Sunday, December 16, 2018

John Kaag

John Kaag is the author of Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are.

From his Q&A with Skye Cleary at the blog of The American Philosophical Association:

What excites you about philosophy?

The chance to teach students with virtually no philosophical training to be just a bit more reflective, to think and live in meaningful ways, to give an account of their lives that can comfort and compel them in times of crisis. Yes, I know—it is incredibly idealistic, but isn’t maintaining this idealism one of the perks of the job? I think so. This isn’t just Pollyanna optimism. One of the tricks of grappling with existential questions—the questions that the sciences will never be able to answer—is realizing how inadequate most conventional solutions are. The first step of being a young philosopher is often being disaffected, depressed, cynical, nihilistic—I think that one of the jobs that we have, a job that I will never tire of, is letting students explore this risk against the backdrop of genuine care.

What excites me about the discipline of philosophy right now is the resurgent sense that philosophy can matter in the public sphere. It can still effect change in politics and society at large, at a time when thinking and reading is quickly becoming a subversive act. My friend Clancy Martin said, and I think this is right, that there have been times in the history of philosophy when philosophers have had to stake a great deal on their thoughts. And I think we are...[read on]
Visit John Kaag's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Paula Brackston

Paula Brackston's latest novel is The Little Shop of Found Things.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Little Shop of Found Things, and is this the start of a new series?

A: I have always loved delving around in antique shops or attending auctions. Sometimes you can get a really strong sense of the history of an object just from holding it. I can’t help being curious about its story.

I heard about the gift of psychometry a while back and thought it would make a perfect way for a character to explore those stories. Psychometry allows a person to detect hidden information about an object when they touch it.

Yes, this is Book I in what is planned as a continuing series, so the story and the characters will go on in the next book.

Q: What kind of research did you need to do to write the novel? Did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: I decided I really had to spend some time exploring Marlborough and the county of Wiltshire. This meant I was compelled to...[read on]
Visit Paula Brackston's website.

Writers Read: Paula Brackston (February 2013).

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Paula Brackston & Bluebell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 14, 2018

Kai-Fu Lee

Kai-Fu Lee is the chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, a leading technology-savvy investment firm focusing on developing the next generation of Chinese high-tech companies. Before founding Sinovation in 2009, Lee was the President of Google China. His new book is AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.

From the transcript of Lee's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Everybody believes that the next great technology of the future in a sense (inaudible) technology is artificial intelligence.

LEE: Yes.

ZAKARIA: And you argue that China is probably going to be ahead in this -- in this absolutely critical front. Why?

LEE: Well, in the implementation -- I think the U.S. has been and is and will be ahead in the research. But A.I. is actually a set of algorithms that take a large amount of data and then make very smart decisions about a single domain, such as speech recognition or ad targeting or things -- or giving out a loan, determining to give or not to give.

And the Chinese entrepreneurial approach is just stronger at very quickly iterating and developing such algorithms and trying every which way to find ways to make money and satisfy users.

And also, the other huge advantage is A.I. is hungry for data. So the more data you have, the more accurate the A.I. becomes. So in the age of A.I., data is the new oil and China is the new Saudi Arabia, so...

ZAKARIA: Just to explain, if data is the new oil, Chine has four times as many people as the United States, right? And so it's going to have a lot of data?

LEE: Even more than that because, now, if you think about Chinese users are using mobile payment, mobile bicycle sharing, mobile delivery of food, they use their phones more; more data gets captured, so it's four times as many people times maybe two or three times more data. So it's actually more like a 10-time advantage...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kitty Zeldis

Kitty Zeldis is the pseudonym for a novelist and non-fiction writer of books for adults and children. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY.

Her new novel is Not Our Kind.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that your time as a Vassar student in the 1970s was the inspiration for Not Our Kind. How did your own experiences shape the characters you created, and why did you choose to set the novel in post-World War II New York?

A: I loved being a student at Vassar and feel very fortunate that I was able to attend the college. But it was also my first encounter with WASP culture on such a large scale and it both intimidated and fascinated me.

And as much as I loved Vassar, I distinctly felt that the historically, the institution would have been one that excluded me—I was the "not our kind" of the book’s title.

I chose post-World War II New York as the setting for the book because I felt that the issues it raised were even more sharply delineated then. The word “restricted” (which was the working title of the novel for quite a while) was a word used...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: Not Our Kind.

Writers Read: Kitty Zeldis.

Coffee with a Canine: Kitty Zeldis & Dottie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Fifth Risk.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: President Trump, the head of the federal government, scoffed at the [climate change report of November 2018], telling The Washington Post, "A lot of people like myself -- we have very high levels of intelligence, but we're not necessarily such believers."

Such a response does not surprise my next guest, the bestselling author Michael Lewis, who spent more than two years reporting on first the Trump transition, then the Trump administration. "The Fifth Risk" outlines the potentially catastrophic consequences when the federal government is led by people who don't believe or care for what it actually does."

Michael, you begin the story with the transition itself, the Trump transition team. Tell that story.

LEWIS: Right. So -- so Trump, by law, was strongly encouraged to prepare to be president before the election, as was Hillary Clinton. They built this transition team basically over Trump's objections. Chris Christie does it for him.

Trump is basically saying to Christie all along, "Don't spend any money on it." And I think it's because he thought he wasn't going to win. He wins, and he has in place, thanks to Chris Christie, what is, by independent observers' judgment, actually a fairly competent transition, hundreds of people who are ready to go into the federal government and receive the government from the Obama administration.

Trump fires this entire operation right after the election. So he has nobody. The -- the kind of briefings that go on, where you learn the basic functioning of the government, like -- this isn't an ideological question. It's, sort of, like you go into the Center for Disease Control and you learn how they manage the Zika virus.

ZAKARIA: You have a -- you have an interview with the deputy, I think, director at the Department of Energy who says, "The election happened and then we just sat around waiting and we heard nothing from the Trump administration."

LEWIS: So, from the other side of things, the Obama administration had prepared what amounted to the best course ever prepared on how the federal government works because they had been encouraged to do such a thing. And so places like the Energy Department, which is the department of nuclear weapons. I mean, it's where the nuclear weapons are tested, are managed, where loose nuclear material is cleaned up. I mean, it's like -- it's a mission-critical kind of thing, expected the next day that dozens of people would come in to start to learn about what they were managing.

And they, you know, the sort of thing like they had set aside the parking spots and the conference rooms and they wait and wait and wait and no one shows up the next day or the next week or the next month.

I mean, it was -- so my interest in this was, like, what don't they know that they need to know? And I wandered around the government and I got...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jaclyn Gilbert

Jaclyn Gilbert's debut novel is Late Air.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Late Air, and for your characters Murray and Nancy?

A: One afternoon in graduate school, I was running along the Bronx River Parkway past a local golf course when I wondered what would happen if a stray golf ball hit me. All through my time as a runner at Yale I had trained for cross country on a golf course, and suddenly the threat of this accident seemed terrifyingly plausible.

I spent the next five years researching this hypothetical accident and writing draft after draft to refract its ghosts as fragments and ruptures through the point-of-view of Murray, a running coach obsessed with training his star athletes as a means of escape from a deep trauma from his past.

Developing the question of Murray’s past gave birth to his wife Nancy, someone who appeared so unlike him on the surface, but inside she was just as hyper focused and perfectionistic in her pursuits.

When I tried to imagine a plausible scenario for their falling in love, my mind circled back to my own experience...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 10, 2018

François-Xavier Fauvelle

François-Xavier Fauvelle, author of The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages, is senior fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Toulouse, France, and one of the world’s leading historians of ancient Africa.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

How did [The Golden Rhinoceros] come about?

This book came about for two reasons. The first is scholarly. As an historian and archaeologist, I have worked in several regions of Africa (the Horn of Africa, South Africa, and countries on both sides of the western Sahara) and have been lucky enough to visit archeological sites in other places. My research has made me understand that despite the profound cultural differences between these different regions there existed a point of convergence: their participation in a global system of exchange during the Middle Ages. This phenomenon had similar and synchronous effects on several African societies, particularly their participation in religious, economic, political and architectural “conversations” with other powers of the time, notably within the Islamic world. The second rationale behind this book is civic. French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech in Dakar in 2007 where he claimed that “the African has not fully entered into history,” made me understand that there was a severe shortage of works on African history that were both serious and accessible. Some Africanist historians took it upon themselves to respond to this scandalous speech. For my part, what I found scandalous was not that this speech could be delivered, but that it was audible in our society, that there was room for it to be heard. For me, the blame lies with scholars rather than politicians. The Golden Rhinoceros attempts to address this by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sarah Selecky

Sarah Selecky's new novel is Radiant Shimmering Light.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You've written about your characters Lilian and Eleven before--how did they change from your original story to this novel?

A: I’ve been writing about these two women for more than 15 years! Why? They’ve been in my imagination for so long, and I’m still unsure why that is. I guess sometimes characters just hang around and haunt you. I thought I was finished with Lilian after that short story — but then I realized there was more I wanted to know about her.

In many ways, Lilian is the same Lilian. Just older and… wiser? Well, more experienced, let’s say! In relationships, she’s still the same well-intentioned, vulnerable, and insecure woman she was in the story. She’s still searching for where she belongs, and she doesn’t know how to find and nurture true connection. That part of her character was the driving force of both the story and the novel.

In the novel, I gave her a magical superpower and got to spend time developing it — she has the ability to see auras, and she’s an artist.

Eleven is a bit different. She was a mysterious presence in the earlier drafts of that short story. Lilian was obsessed with this person, desperately hoping...[read on]
Visit Sarah Selecky's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby is an award-winning journalist and the author of eight novels, four of which feature professional thief Crissa Stone, whom Kirkus Reviews named "Crime fiction's best bad girl ever."

His new novel is Some Die Nameless.

A Long Branch, N.J., native, Stroby is a lifelong resident of the Jersey Shore. His debut novel The Barbed-Wire Kiss, which The Washington Post called "a scorching first novel ...full of attention to character and memory and, even more, to the neighborhoods of New Jersey," was a finalist for the 2004 Barry Award for Best First Novel.

His 2010 novel Gone 'til November was picked as a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, as was the second Crissa Stone novel Kings of Midnight. In 2012, the Crissa Stone novels were optioned by Showtime Networks for development.

A graduate of Rutgers University, Stroby was an editor at the Star-Ledger of Newark, Tony Soprano's hometown newspaper, for 13 years.

From Stroby's Q&A with John Dwaine McKenna for Mysterious Book Report:

Who’s your favorite literary character?

I have a bunch. Of the ones I wish I’d created, foremost would be Will Graham from Thomas Harris’ RED DRAGON, and Ray Hicks from Robert Stone’s DOG SOLDIERS. They’re both multi-dimensional characters in incredibly stressful situations. The same is true of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux – 22 books later, he’s still one of the most compelling characters in American fiction. He’s a guy with more than his share of demons, but who still strives to do the right thing and live an honorable life.

And though she’s not strictly a literary character, I’d include Jane Tennison from TV’s PRIME SUSPECT, created by Lynda LaPlante and unforgettably played by Helen Mirren. A brilliant detective and usually the smartest person in the room, but not...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his novels at the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Share.

Writers Read: Wallace Stroby (August 2018).

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 7, 2018

Hassan Malik

Hassan Malik is the author of Bankers and Bolsheviks: International Finance and the Russian Revolution.

From his Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:
Many scholars, writers and filmmakers have engaged with the period you chose to write about. What in particular attracted you to it?

I was always struck by how frequently financial history surveys focus on a few set stories and episodes – the Dutch Tulipmania of the seventeenth century, the hyperinflation in Weimar Germany, or the 1929 stock market crash – but how rarely they mention Russia, especially given the scale of the Russian borrowing binge in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a banker living and working in Moscow during mid 2000s, I was constantly walking by pre-revolutionary buildings that had once housed banks. These vestiges of a previous Russian boom piqued my interest in the role of finance during the revolutionary period and inspired me to approach the subject through the archives and writings of key individual players in this drama. The Russian case was particularly interesting given that all the major players in global finance were able to participate in Russian markets. Unlike other emerging markets that were dominated by a single country or bank, the Russian story featured a diverse group of actors, and so provided an ideal vantage point from which to write about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue