why The Justice Department Fails To Prosecute Executives." And the book tries to answer the question, why were no executives punished with the exception of one after the financial meltdown of 2008?

So when you ask the question, why weren't more individuals prosecuted, you know, after the financial meltdown, I expected the answer to be, well, there was this word that came down, like, protect the banks or, you know - that's not what you found. It's not...


EISINGER: No.

GROSS: Yeah, you found that - I mean the big picture I think is that you found that the Department of Justice lost a lot of prosecutorial tools that it used to have.

EISINGER: Yeah. The Department of Justice suffers a series of fiascos, losses. And they lose tools and there are bad rulings from the courts. And that ends up depriving the prosecutors of tools to prosecute these individuals. And they lose that focus and end up settling on corporations. So yes, it wasn't Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, calling up Eric Holder and saying, lay off the banks. It was a kind of slow evolution.

GROSS: What's an example of a tool that you think could have been used to good effect after the financial meltdown that the Justice Department no longer was able to use?

EISINGER: Well, prosecutors used to be able to say to companies, if you want to claim that you're cooperating with our investigations, then you have to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Anne Sibley O'Brien

Anne Sibley O'Brien's new novel for kids is In the Shadow of the Sun.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: As you noted, you grew up in South Korea. How did that affect the writing of this novel?

A: I can't imagine how I could have managed without that experience. One of the issues of writing across cultures is understanding your own lens as an insider or outsider.

Growing up in Korea I was both, a foreign, high-status American child, while living in the Korean community, absorbing Korean life and language through my young eyes and ears, skin and bones.

It's given me the gift of lifelong relationships with close friends and extended and immediate family who are Korean — including our daughter — and so many connections within the Korean American community. All of this...[read on]
Visit Anne Sibley O'Brien's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Steven Pinker

Stephen Pinker's books include The Better Angels of Our Nature and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. From his Q&A at Undark Magazine:

UD — On Twitter [in 2016], you wrote that “all words have [more than] one meaning” and also that “mature adults resist taking pointless offense.” We wonder about the word “all” here. How do you square that, for example, with unambiguous, sexually or racially derogative words?

SP — Actually, it’s not easy to find words that are unambiguously derogatory; it always depends on the context. The most offensive word in contemporary English is “nigger”(from negro, Spanish for “black”), but it was far less incendiary in the antebellum South. … And today the term is famously used in a teasing or affectionate manner among African Americans, as if to say “We’re so intimate that we can call each other offensive names without taking offense.” “Queer,” “dyke,” and “bitch” have also been appropriated by their original targets, and there is a magazine for hip young Jews called Heeb.

Of course the speaker and tone are everything. In the movie “Rush Hour,” Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong detective who innocently follows the lead of his African-American partner and greets the black patrons of a Los Angeles bar with “Wassup, my nigger!” A small riot breaks out.

Even putting aside these consciously defiant acts of reclaiming, most taboo words have, or had, non-taboo senses. Many racist and misogynistic terms started out as metonyms, in which people were demeaningly referred to by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sarah Creech

Sarah Creech is the author of two novels, Season of the Dragonflies and The Whole Way Home.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to set [The Whole Way Home] in the world of country music, and how did you come up with your character Jo?

A: I chose Nashville for a few reasons: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great musicians like Margo Price, Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, Dale Watson, Jack White (this list goes on and on), and at one point or another in their musical careers, they’ve made Nashville their home.

This musical city full of so much diverse talent captured my imagination and I knew I wanted to explore it. Also, I chose this world because it has such a rich narrative tradition and blends so many different styles that define America, from Appalachian folk songs to African American spirituals, yet the genre itself has been largely overlooked by scholars.

My female protagonist, Jo Lover, was born from deep reading about women’s roles in the history of country music. Her background and her present circumstances are curated from the history I encountered. Her transformation from a world of poverty to a world of fame is a familiar one. (Dolly, Loretta, and Elvis too).

I was drawn to the experience of women in male-dominated fields and what kind of persona a woman must present to navigate those power dynamics.

I’m fascinated too by...[read on]
Visit Sarah Creech's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Whole Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Whole Way Home.

Writers Read: Sarah Creech.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Joshua Green

Joshua Green's new book is Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: Steve Bannon has said with pride that he created the alt-right. And during the Trump campaign, there was a lot of anti-Semitism and racism being unleashed on the Internet, particularly on Twitter. And as you point out in the book, a lot of journalists were getting a lot of anti-Semitic imagery and language directed at them, particularly Jewish journalists. Do you think Steve Bannon is implicated in that at all?

GREEN: Oh, I think he's implicated, yeah. You know, in all the time I spent with him, I never heard Bannon say anything anti-Semitic. And if you talk to people who worked at Breitbart and left who are critical of him, they don't think he is either. You know, I heard Islamophobia and sexism and all sorts of things which I, you know, include - never heard anti-Semitic.

But I think the best answer to the question came in an answer that Bannon gave in a 2014 Vatican conference. A tape of this resurfaced over the last six months or so through BuzzFeed where he's asked about the racism and the anti-Semitism that seems to be a big part of the far-right wing. Bannon's answer was to kind of shrug his shoulders and say, well, I think all of that stuff is just going to wash out in the end. He seemed to think of it as kind of a necessary evil and that if he was going to storm the gates of the establishment fortress, that he really couldn't pick and choose between who his allies were. And so he was happy to align himself with people who had very, very ugly viewpoints. And I think that became, in a worrisome sort of way, part of Trump's appeal to a pretty important bloc of voters who wound up supporting him.

GROSS: Do you see Steve Bannon as a true believer?

GREEN: Absolutely. You know, early on when I first met him, I thought he was a typical Washington grifter who was kind of glomming on to the Tea Party-Palin thing as a way to make money. And it became clear pretty early on that, no, Bannon really believes this stuff to a degree that's almost scary. And he will keep fighting for this idea of an anti-immigrant nationalism come hell or high water.

GROSS: And what about President Trump? What drives him? Do you think he's a true believer?

GREEN:...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rachel Kadish

Rachel Kadish's new novel is The Weight of Ink. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've written that the inspiration for The Weight of Ink came from thinking about a question Virginia Woolf asked about Shakespeare's sister. How did that question end up turning into this novel, and what do you think your book says about the role of women in the 17th century?

A: I often start writing when something bothers me and I don’t know why. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf posed the question: what would have happened to an equally talented female Shakespeare? Woolf’s answer, “she died without writing a word,” haunted me. I thought: what would it take for a woman of that era not to die without writing a word?

Well, for one thing, she couldn't have been obedient. She would have had to be a genius at breaking rules.

I realized I wanted to write a story about what it might take for a woman not to be defeated when everything around her is telling her to sit down and mind her manners.

Q: The book includes both historical and modern-day characters. Did you have a preference when it came to writing the different sections of the book?

A: It was definitely easier writing the...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Simon Toyne

Simon Toyne is the author of The Boy Who Saw: A Solomon Creed Novel.

From his Q&A with Mark Rubenstein at the Huffington Post:

It’s clear that “The Boy Who Saw” explores some dark themes based on some recent political events. Will you tell our readers what those events are and how they relate to the novel?

The central story revolves around a killer who has murdered a tailor and is trying to get the names of other people to kill. Along with the body of this tailor, the police discover a wall in his shop on which is written in blood, ‘Finishing what was begun.’ The ritualistic murder suggests it had something to do with the Nazi death camps. The victim, this tailor, was one of only four survivors from a specific death camp.

As the anniversary celebrating the end of the Second World War looms, someone is trying to complete the murders that began seventy years earlier. The novel is also set amidst the current political shift in both America and Europe—the turning toward hard, nationalistic right wing politics. The nationalists are looking for scapegoats, just as the Jews were scapegoated by Germany in World War II.

The entire story is really about the importance of remembering our history; otherwise, it will repeat itself. While it’s a thriller, with Solomon becoming a suspect who must escape and clear his name, it deals with modern themes and larger concerns set against the backdrop of a survivor’s memoir which ties it into what is happening today.

I like to explore...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Toyne's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: Sanctus.

The Page 69 Test: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Tower.

My Book, The Movie: The Searcher.

Writers Read: Simon Toyne (October 2015).

The Page 69 Test: The Searcher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elliot Ackerman

Elliot Ackerman's new novel is Dark at the Crossing.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Dark at the Crossing and for your character Haris?

A: I had started to travel to southern Turkey in 2013 when I was covering the civil war there, and became friendly with a number of people who were activists in the revolution.

I was interested in the idea of how you tell the story of the revolution. It can seem impenetrable when you get into the different fighting groups. The more I’d spend time with the revolutionaries, they’d say, “I fell in love with the revolution, the idea that we could reimagine the country, and when it failed, I found myself heartbroken.”

I thought maybe I could tell a story that follows that emotional arc. What is the emotional equivalent of going through a failed revolution? A failed marriage. When it doesn’t work out and you’re left with the emotional wreckage.

To the characters in the book—I wanted to tell a story. I had the idea of a guy, Haris Abadi, a man of two identities. The spelling of his name was intentional. It’s a Western-sounding name with the Arab spelling. It’s a good framework to tell the story.

Since the book came out, I’ve been asked why I have protagonists who aren’t...[read on]
Visit Elliot Ackerman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Green on Blue.

My Book, The Movie: Dark at the Crossing.

The Page 69 Test: Dark at the Crossing.

Writers Read: Elliot Ackerman.

--Marshal Zeringue