Friday, December 15, 2017

Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash's latest novel is The Last Ballad.

From his Q&A with Joel Cunningham at the B&N Reads blog:

Where did The Last Ballad start for you?

I grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, completely unaware of the history of the mill. Firestone purchased the mill not long after the 1929 strike, which was one of the only communist-led strikes in American history. It turned the city upside down, people died, and families were run out of town. But by the time I was born in 1977, Gastonia had completely buried the story of the Loray Mill strike.

It wasn’t until I went to grad school in 2003 that one of my professors learned that I was from Gastonia and mentioned the Loray Mill strike. I researched the name Loray Mill and was shocked to learn that the place I’d always known as the Firestone Plant was the epicenter of one of the most important labor movements in American history. It had all occurred in my hometown, and I had grown up knowing nothing about it. My mother and father were born and raised in mill villages close to Loray in 1945 and 1943 respectively, and they never heard about the Loray Mill or Ella May Wiggins, the woman who would become the face of the strike. This is not surprising, especially because they came of age during the Red Scare, when any mention of communism or anyone with supposed communist ties were reason enough to keep quiet.

I was raised in Gastonia during the Cold War, and many of those restrictions still applied. This is to say that the silence surrounding the history of the strike was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Wiley Cash's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Land More Kind Than Home.

My Book, The Movie: This Dark Road to Mercy.

Writers Read: Wiley Cash.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe's break out acting role was in Precious. Her new book is This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare.

From the transcript of her NPR interview with Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: I want to ask you about this chapter in the book devoted to the acronym MYOB, which doesn't stand for mind your own business but pretty close. Explain what that means to you and why it's so important.

SIDIBE: Yeah, MYOB - mind your own body. It's important because I don't happen to have the kind of body that we usually see on television and in films. I am plus-size. I have dark skin. And I am 100 percent beautiful. But I get a lot of flak - oh, you should lose weight. And now that I have lost weight - and I lost weight for health reasons - I get, you look good but don't lose too much weight because your face is starting to sink in. And it's, like, I don't know you, sir. You have no...

MARTIN: So what do you say?

SIDIBE: I say - I literally - someone said, congratulations on your - I see you lost weight, congratulations. And I say, that's a weird thing to congratulate me on because this is my body. This is - and it's not just the male gaze. It's, like, the human gaze. People do this to me. I mean the gaze not gays.

MARTIN: G-A-Z-E.

SIDIBE: (Laughter) Yeah, G-A-Z-E.

MARTIN: Not the gays.

SIDIBE: Yeah, people staring at me and like this - but also this has been my body since I was 5-ish, you know? It's been a 30-year thing of other people putting their own stuff on my body. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jason Fagone

Jason Fagone's books include Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, the X Prize, and the Race to Revive America and Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream.

His latest book is The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies.

From Fagone's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Elizebeth Smith Friedman and her husband, William Friedman, both of whom worked as codebreakers?

A: They were a duo, a team of equals. That's how they saw themselves from the very beginning, when they started working together in 1916, as young people still in their twenties.

It was a true meeting of minds in that sense -- as individuals, they were both pretty good, but when they sat at the same table with their pencils and pads of graph paper, solving these important puzzles together in the era before computers, they felt like they were suddenly way more powerful.

Not just twice as good but four times as good. That's how they felt about it, because...[read on]
Visit Jason Fagone's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Woman Who Smashed Codes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Steven Savile

Steven Savile's new novel is Glass Town.

From his Q&A with Paul Semel:

To start, what is Glass Town about?

Back in 1924, two brothers were in love with the same woman, Eleanor Raines. Eleanor was a promising young actress from the East End of London with the world at her feet. She disappeared during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s debut, Number 13, which itself is now lost. It was the crime of the age, capturing the imagination of the city: the beautiful actress never seen again, and the gangster who disappeared the same day.
Fast forward to the present day, generations have passed and the world has moved on. Everyone involved is long dead, and yet now this long-buried secret is bubbling back to the surface, and old obsessions threaten to tear the city apart.

Finding a twenty-four-year-old letter from one of the brothers claiming to have seen Eleanor that morning, and no matter that she’d been gone seventy years, she didn’t appear to have aged a day, Joshua Raines finds himself drawn into a place where these old hatreds and obsessions are still all too real. The unsolved case his new obsession, his search for the truth about...[read on]
Visit Steven Savile's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 11, 2017

Matthew J. Salganik

Matthew J. Salganik is the author of Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age.

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

Bit by Bit devotes a lot attention to ethics.  Why?

The book provides many of examples of how researchers can use the capabilities of the digital age to conduct exciting and important research. But, in my experience, researchers who wish to take advantage of these new opportunities will confront difficult ethical decisions. In the digital age, researchers—often in collaboration with companies and governments—have increasing power over the lives of participants. By power, I mean the ability to do things to people without their consent or even awareness. For example, researchers can now observe the behavior of millions of people, and researchers can also enroll millions of people in massive experiments. As the power of researchers is increasing, there has not been an equivalent increase in clarity about how that power should be used. In fact, researchers must decide how to exercise their power based on inconsistent and overlapping rules, laws, and norms. This combination of powerful capabilities and vague guidelines can force even well-meaning researchers to grapple with difficult decisions. In the book, I try to provide principles that can help researchers—whether they are in universities, governments, or companies—balance these issues and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sofia Grant

Called a "writing machine" by the New York Times and a "master storyteller" by the Midwest Book Review, Sofia Grant has written dozens of novels for adults and teens under the name Sophie Littlefield. She has won Anthony and RT Book Awards and been shortlisted for Edgar®, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. Grant/Littlefield works from an urban aerie in Oakland, California.

Grant's latest novel is The Dress in the Window.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Dress in the Window, and why did you set it in the post-World War II period?

A: As a lifelong seamstress and amateur artist, I’m fascinated with fashion illustration and garment construction.

A number of years ago, I stumbled on historic newspaper accounts of the controversy that greeted French designer Christian Dior’s “New Look” in 1947 after the conclusion of World War II. I had no idea that some Americans resisted the lush new styles that came to symbolize an entire era of fashion.

Combined with my interest in the role of women in the workplace during and after the war, I...[read on]
Visit Sofia Grant's website.

Writers Read: Sofia Grant.

The Page 69 Test: The Dress in the Window.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Chris Holm

Chris Holm is the author of the Collector trilogy, which blends crime and fantasy, and the Michael Hendricks thrillers. His first Hendricks novel, The Killing Kind, was nominated for an Anthony, a Barry, a Lefty, and a Macavity Award and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015, and Strand Magazine’s #1 Book of 2015.

Holm's latest novel is Red Right Hand, the second Hendricks novel.

From his 2016 Q&A with Steph Post:

Steph Post: I was initially drawn to your book by its striking cover and its title, which I hoped was a reference to Nick Cave’s song “Red Right Hand.” I was, of course, thrilled to see that you included an excerpt from the song in the epigraph for the novel. Did Cave’s song, or its imagery or themes, in any way influence or guide you as you began to write Red Right Hand?

Chris Holm: Very much so. In The Killing Kind, I introduced the Council, which is essentially a criminal UN comprising representatives from every major organized crime outfit in the country, and the Council’s right-hand man. In Red Right Hand, that man—whose name is Sal Lombino (the birth name of the late, great Ed McBain)—and his machinations on the Council’s behalf take center stage. I envisioned him as a chaos agent, an emissary of evil, the prime mover of a vast criminal conspiracy. Or, as Cave puts it:

You’re one microscopic cog
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
His red right hand

The phrase “red right hand” didn’t originate with Cave, though. He borrowed it from...[read on]
Visit Chris Holm's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Killing Kind.

The Page 69 Test: Red Right Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes's latest book is Hymn: The Final Volume of the Psalms of Isaak.

From his Q&A with Martin Cahill at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog:

You’ve been very open about the losses that occurred over the course of your work on The Psalms of Isaak, and it’s not hard to see you working through that in this series. What did it mean to keep writing through everything that happened?

I wrote four of these five books through the hardest circumstances of my adult life: between burying my parents and one of my ex-wife’s parents, along with a grandparent, a nephew, a couple of aunts and a best friend, and ultimately, a marriage. I was already fairly familiar with grief and loss, but my experience with them grew exponentially. The part I wasn’t familiar with was the impact the grief and loss would take on my writing process. I didn’t realize there were things that could simply shut down my writing, and that I did not really have control over it. After a long stretch of years where I could pretty much write whenever I wanted to, this was a difficult discovery, and I resisted to the point of making an even bigger, tangled mess.

Of course, one of the benefits is that it was pretty fantastic research to experience so much stress and loss while crafting this particular series, and I think that it lent an air of truth to the story. It makes the loss and grief [of the characters] palpable. And I think...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Ken Scholes's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lamentation.

The Page 69 Test: Antiphon.

The Page 69 Test: Requiem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Karen L. Cox

Karen L. Cox's latest book is Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South. The book focuses on a 1932 murder case in Mississippi, when an African American woman ended up in prison for a crime she didn't commit.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprise you?

A: There were two things I did at the beginning. I visited Natchez. I went to see it, I wasn’t there to do any research, just get the feel of the town, its geography, its landscape, which I got more and more each time I went.

And the other thing—I started doing basic newspaper research and writing down all the names in the story—the principals, the attorneys, law enforcement, and witnesses. When I really started doing research, I could figure out who they are.

That’s how it began, with newspaper research. Then I began on-the-ground research in Natchez—fire insurance maps to get a sense of where the people lived, court records related to the case of Emily Burns, [the woman who was convicted,] but also records relating to Dick Dana and Octavia Dockery, [eccentric neighbors of the murder victim, who were involved in the case].

One of the places I did research was in an abandoned pie factory in Natchez. Court ledgers were...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Brad Abraham

Brad Abraham is the author of Magicians Impossible, creator of the Mixtape comic book series, screenwriter of the films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, writer on the television series The Canada Crew, Now You Know, I Love Mummy, and RoboCop Prime Directives, and a journalist whose work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria.

From his Q&A with Steph Post:

What drew you to the genre you write in?

I’ve always been a fan of spy stories, be they in books, movies, or TV shows. Despite largely being billed as an “Urban Fantasy”, I approached Magicians Impossible from the angle of “Espionage Thriller.” It’s very much your classical spy story– the recruit brought into a shadowy world, the battle against a long-standing adversary, the centerpiece mission, the betrayals, the reveal – set in a fantasy world of magic and myth. I grew up on James Bond movies and novels, and those are very much in the book’s DNA. I always wanted to write a spy thriller like Goldfinger or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so writing Magicians was a dream come true. I’ll confess I’m not much of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader, though I have been getting into it a little more as of late– when writing Magicians I deliberately...[read on]
Visit Brad Abraham's website.

The Page 69 Test: Magicians Impossible.

Writers Read: Brad Abraham (September 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stephen R. Bown

Stephen R. Bown's new book is  Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition.

From Bown's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about the Great Northern Expedition?

A: I’ve had the idea to tell this story for over 15 years now, but I just didn’t think there was quite enough information to truly bring it alive. It was only in the last several years that additional information about the expedition has been uncovered in Russian archives and translated into English.

But the reason that I was initially interested in the story for so long is that it is simply the most incredible exploration story that I have ever read about.

It involves fascinating personalities such as Peter the Great, the famous naturalist Georg Steller (Steller Jay and Steller Sea Lion) and the legendary commander Vitus Bering (the Bering Strait). The expedition explored Siberia and pioneered the Russian discovery of Alaska. And that is just the background.

The real story, the human element, involves storms, scurvy and shipwreck on an uncharted, uninhabited island in the North Pacific. Then they survived a winter, spring and summer on a tiny island – building shelter and hunting for food even though their gunpowder had been ruined in the wreck.

What is fascinating to me is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Stephen R. Bown's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Last Viking.

The Page 99 Test: White Eskimo.

My Book, The Movie: Island of the Blue Foxes.

Writers Read: Stephen R. Bown (November 2017).

The Page 99 Test: Island of the Blue Foxes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

Alexander Thurston

Alexander Thurston's new book is Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement.

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

What is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram is a jihadist group, or rather cluster of groups, that emerged in northeastern Nigeria in the early 2000s. The group has called itself by various names, and “Boko Haram” is a nickname given by outsiders—it means “Western education is forbidden by Islam.” The nickname refers to a central theme that its founder Muhammad Yusuf used in his preaching, namely the idea that Western-style education (and democracy) were anti-Islamic. Boko Haram was involved sporadically in violence before 2009, but its transformation into a sustained insurgency occurred that year, when Yusuf and his followers clashed with authorities. Yusuf was killed during the initial uprising, but his followers regrouped under Abubakar Shekau and began to commit regular assassinations and attacks the next year. Boko Haram began to hold significant amounts of territory in northeastern Nigeria in 2014, which prompted Nigeria’s neighbors to intervene more strongly. In 2015, back on the defensive, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). Boko Haram continues to stage attacks in Nigeria, as well as in the neighboring countries, especially Niger. In summer 2016, a public schism emerged in the group, with one faction remaining loyal to Shekau and another following Abu Mus‘ab al-Barnawi, who has pledged to reduce civilian casualties and refocus Boko Haram’s efforts on fighting states and militaries. Boko Haram is most infamous for its mass kidnapping of 276 teenage schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014.

How has the Nigerian government responded to Boko Haram?

The Nigerian government has used a heavy-handed, military-focused approach to Boko Haram. The approach involves serious and systematic...[read on]
Visit Alexander Thurston's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cristina Garcia

Cristina Garcia's latest novel is Here in Berlin. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Here In Berlin?

A: It came about unexpectedly. I went in search of different kinds of stories…looking for Cubans’ relationship with the Eastern Bloc. I didn’t find much, although I tried really hard. I got despondent. I had rented an apartment [in Berlin] for three months!

Then I just got seduced by the city, the archaeology, and its ghosts, people in the interstices of history. It became its own thing. It evolved very slowly. It became a crazy historical excavation though it takes place in the present time.

Q: The novel features a visitor in Berlin and the various characters she encounters. How did you choose the novel’s structure?

A: That was another huge problem! You’re hitting every long night of despair I had! I just kept collecting these stories, finding them in little airholes of the history books I was reading.

At one point there were over 100 of these voices and I then started organizing them. I started ranking them. It was like a Busby Berkeley routine. Then I ended up...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Helen Benedict

Helen Benedict's new novel is Wolf Season.

From her Q&A with Nichole Bernier at the Huffington Post:

Tell me about your research for WOLF SEASON, and where it fits in the spectrum of research and interviews you’ve done on women and the Iraq War.

BENEDICT: Because I had already spent many years interviewing women veterans, I had no need to revisit that. But for Wolf Season, and its precursor, my novel, Sand Queen, I also interviewed Iraqi refugees. They were all either former interpreters, or the spouses of interpreters, women and men. With great generosity, they told me about their lives in and out of war, helping me to create Naema, her son, Tariq, and her husband, Khalil, the Iraqi family in the novel.

Some of the knowledge I needed to write this book did not come from interviews and conscious research, however, but from chance observations and conversations with veterans and Iraqis I know. At times, it can be the slightest thing, something...[read on]
Learn more about Helen Benedict and her work at her official website.

My Book, The Movie: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Sand Queen.

The Page 69 Test: Wolf Season.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 1, 2017

Eelco J. Rohling

Eelco J. Rohling is professor of ocean and climate change in the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University and at the University of Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre Southampton. His new book is The Oceans: A Deep History.

From Rohling's Q&A at the Princeton University Press website:

How/Why did you become a specialist in past ocean and climate change?

When I was a boy, I actually wanted to become a brain surgeon. But I did not pass the lottery to get into medical school when I went to university. So I thought about what else to study for a year before trying again. I ended up doing geology, and never looked back—I pushed on with that instead of trying medical school again. In geology, I developed a fascination with the past environments in which animals and plants lived that we now find as fossils. So after my BSc, I did an MSc with a major in microfossils and palaeo-oceanography/-climatology, supported by minors in sedimentary systems and physical oceanography/climatology. Things started to really come together when I started my PhD project, for which I started to truly integrate these streams in a research context. That’s when my interest in past ocean and climate change became much deeper and more specific.

Why did you choose to write a book about the history of the oceans?

I discussed a few ideas with my editor Eric Henney, and we gradually brought the various ideas together into this book concept. We strongly felt that the vast existing knowledge about the past oceans (and past climate) needed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Natalka Burian

Natalka Burian's new young adult novel is Welcome to the Slipstream.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Welcome to the Slipstream and for your main character, Van?

A: Van, or at least a proto-Van, was actually a secondary character in another novel I was working on. I wanted to keep writing about her, and realized quickly she needed her own book. That first book never made it out into the world, but I’m glad Van has.

Q: The book is set in Las Vegas and the Southwest. How important is setting to you in your work, and do you think this could have been set elsewhere?

A: For me, the setting is like another character in every story I write. I love the contrast between Las Vegas and the desert, and found it to be kind of an irresistible location for Van’s family to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dennis Glover

Dennis Glover is the author of The Last Man in Europe, a fictionalized account of George Orwell's life as he wrote 1984.

From the transcript of Glover's interview with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: And that "Last Man In Europe" - that was a working title Orwell had, wasn't it?

GLOVER: Yes, it was the original title of the novel, which he changed at the last minute, I think, at the prodding of his publisher Fred Warburg who thought that "1984" would - was a bit more commercially appropriate. And he's probably right because it gave the book a great renaissance in the actual year 1984.

SIMON: Yeah. And was it also because he was writing in the late '40s? Was it as simple as he wanted to reverse it?

GLOVER: Well, there is a thought that he did it because he simply reversed the four and the eight. I think it's a bit different. If you look at the manuscript and the early typescripts of the novel, what you'll find is it begins April 4, 1980. And then you can see Orwell takes his pen and strikes it over at some later stage and writes '82. And then he strikes it over again and writes '84. I think he was - it took him so long to write the book. He was trying to keep 40 years between the writing of it and the story.

SIMON: By the time we meet Orwell, he is sick and despondent, even though he's become so successful with "Animal Farm."

GLOVER: That's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Deanne Stillman

Deanne Stillman's new book is Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write that this book’s inspiration came from a story about a horse that Buffalo Bill had given to Sitting Bull. Can you say more about that?

A: When Sitting Bull returned to Standing Rock after traveling with Cody for four months in 1885, Cody gave him a horse. That was symbolic because the horse had been stripped from the tribes during the Indian wars. It was not enough to deprive them of the buffalo; they had to be dismounted.

Five years later, while Sitting Bull was being assassinated in his cabin doorway, the horse was outside and started to dance as the bullets were flying. That was because it had been trained to do so at the sound of gunfire in the Wild West show.

Sitting Bull’s murder and the dancing horse that echoed it happened at the height of the ghost dancing frenzy  - an apocalyptic call for a return to the old ways and the resurrection of the buffalo. So here was this horse joining in, a ghost horse really, a representative of the Wild West and all that came with it.

While I was working on my book, I called Chief Arvol Looking-Horse, a prominent Lakota spiritual figure, for his insight into this matter.  What he said stunned me, beyond what I already felt, and I talk about all of this in much greater detail in my book.

By the way, I couldn’t shake the image of the dancing horse for years, and it...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 27, 2017

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's new novel is The Golden House. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: So, this is a novel different from some of the other things you've written. It feels very contemporary. It feels like you're describing the world we're living in.

So, I have to ask you as a social observer, what is, to your mind, the dominant reality of America, of New York, of its big cities today?


RUSHDIE: Well, I think it's - first of all, one of the realities is the incredible division between the big city and the hinterland, the fact that New Yorkers think one way and Middle America thinks in a radically different way.

To the extent there's always been that split, that New York and America have never been completely happy with each other. That's true about Paris in France and London in England as well. So, it's something about the nature of the metropolis.

But, right now, that rift is so exaggerated.

ZAKARIA: It's set in the Obama years, very clearly in the Obama years. You made a conscious decision to do that. It's a thing you're told not to do as a writer, which is to write right up against the present moment, to write the book which is about the moment in which the book is being written, and to react, to be reactive to things that happen.

And as a novelist, what strikes you about the Obama era?


RUSHDIE: What I felt was that there was this movement from incredible optimism to its antithesis.

That's to say, I mean, I remember, I was here on the night of the first Obama election. And I was walking around the city in the middle of the night in places where people gather, like Union Square and Rockefeller Plaza, like that.

And just looking at people's faces, the extraordinary joy and hope in those mainly young faces, I thought, was a remarkable thing to witness.

And now...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart's newest book is Significant Figures: The Lives and Work of Great Mathematicians. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this new book, and how did you pick the mathematicians to include?

A: The idea emerged during a lunch with my editor John Davey, who died recently of throat cancer -- the book is dedicated to him. We often used to bat ideas around to see if anything grabbed us.

Selecting whom to include was tricky. The typical length for a popular science book is at most 100,000 words. The publisher set a target of 90,000, later expanded to 95,000.

So I knew I could include at most 25 people. That’s far too small to cover every really important mathematician! I say explicitly early on that the people featured are a selection. I made an initial list of about 50, and then whittled it down.

I decided that someone got in only if their mathematics was top quality and highly influential, if their personal story was interesting in its own right, and if they were dead. I considered it absolutely vital to include...[read on]
See Ian Stewart's top ten popular mathematics books.

The Page 99 Test: Why Beauty Is Truth.

The Page 99 Test: In Pursuit of the Unknown.

The Page 99 Test: Visions of Infinity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Luke Harding

Luke Harding's new book is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

Terry Gross: Luke Harding, welcome back to FRESH AIR. So the dossier said that the Russian regime had been cultivating, supporting and assisting Donald Trump for at least five years with the goal of encouraging splits and divisions in the Western alliance. You write that the Russians had their eyes on Donald Trump as early as the 1970s when he married Ivana Trump, who is from Czechoslovakia. Why were they keeping an eye on him in the '70s? What were they looking for?

LUKE HARDING: Well, the KGB really forever has been interested in cultivating people, actually, who might be useful contacts for them, identifying targets for possible recruitments possibly to be agents. That's not saying that Donald Trump is an agent, but the point is that he would have been on their radar certainly by 1977 when he married Ivana, who came from Czechoslovakia, a kind of communist Eastern bloc country. And we know from Czechoslovak spy records de-classified last year that the spy agencies were in contact with Ivana's father, that they kept an eye on the Trumps in Manhattan throughout the 1980s. And we also know, from defectors and other sources, that whatever Prague learned, communist Prague, would have been funneled to the big guys in Moscow, to the KGB. So there would have been a file on Donald Trump.

But I think what's kind of interesting about this story, if you understand the kind of Russian espionage background, is Trump's first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987. He went with Ivana. He writes about it in "The Art Of The Deal," his best-selling memoir. He talks about getting an invitation from the Soviet government to go over there. And he makes it seem kind of rather casual. But what I discovered from my research is that there was actually a concerted effort by the Soviet government via the ambassador at the time, who was newly arrived, a guy called Yuri Dubinin, to kind of charm Trump, to flatter him, to woo him almost. And Dubinin's daughter, sort of who was part of this process, said that the ambassador rushed up to the top of Trump Tower, basically kind of breezed into Trump's office and he melted. That's the verb she used. He melted.

GROSS: That Trump melted when he was flattered.

HARDING: Yeah. That Trump melted with this kind of flattery. And several months later, he gets an invitation to go on an all-expenses-paid trip behind the Iron Curtain to Soviet Moscow. Now, a couple of things which were important here. One of them is that his trip was arranged by Intourist, which is the Soviet travel agency. Now, I've talked to defectors and others who say - this is actually fairly well-known - that Intourist is basically the KGB. It was the organization which monitored foreigners going into the Soviet Union and kept an eye on them when they were there. So kind of he went with KGB travel. Now, according to "The Art Of The Deal," he met various Soviet officials there. Who they were, we don't know. But what we can say with certainty is that his hotel, just off Red Square, the National Hotel, would have been bugged, that there was already a kind of dossier on Trump. And this would have been supplemented with whatever was picked up from encounters with him, from intercept, from his hotel room.

You know, we can't say that Trump was recruited in 1987. But what we can say with absolute certainty is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 24, 2017

Catherine Reef

Catherine Reef is the author of Victoria: Portrait of a Queen, a new young adult biography of Queen Victoria.

From Reef's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on Queen Victoria in your latest biography?

A: I had written two books on subjects from Victorian England, The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne and Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse. I wanted to write one more biography before leaving that fascinating time and place, and I thought, why not focus on the woman who gave her name to the period, Queen Victoria herself?

Looking into her life, I discovered a terrific tale to tell, one that included family drama, palace intrigue, and a great love story, all involving a woman of singular character.

Sir Henry Ponsonby, who was the queen’s private secretary from 1870 until 1895, said this of her: “Never in her life could she be confused with anyone else, nor will she be in history.” How...[read on]
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

My Book, The Movie: Noah Webster.

The Page 99 Test: Florence Nightingale.

Writers Read: Catherine Reef (January 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sujatha Gidla

Sujatha Gidla’s new book is Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India.

From the author's conversation with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Can you explain why someone’s caste in India is so hard to hide? I think a common American response could be, why do you tell people what your caste is?

Oh, caste is a village social institution. The village social institution persisted for a very long time, and it still does because 80 percent of Indians still live in villages. In villages, castes are very distinct by their occupation, for one thing, and second where they live. Each caste has its own colony. That is where they live. All castes don’t live together mingled. Each has separate colonies.

Because of that, everybody knows who you are and also because of what job you do. When it comes to cities, people who came from villages, they still carry those, “Oh, you are such and such person’s relative,” this and that, so they would know. Apart from that, the way you dress, your surname, what you eat, what gods you’re worshiping, and whether you can wear jewelry or not and how you cut your hair. All of these things show your caste. And because the system is 3,000 years old, even if it scientifically does not have a genetic imprint, it has something very close to it. People’s body language—the way they carry themselves—shows what caste they are.

I’m sure their physical health, too.

Oh yeah, of course.

Why are even left-wing political parties in India so casteist?

The Communist Party of India was dominated by the land-owning Kamma caste, and it’s indistinguishable from a caste-based party. That’s why Communists are all upper-caste. … They bring in their own ideology, instead of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jonathan Eig

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

His new biography is Ali: A Life.

From Eig's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did the research involve for this book, and what type of cooperation did you receive from his relatives and friends?

A: I interviewed more than 200 people, dug through Ali’s old business records, found court files showing that Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, listened to old audiotaped interviews with Ali from the 1960s, got the FBI to release case files on Ali, did original research counting every punch of Ali’s career, and conducted a study with speech scientists at Arizona State University to measure the effect of all those punches on Ali’s speech rate.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This was more than four years of work. I poured everything I had into this. Ali’s second and third wives sat for multiple long interviews. His fourth and final wife coached me and answered a few questions but declined to do a long session.

Some of his kids cooperated, some didn’t. Almost all...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

The Page 99 Test: The Birth of the Pill.

My Book, The Movie: Ali: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ray Dialo

Ray Dalio is the founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, which, over the last forty years, has become the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world. Dalio has appeared on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world as well as the Bloomberg Markets list of the 50 most influential people. His new book is Principles: Life and Work.

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

ZAKARIA: You have this fascinating new book out. I don't want to let you go without asking you about one thing that everybody wonders about because you talk about it in the book and you are famous for it, which is that, at your firm there is this idea of radical transparency, which means people have to disagree clearly, publicly with others.

And people always wonder, do you take it to the point where people in your firm, actually, routinely look you in the eye and tell you, Ray Dalio, you're the boss, but you're completely 100 percent wrong?


DALIO: I need that. Yes. And I need that. I do it because I need it. I set up a company. If I don't have that engagement, besides my not hearing things that I need to have, can you imagine what it's like for you to be in the company, being in a position where you have to hold that inside of yourself? And then, you're walking around, thinking I did something stupid around in a company and you can't speak up?

You can't build a culture that way. In order to have independent thinkers around to get at the best ideas and have great collective decision-making, you have to be able to have thoughtful disagreement to rise above it.

I think that there's a challenge a lot of people have emotionally to being able to have disagreements. Shouldn't disagreement be a source of curiosity?

And also, if people are disagreeing, then somebody must be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine's new novel for kids is The Incredible Magic of Being. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Incredible Magic of Being, and for your main character, Julian?

A: Like all of my fictional characters, Julian popped into my head unannounced. I never know where they come from, or why, until I start writing down what they say, how they interact with a variety of characters who also arrive in my head, where they live, what’s bothering them, and eventually I figure out the real life circumstances that gave birth to them.

I started this novel not long after cancer treatment and I think my appreciation for life, and a feeling of urgency to experience and enjoy everything we can, even when things (and people) around us aren’t perfect, came through in Julian and the story itself.

Of all my characters, Julian is the most like I was as a child — except I didn’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger Knight.

Writers Read: Kathryn Erskine (September 2014).

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Candida R. Moss & Joel S. Baden

Candida R. Moss & Joel S. Baden are the authors of Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby. From their Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What does the crafting store Hobby Lobby have to do with the Bible?

For those who know Hobby Lobby simply from its hundreds of stores, the connection with the Bible may not be immediately apparent. But the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, have been major players in the world of evangelical Christianity for many years. In the last decade or so, they have been working toward the opening of a new Museum of the Bible, scheduled to open in November 2017 in Washington D.C., just a few blocks from the National Mall. To this end, they have been collecting biblical artifacts at an astonishing rate: around 40,000 items in total. A group of scholars has been recruited to study and publish much of this material. The Greens have also created a Bible curriculum, originally intended for public schools, and now marketed to home-schoolers. The question we try to address in the book is how the evangelical beliefs of the Green family have influenced these various Bible-oriented ventures, and what it means for the kinds of products, including the museum, that they are producing.

Forty thousand items— that sounds like a lot!

Indeed. Most collections of that size take generations to build, but the Greens acquired the bulk of their collection in just a few years. The speed with which they went about this came with some complications, though, as was featured in the news earlier this summer: thousands of cuneiform texts from Iraq had been illegally imported to the U.S. and were seized by customs officials, with the result that Hobby Lobby had to forfeit them. In the early years of their buying spree, they seem not to have been especially careful to observe the proper cultural heritage laws.

What about their Bible curriculum?

Originally, the curriculum they developed was going to be used in American public schools, as part of an elective course. When the ACLU got their hands on the draft of the curriculum, however, it quickly became apparent that this was not a purely secular view of the Bible that was being presented. It was ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson's latest novel is Goodnight from London.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: While your other novels focused on World War I and its aftermath, your new novel focuses on World War II. Why did you decide to move on to a different time period?

A: I think it was largely a feeling of wanting to keep things fresh – it’s easy to find yourself revisiting similar themes or conflicts if you stay focused on one period for too long. And the Second World War is nothing short of a gold mine for any novelist who is looking for inspiring and memorable stories to tell.

Q: Your main character, Ruby, is an American journalist working in London, and your own grandmother was a journalist during this same time frame. What do Ruby's experiences say about the role of women journalists in the WWII era?

A: The barriers that Ruby faces, along with the prejudices against women in her profession, are pretty typical of the era; to quote my own grandmother, newspaperwomen (her preferred term) needed to...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

Writers Read: Jennifer Robson (February 2016).

My Book, The Movie: Moonlight Over Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 17, 2017

Andrea J. Ritchie

Andrea Ritchie is a Black lesbian immigrant and police misconduct attorney and organizer who has engaged in extensive research, writing, and advocacy around criminalization of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color over the past two decades. She recently published Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.

From her Q&A with Adeshina Emmanuel for the Columbia Journalism Review:

How does the media help shape the public’s understanding of police violence?

I think media plays a pivotal role in two respects: by reinforcing the silence around experiences of black women and women of color and in breaking it. The mainstream media has reinforced over and over again that police violence is a story about black and brown men who are not queer, who are not trans, and that certainly is an essential part of the story.

I would never dream of saying black and brown men are not disproportionately targeted by state violence. There’s just no question about that, and you will see me in the streets on any given day at protests for Laquan McDonald, or Amadou Diallo back in the day, or Rodney King.

Sandra Bland was definitely heavily on my mind this month on the second anniversary of her death. But somehow her story is not placed in the broader narrative around racial profiling and mass incarceration; it’s somehow almost an anomaly. Like, “let’s read a list of 10 or 12 black and brown men and then we’ll throw in Sandra Bland,” as if it’s an outlier.

Recently video surfaced of a Florida state attorney being profiled and stopped by a police officer, and, again, that wasn’t an anomaly. That was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas's new novel for kids is Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life, and for your main character, Charlotte?

A: I lived in Mankato, Minnesota, for 20 years, so Laura country was in my backyard. I'd been to Walnut Grove (the setting for On the Banks of Plum Creek), and the kernel of an idea formed.

It's a small town - about 800 people - and it's very Laura-centric. There's not just a single museum. It's a complex. There's a reconstructed sod house, an old school house, an old church and more. Plus there's the dugout site near the town. And every summer, the community puts on a pageant with a musical production about the town's history and the Ingalls family.

I wondered, what's it like to grow up in a town like that? A small town with such an interesting identity? When I got my second contract with Roaring Brook, I knew I wanted to use that kernel for my novel.

I didn't want to write historical fiction, though. I wanted to write a contemporary novel that had parallels to Laura's story and include lots of Easter eggs for Laura fans.

The first sentence in the book, for example, is exactly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.

Rooney's latest book, her second novel, is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

From Rooney's Q&A with Jac Jemc at Newcity Lit:

The character of Lillian Boxfish is inspired by a real poet and ad woman. How do Boxfish and Fishback diverge?

Without Margaret Fishback there wouldn’t be a Lillian Boxfish, but they’re not the same person. Lillian has aspects of Fishback’s biography, but the events of the novel are invented and imagined. I was the first researcher in the Fishback archive at Duke University in 2007—it took me years to figure out what to do with that material. My own love of flânerie ended up being the key. Lillian’s orientation toward the world is that of an inveterate urban walker, a decision made totally for the novel. I believe that Fishback herself is worthy of greater attention—I worked this December to get her long out-of-print light verse included in the Poetry Foundation archive and wrote an essay detailing her innovations as a pioneering ad woman—but...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker is the author of Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Of the 6,000-plus bird species you saw during your record-breaking year, were there any that particularly impressed you?

A: In Brazil, near the beginning of the year, I saw a Harpy Eagle, the most powerful raptor in the western hemisphere. The Harpy lives only in large rainforests in South and Central America, and eats monkeys and sloths.

I was lucky to stake out a nest near the Pantanal in central Brazil, where the male Harpy Eagle flew in carrying half a coati (a raccoon-like animal) in its talons, which are as long as a grizzly bear's claws. When it spreads out its toes, this eagle's feet are the same circumference as a dinner plate. That bird is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 13, 2017

David Miliband

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. His new book is Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time..

From the transcript of Miliband's Q&A with NPR's Scott Simon:

SIMON: You know, whatever impression we might have from the news, are most of the world's refugees coming to America or Western Europe or some of the poorest and, if I might put it this way, most unstable parts of the globe?

MILIBAND: Well, that is a great point - that the top 10 refugee hosting countries, places like Lebanon, Jordan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Bangladesh now with the Rohingya refugees who've come from Burma - Myanmar. The top 10 refugee hosting countries account for only 2 and a half percent of global income. And so the challenge for the richer parts of the world I think is twofold. First of all, to engineer, to lead an international humanitarian aid system that really does meet the challenge of the times that gets refugees into employment, that gets kids - half of the world's refugees are kids - gets them into education. And, tragically, at the moment, less than 2 percent of the world's humanitarian budget goes on education.

But the second half of the challenge is to stand with those countries who are hosting refugees, stand with them substantively but also symbolically by welcoming refugees to our own shores. And it is tragic that after 50 or 60 years in which the United States has led the world in refugee resettlement, hosting an average of about 90,000 refugees a year into this country - people who've then gone on to make extraordinary contributions to this country - that the U.S. administration should now be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Nigel Cliff

Nigel Cliff's latest book is Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story--How One Man and his Piano Transformed the Cold War. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about Van Cliburn and the 1958 piano competition in Moscow?

A: I couldn’t resist it; the story grabbed hold of me from the moment I came across it. For one thing, it’s so deliciously improbable. A young Texan pianist on his first overseas trip conquers Cold War Moscow, returns home to rock-star fame, and becomes an unofficial ambassador between hostile superpowers.

I wanted to write about the Cold War, and here was a way to put a human face on a rather ponderous subject. Van Cliburn is a touching and unusual character who saw no difficulty in being friends with Soviet and American leaders and was a hero to people on both sides of the divide; crucially, that gave me an entrée into everyday lives as well as intimate glimpses of the political elites.

A good story needs to put its hero in danger, and its writer, too. Finding the language to describe a piano concerto to non-specialists, like myself, was my biggest challenge.

Yet the deeper I went, the more I found myself on...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Nigel Cliff's website.

The Page 99 Test: Holy War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bill Crider

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

From Crider's Q&A at Western Musings:

Mr. Crider, sincere thanks for taking the time to provide us with some thoughts on the Western genre. With that said, I want to get down to brass tacks and offer what I consider one of my favorite first sentences of the past year. You open Outrage at Blanco with this gem: “Jink Howard sat in the shade of a tree and ate tomatoes while Ben Atticks raped the woman in the wagon bed.” That is pure attention-grabbing gold. I heard a fine piece of writing advice years ago “Let your readers know what’s at stake, right up front.” This sentence does that in spades. Is this a philosophy you adhere to as well?

I always heard a different version of that advice, which was "Shoot the sheriff in the first paragraph."  I do try to have something there that will get a reader's attention, but I'd never shoot the sheriff.  Sheriff Dan Rhodes has been way too good to me for me to do a thing like that.​

Staying with your novel Outrage at Blanco, but also staying spoiler-free so that new readers can have the joys of following up on that whip-cracking sentence; the character Ellie Taine goes through a bit of transformation in the course of this novel. It calls to my mind the film Hannie Caulder [which was minor at best, aside from an excellent Robert Culp.] In Hannie Caudler the transformation is a bit superficial and rote, but Ellie has real depth to her. Her actions make sense to me. May I ask what spawned this character?

​As is so often the case with my writing, I have no idea what spawned the characters or the plot. I...[read on]
Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 10, 2017

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson's newest suspense novel is House. Tree. Person. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new novel, House. Tree. Person., and your character Ali?

A: I can half-answer this. I went to the Writers Police Academy in Wisconsin in 2015 and, in a workshop on sociopaths (presented by the wonderful Dr. Katherine Ramsland), the subject came up of the "house-tree-person test" for personality disorder. It's diagnostically discredited and not much used in clinical settings these days, although I believe it's still applied to children in Waldorf education.

Anyway, as I sat there, the idea came to me of a silent individual who only ever drew a tiny square with a cross through it, a symbol none of her carers could interpret. And a big chunk of the plot of this book just slotted into my head.  It was wonderful.

As to Ali: Much more typically, I started with a little pip of an impression - I think it was her Juicy velour sweatsuit - and just wrote and wrote until she came into focus. By the end of the first draft, she seemed like herself. Then I went back to the start and changed everything in...[read on]
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

Writers Read: Catriona McPherson (September 2015).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Marcia Butler

Marcia Butler was a professional oboist for 25 years, until her retirement from music in 2008. During her musical career, she performed as a principal oboist and soloist on the most renowned New York and international stages, and with many high-profile musicians and orchestras. She lives in New York City.

Butler's memoir is The Skin Above My Knee.

From her Q&A with Ileana Florian for Pank Magazine:

Florian: How did you start thinking about writing a memoir?

Butler: Well, that’s an interesting question because I didn’t set out to write a memoir at all. I was writing about creativity, actually. I’d been a musician for about 25 years, and then was an interior designer for 15 years. As a designer, I began blogging and quickly realized that the more fertile subjects for me were the overarching principles of the universality of design, aesthetics and creative thrust. How all this binds us together as a society and how we...[read on]
Visit Marcia Butler's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Skin Above My Knee.

My Book, The Movie: The Skin Above My Knee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daniel P. Bolger

Daniel P. Bolger is the author of Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book focused on Chuck and Tom Hagel, and how unusual was it for two brothers to serve in the same platoon during the Vietnam War?

A: The idea for the book came from E.J. McCarthy, my long-time editor and now my agent. An author we both respected greatly, the late Keith W. Nolan, had been researching one of his many fine Vietnam military histories when he learned about the Hagel brothers. Sadly, Keith died before he had time to follow up. But E.J. and I talked about it and the idea really resonated. 

I had met Chuck Hagel once as a senator and once when was the secretary of defense. That time in Vietnam shaped him and his brother Tom. And their time in Vietnam in that terrible year of 1968 seemed to me to be the part for the whole, offering some real insight into what Americans did in Vietnam, and what Vietnam did to us in America.

It was—and is—pretty unusual for two brothers to serve in the same small unit. In World War II, the five Sullivan brothers died together when their light cruiser went down off Guadalcanal in...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: You know, [Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman's] approach to decision-making I gather has affected, you know, things that leaders do in government and medicine and finance and probably military strategy. You know, I'm wondering if - how it affects we ordinary people who make routine decisions like voting, for example. And I wondered what you think they might observe of the election of Donald Trump.

LEWIS: Well, let's - I'll give you a grab bag of things I think they would have said about the election. But I'm putting words in their mouth because of course they didn't speak to the election. The first thing they would say is they would notice how after the election, all sorts of people had explanations for why it was basically inevitable that Trump was going to win who never predicted it, that the world instantly set about trying to make itself seem more certain than it actually was and denying that - kind of a large random component in any election - that a lot of things could have happened where Trump wasn't president.

But people started to kind of explain the world as if that was what was meant to happen. So they would have been very interested in that, just for starters. And they would have said, you know, it's basically a phony exercise pretending to be able to explain what you never could have predicted. And reality is much more complicated than that. So, they would have said that.

Then they would have said I think that Trump's appeal is in part the way he eliminates the uncertainty of the world, that Obama - as successful as he was as president, Obama himself acknowledged that it was always problematic for him having to seem sure of things that were clearly inherently probabilistic, that people do not want to be led by someone who's saying, well, there's a 68 percent chance we won't be in a nuclear war (laughter). They want to be led by people who say, I'm going to - not going to let that happen. And that aspect of Trump's character they would have seen as appealing to basically human nature.

They would then have said about Trump that he is a case study of all of the problems with intuitive judgment because he gives into his own so totally, that he's so totally devoted to his own gut instincts. And they had identified all kinds of problems with gut instinct. The gut instinct led you to naturally think in stereotypes, for example, to naturally overweight whatever you've just heard or just seen, to naturally think that things that are vivid or memorable are much more likely to happen than things that aren't.

So they would have been - they would have fought - I think they would have been alarmed - very alarmed by Trump's - the lack of a sense he had that he needs to check his own gut against anything. I don't think they would have felt that their research basically explained the election. I don't - I think they would have said it was deeply...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue