If you want an intimate insight into the firmament of Trump voters then J.D. Vance's bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (published by Harper Collins) is poignant, painful but uplifting book. It describes his childhood growing up in a struggling, dysfunctional family in eastern Kentucky and the Appalachia of America. Closures in the steel industry and the auto industry have erased well-paying jobs, the consequence of automation or globalization. This has led to profound social decline with poverty, alcohol and drug addiction eroding the values of this formerly proud and independent working-class peoples who have become welfare dependent, complacent, and a sometimes angry demographic as a result. These are the people identified as being co-opted by President Trump.
JD Vance describes his upbringing by his "hillbilly" grandparents, without whose love and support he would have become the victim of his mother's failings, and fallen through the cracks of the system. In spite of the odds stacked against him, Vance managed to graduate from high school and turn his life around during a stint in the Marines following which he not only graduated with an undergraduate degree (paid for by veteran funds) from the state university, he was accepted into Yale Law School graduating summa cum laud, and then went on to marry a wonderful partner and live a successful life. He gave up his work in the law and now works with a California hedge fund creating economic development opportunities for the Appalachia. Now others there will have a better chance to turn their lives around as well. His first-person struggle as told in his book could help shape social service policy from this point forward. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is a must read.
NPR caught up with the author and here is a link to their podcast and the transcript. I hope you'll take a moment to listen. (Click title to open feature)
I had a lawyer friend when we lived in Los Angeles who happened to be the nephew of a famous New York society cartoonist. He divulged an interesting factoid about this relative that has always fascinated me. When sketching his subjects live at New York plays, the Met and Broadway musicals, he used a small pencil and scratch pad from within his jacket pocket to do the work - sight unseen - so as not to distract or attract the attention of onlookers. A remarkable feat.
If you have an interest in these sorts of artistic profiles you can go to the wonderful publishing house of The NY Review of Books who have amassed a collection by four artists: David Levine (whose more than 3,500 caricatures have illuminated articles published in the Review since 1963); and John Springs, Pancho (Francisco Grails), and James Ferguson whose works have been published regularly in the Review over the past few years. Preview the extensive list in alphabetical sequence, or enter a subject or category into the search box to obtain a grouping of interest. As a bibliophile and a Canadian I chose the category "Canadian Authors" and came up with David Levine's wonderful collection - a work in progress, judging by the short list. It's all ON SALE right now if you act quickly.
Jamaican born Marlon James was only 6 years old when his country's iconic singer, Bob Marley, faced an assassination attempt in his home by seven gunmen from the burrough of West Kingston, Jamaica. The fact that the author's mother and father were both police officers at the time leads you to understand Marlon's fascination with the details surrounding the case. His mother went on to become a prominent detective, his father became a lawyer, and Marlon James went on to become the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize on October 13th with wide audience approval for his 704 page, sprawling character-driven historical fiction. It's titled, A Brief History of Seven Killings (published by Riverhead Books). Listen to this interview with Miami Book Fair host Jeffrey Brown who asks James about his relationship to the story, how it ended up so long, his use of characters and distinct dialects, and the tie-in to the Cold War era involving the CIA as well as the intricacies of criminal justice and political system in Jamaica during the period.
MBooker's describes "A Brief History" thus,
"On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica concert to ease political tensions, seven men from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert. But the next day
Each spring my husband and I relocate to our farm in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. While we've owned the property for two decades, we've not had the luxury of circumstance to be there until the last few years. Taking control has put us on a steep learning curve on multiple fronts. The best teacher of course is experience, and we have tried to pick off projects within the scope of our budget and energy, which of course necessitates learning by our mistakes. I don't feel we began to really take things seriously until we acquired chickens. A garden can be tilled, seeded and left for a few days or even a week with a timed water system. Ditto for a ploughed field depending on the planting and time of year. But animals require that you be there. And being present on a daily basis you learn their rhythms, their needs, their idiosyncrasies and personalities.
Chickens were the catalyst to understanding the responsibility of our farm. My book shelves are lined with titles on topics of interest. The Guide to Self Sufficiency, Back to Basics, The Organic Grain Grower, Bee Keeping & Honey, The Oxford Companion To Beer. And of course many many cook books to deal with all the bounty from the vegetable garden.
There is a series on Netflix right now that connects the dots from farmer and field to consumers and their tables. It is called Chef's Table. This is where you become inspired by cooking movements around the world started by chefs who embody a philosophy of eating that is most often traced back to their roots. If you watch this series I challenge you NOT to think about food and its connection to the health of the landscape from which it derived, combined with the skill, technique, history and cultural identity of every hand that touches product from field to table.
When Cheryl Strayed's mother contracts what initially seems like a cold, her condition rapidly devolves into a diagnose of cancer. In a soul-wrenchingly short seven weeks, her 45-year-young life is taken leaving Cheryl and her two siblings behind. Compelled by profound loss, Cheryl, just 22, sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail - all 1100 miles - solo. She has never hiked. She has never backpacked. From her home in Portland, OR she catches a plane to Los Angeles, hitches a ride to the desert town of Mohave and sets off on a journey that will transform her life, compel her to write a bestselling book titled Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail., which Reese Witherspoon options before before the book can make it to print, and hires English novelist, essayist, lyricist and screenwriter Nick Hornby to adapt into a feature film that stars Reese Witherspoon and is now murmured for Oscar nominations. [That is one sentence for a purpose: take a breath, you are only just reading it. Cheryl had to live it.] Suddenly Cheryl's life is vertiginous with success and purpose. Her emotional journey is set to become the public touchstone for transformation over grief.
Canadian film maker, screenwriter and actor, David Cronenberg has come out with his first novel, Consumed(published by Hamish Hamilton,CA). Here he reads for the audience at St. Francis College. His book is described as a radically poetic, necromantic, numinous, homicidally erotic novel. Horror novelist Stephen King says, "Consumed is an eye-opening dazzler. Not for the fainthearted, but for those of us who relish a trip into the shadowy depths, a must-read...[it] is as troubling, sinister, and as enthralling as his films."
Cronenberg is fascinated by death and the psychological impulse toward grotesque bodily distortion mixing fear with arousal. In this story the difficult topic is cannibalism. The style of the book is compared to Kafka and Borge. The main characters are a charismatic couple, the wife and celebrity Célestine and her husband and philosopher, Aristide Arosteguy, (apparently intended as a riff on Sartre and de Beauvoir). It's set in Hungary, Toronto, Paris and North Korea. The Boston Globe writes,
This wonderful video arrived in my latest edition of Electric Literature. A creative project by Ilana Simons. Simons studies authors with with a holistic lens. Every aspect is included: their hobbies, life milestones, influences and works. Additionally, I have a soft spot for creative animation in storytelling. She is the author of A Life of One’s Own: A Guide to Better Living through the Work and Wisdom of Virginia Woolf (Penguin, 2007). She also curates Tin House Reels, a review of short animated films accompanied by the Vimeo clip, as well as reviews of books and poetry with lots fresh names.
The world is divided into those who are fans of Wes Anderson films and those who are not. (Royal Tanenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, The Squid and the Whale) Fans looking for insight into the director/producer/Oscar-winning screenwriter's sources of inspiration and technique should check out this recent conversation between George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile and Wes that took place at the NY public library. The topic of discussion is European literary icon - Stephan Zweig's influence on Wes's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel based on two of his books: Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl.
The Budapest Hotel is a richly cast feature film with Tom Wilkenson, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law et al.
Stephan Zweig (1981-1942) was a Jewish-Austrian author, playwright, journalist, biographer and pacifist who wrote prolifically and passionately about people and history. He moved from Vienna to escape Nazi persecution and then
"Author and essayist Wendy Lesser discusses her latest book Why I Read with poet Robert Pinsky. Their conversation explores the ways that literature and, especially, poetry touch readers and change their lives as Cambridge Forum continues its series My Life Touched by Art."
Wikipedia has this to say about Wendy: (born 1952) is an American critic, novelist, and editor based in Berkeley, California.
Lesser did her undergraduate work at Harvard College and her graduate work at University of California, Berkeley, with time in between at King's College, Cambridge. She is the founding editor of the arts journal The Threepenny Review, and author of ten books, including one novel, The Pagoda in the Garden (Other Press, 2005), and her latest nonfiction book, Why I Read (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014).
Barry White is the man. His cashmere baritone voice and love lyrics were a staple of couples' album collections in the 70s. Bookbuffet has featured the interviews of PBS's Blank on Blank series before (David Foster Wallace) whose graphics we find a captivating way to listen to an interview. Enjoy this, and then dial in your Barry White playlist on your shuffle into work today.
BookBuffet caught up with Sue Oakey-Baker a Canadian writer, mountain guide and school teacher who lives in Whistler BC. Listen to the MP3 podcast on BookBuffet's Audio Channel (32:34min) in MP3 format where we discuss her first book, Finding Jim (published by Rocky Mountain Books, 2013), a memoir about her life with Jim Haberl, the first Canadian to summit K2. Attracted to his rugged charm, his warm heart and his passion for the outdoors Sue lived an exhilarating life evolving from friends, to lovers and then wedded. Together they traveled the world climbing, rafting and adventuring in places experienced by an intrepid few. When an avalanche claimed Jim's life in Alaska, Sue experienced loss, grief and disbelief at an extraordinary level. Writing became her therapy. Finding Jim is about her personal struggle out of her abyss and back into a life with renewed purpose. />This book will resonate with anyone with a love of adventure who knows the risks and rewards of pushing your personal limits. You'll want to share it with your significant other. This book is a warm blanket for anyone experiencing loss and searching for a lifeline back from the depths.
In her reading Sue's voice is understated, strong and clear. She pauses to consider each question. Her natural outdoorsy looks and athleticism combined with a calm warmth that emits a pheromone of annealed strength. Our interview coversSue's perspectives on her life with Jim, and a phrase she uses frequently to describe her journey after his death: "searching to find her soul again". She also talks about the process of writing a memoir itself: what you include, what you leave out, how to order the details. Her accomplishments in the 7 years that it took to complete this book attest to her determination, and she modestly gives thanks to her steadfast support network from family, friends and the local writer network, the Vicious Circle. Sue's now into her 15th year guiding members of the Canadian Altzheimer's Society climb Mount Kilimanjaro—the highest peak in Africa. She graciously agreed to read a favourite excerpt of mine of her experience white water rafting Nepal's Karnali River.
If you missed Holly Marie Armishaw's photo composite exhibit "The Guilded Life" at the Back Gallery Project in Vancouver last month you can catch up on this talented Canadian artist's work here. Captivated by the image left, I was intrigued to learn more about Armishaw, her oeuvre and her technique. If you admire the self-portrait work of Diane Arbus, you'll like this. Since there's a strong historical research and literary connection with a video of the artist (below) explaining her work to accompany the piece, this article fits our BookBuffet podcast interview segment. Of note, New Materials Art Fair (Miami Beach) has just announced Holly Marie Armishaw as the winner of the Solo Artist International Competition. So her work will be travelling Dec 6-7th to Miami where Art Basel-Miami takes place.
Let's start with Holly's artistic statement. She makes a new one for each new project so that it will be pertinent to the work. French art critic Jean-Francois Lyotard writes in his essay, What is Post-Modernism? "It must be clear that it is our business not to supply reality, but to invent allusions to the conceivable, which cannot be presented.”
The two defining aspects to this series are: a heavy use of photoshop to portray a "visual hypothesis" and the use of self-portrature to literally place herself within the realm of subject and tableau. Each one of the pieces in the show is a self portrait of Armishaw heavily photoshopped in a pose to retrospectively fit a previously photographed period gown, to which the figure is then placed into its scene—a previously photographed interior or exterior space of the Chateau Versailles, which she shot on location while composing this series. That is some amount of work! And Armishaw uses her interpretations of research to back
Bookbuffet caught up with short story writer Sarah Seleky on October 9th to talk about her career, her book This Cake is for the Party: Stories (published by Thomas Allen in May 2010), her writing practice, her online writing classes and her annual story intense workshop. We also delved into topics like taking a break from social media—that in-the-moment thought-thief, and the question facing writers today: "Is self-publishing an option?" Please join me for 00:24 delightful minutes with Sarah Seleky.
Of note: this interview took place just before the Nobel committee's announcement of Alice Munro's win of the 2013 prize for literature.
"This Cake" was a finalist for The Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award and winner of the CBC Bookie Award. She also garnered "Best New Writer" of 2010 from the Globe 100, Best Canadian Fiction.
BookBuffet interviewer Paula Stoeke was pleased to catch up with noted author and journalist, Katie Hafner on her latest book Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir (published by Random House), which has been sweeping the "Best" lists of all the major literary review sources: declared an Oprah "Book of the week" pick; New York Times quotes, "Best Memoir I've read this year"; "Required Reading" from Bibliophile, "Best Books of July" itunes book list. Jane Smiley at Harpers Magazine says,
"Mother Daughter Me" delivers an unusually graceful story, one that balances honesty and tact... Hafner narrates events so adeptly that they feel enlightening rather than enervating.
Mother Daughter Me is a memoir set in California about inter-generaltional living. Katie invites her 77-year old mother, Helen to come and live with she and her teenage daughter Zoë in their architectural jewel of a house on stately on Sacramento Street, in Lower Pacific Heights. When years of sublimated memories of the turbulent years spent with her dysfunctional, borderline alcoholic mother threaten to disrupt their collective good intentions of co-habitational living, Hafner resorts to her tried-and-true emotional and creative outlet—writing —to vent her feelings and frustrations.
Discovering the writing to be too powerful to leave in her personal diary, her editor agrees that Mother Daughter and Me is a poignant and timely story capturing a not uncommon phenomenon these days, and the rest is history.
"If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything." - David Foster Wallace
If you want to be totally cool, subscribe to BLANK ON BLANK's YouTube video channel. It's the handiwork of PBS Digital Studios and this particular video takes an interview with the late, David Foster Wallace talking about ambition in the backdrop of his own tennis career. Apparently DFW was a seriously ranked tennis player before college. He decided that despite his high ranking he would not be able to go Pro, based on a combination of his level of talent and the "monk-like" commitment to practice hours required. The illustration compliments the conversation brilliantly. Overall a creative and intriguing viewer/listener experience.
View more of the series and then hit subscribe. DFW's article on the brilliance of Roger Federer as a tennis player posted by the NYT's is here.
I almost bumped into author Salman Rushdie on the street one day in Greenwich Village, New York as we negotiated the slush and snow after a November storm. Since that time, I've been waiting for the book he would write telling of his nightmare's journey. After the release of his novel, Satanic Verses in September 1988 the Iranian religious leader, Ayotollah Khomeini declared a fatwa against him that forced him into hiding for more than a decade. Those events have had time to percolate in his memory, and at long last, his book has been released. Resembling more of a fictional international spy thriller than the true memoir of a world renowned literary figure, Joseph Anton (published by Random House) is both the name of the memoir and the pseudonym Rushdie chose for identification among his closest friends and his protectors, the secret police, etc., during those 11 years in hiding. The name, Rushdie explains, is a combination of Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekov. Surrounded by "an iron ring of friends" who kept his secret hiding places, provided their own homes, and allowed him to live inside their protective cover. Rushdie explains what his life was like, as well as the political milieu at the time. An extraordinary story by one of this century's most talented writers. There's also an excellent video piece embedded at the bottom of this article worth watching. It's 90 minutes in length but gives the entire scope of the effect Salman Rushdie's book had on the Muslim world, from the first reviews of his manuscript to the India book ban that spread in countries around the world, to the northern London suburb where his book was publicly burned and the media and muslim community lit up. Interviews with journalists, publishers, his translator, his sister and people involved in the development of the story all culminate in the developing dramatic story.
Kim Thuy is nominated for this year's 2012 Giller Prize for her novel Ru published by Random House (Vintage, Canada paperback). Her interview reveals a delightful person full of humour and grace, whose life as a Canadian citizen living in Montreal emerged from her roots in Saigon, Vietnam and her subsequent time in a refugee camp in Malaysia and a boat person. This is a lovely introduction to this author for those who have not heard of her before this. (click to view)
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Junot Diaz tells NPR's Steve Inskeep about the theme of his book and the real-world circumstances that inspired it. The disclaimer that it took Diaz 16 years to write his book, "This is How You Lose Her" a story with infidelity as its theme.
Diaz responds to the question of his new book's them with this:
"When I finished my first book, Drown, I realized that the theme of infidelity, which runs through the book, needed sort of a much more upfront presentation, and I concocted this project. It just really interested me. But you know, sometimes you chart out a course and you think it's going to be an afternoon walk, and you realize it takes you half your life."
News stories about students going into their schools and universities on killing sprees with guns turned on their fellow students and teachers is a trend both disturbing and perplexing. "What causes this and what can we do to stop it?" is everyone's first response. Psychologists, psychiatrists, criminal experts and educators are becoming all too familiar with the social profiles and psychological cocktails that are trending these incidents, but the general public needs to have a graphic portrayal on a human scale that can bring home the message. Enter Michael Danner, who produces and directs a compelling feature film on this topic; a biting, realistic portrayal called, Hello Herman. What follows is the blurb sent to members of a Santa Monica improv theatre group that Ms. Danner supports. I happen to be on the mailing list. Help this go viral. The world doesn't need anymore Columbines.
"Hello Herman..." is a poignant examination of the making of a teenage school shooter. We hope its provocative and powerful subject matter will speak to teens, parents, educators, and anyone who has endured the universal experience of needing to be heard.
The movie explores the desensitizing of America, youth violence and bullying, the impact the media has on our individual quest for fame and recognition, and ultimately our need for human contact.
"Hello Herman..." will be released in the Fall of 2012.
In the meantime, we are excited to share our EPK and Teaser Trailer.
We ask that you show your support of the film by "Liking" us on Youtube and sharing the videos with your friends.
John Irving is on the circuit promoting his latest book In One Person. With 13 novels, an Oscar winning screenplay, an O. Henry Award and a near miss Pulitzer Prize you could say that the popular and critical audiences have been good to him. What we have come to rely upon from Irving is unusual characters, unusual sexual proclivities, unusual deaths; unusual stories. Though he finds inspiration in the masters, Dickens and Shakespeare, his books are firmly entrenched in this century. Of all the interviews that abound, we've selected the one that has Irving talking about his main character Billy Abbot, a 60-year-old bisexual male.
When The Cider House Rules came out, readers were confronted with characters dealing with abortion. St Clouds orphanage is where Dr. Larch saves women from the prospect of searching for a back street abortion and provides them with a safe clinical alternative without judgment. Other women come, labor and leave their babies. At the time of the movie release of CHR in 1999, America was 26 years out of Roe vs Wade, the Supreme court decision that gave women the right to choose. Still at that time people felt society had a ways to go on this polarized issue. Today, Irving reminds us how successive right wing regimes and Tea Party politics have seriously eroded women's freedom to choose, as access to clinics is reduced with significant closures (for one reason or another) and funding removed for programs across the country. Ironically, studies report that the single most dramatic factor resulting in the reduction of poverty and crime and incarceration trends in America —was—Roe vs Wade's effect of removing mothers of the financial burden or social stigma associated with an un-wanted pregnancy.
But that's not the only human right at stake these days,
Giller Prize winner Vincent Lam has today released his first novel titled, The Headmaster's Wager (Doubleday, 2012 Canada and Hogarth Press in America) based on his own grandfather who was "a drinker, womanizer and man-about-town" and the headmaster at an English school in Vietnam. Interviewed today on CTV news, Vincent explains the space between this novel and his last published work - due to the sensitive nature of writing about close family members, the emotions he felt and the care he wished to take with the writing. The premise of the novel is below. Lam won the Giller for his collection of short stories titled Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (2006). That book was adapted for television as a series that aired in 2010 produced by Shaftsbury Films. In addition to being an author, Lam is an emergency physician who works at the Toronto General Hospital, as well as being a devoted husband and father. Last, Vincent is a passionate advocate for the Toronto Public Library and the value of public spaces that nurture thought, creativity and social capital. Click for CTV Interview
It's Poetry Month, the time of year when literary types as well as those fearing Alzheimer's vow to memorize and publicly recite more poetry. Actually, poetry has probably never been more of a pop phenomenon if you include the modern versions: Rap and Poetry Slams. Compare those two presentations to the content and cadence of the poetry you read in high school and university by luminaries such as Edna St. Vincent Millay or A.E.Housman, these were pieces read in quiet contemplation for personal enjoyment, sans blare of amplified speakers or requisite attendance at a public crush. The New York Public Transit Authority selects a few pieces of poetry for public display on its transit surfaces each April. Thom Gunn's work was selected and he tells a humorous anecdote in this video followed by a reading from his poems:Jamesian and The Home. The first line begins, "Their relationship consisted in discussing if it exhisted..." to which a graffiti artist adroitly annotates below, "...and I didn't get no pussy neither."
As digital technology inevitably replaces print technology in the march of progress, it is fascinating to behold the combination of machine and person-skill sets that have gone into the traditional print medium. Why do I not have the same sense of nostalgia for the technical advances that have replaced other communication mediums - music, for example? Vinyl to 8-track, cassette to CD, walkman to iPod?
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After attending the Jay Z and Kanye West concert in Vancouver in which THIS song was played a record of 12 encores... I think I've got the tune down. But check out these girls and their book themed lyrics.
This YouTube posted video Keep Calm & Carry On tells the story of a WWII slogan poster that was designed by the British government, kept in reserve for dire times, forgotten and then found. It's simple clear words have captivated people since, and it has been reproduced to great success. (Click below)
You can almost hear them shouting, "The British are coming!" all over again since Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey debuted on this side of the pond. Written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Sir Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair, SNOBS) whose name has become synonymous with his facility for personifying—and humanizing—Britain's stratified society of staunch upper crust, the middle and emerging class of professionals, and those in service. His knowledge base of course stems from his renunciation of a life of privilege for a career in (long before knighthood) acting, writing and directing. [Rather like Sybil!] Since the series has become a North American sensation, our 2005 BookBuffet telephone interview with Julian Fellowes has rocketed to our most popular podcast download, so we decided (with a mix of pride and embarrassment) to share this early foray into the podcast medium by bringing it out of the cobwebs to page one. The questions are still fresh and relevant today, and readers may be even more interested to learn some of the personal details revealed inside. Fellowes talks about his first novel, SNOBS (St. Martin's Press 2005) insights into British aristocracy with thoughts on America, his Director/Screenwriter debut with Separate Lies in theatres October 2005. Read the transcript and listen along.
Next year will mark the 200 anniversary of the birth of English author Charles Dickens, and all kinds of things are planned to mark the occasion. Check out www.dickens2012.org. I just downloaded a cool App for my iPad. It's a narrated and illustrated copy of Dickens: Dark London by the Museum of London that is interactive, and takes users on a journey through the darker side of Charles Dickens’ London in a unique series of interactive graphic novels narrated by Tinker Tailor Solder Spy actor Mark Strong. It's compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.2.1 or later.
Since it is "that festive time of year" let us focus on Dickens' classic short novel A Christmas Carol. The book has remarkably been in print continuously for 167 years. The novella was first published by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843 during the Victorian era when people were experiencing a nostalgia for traditions - the Christmas carol and the German tradition of decorating evergreen trees. In fact, Dickens is credited with changing the way Great Britain, the rest of the Commonwealth and western Christian society now celebrates this holiday, which before the runaway success of A Christmas Carol wasn't even a bank holiday. This Penguin copy, Classics Christmas Carol And Other Christmas Writings has a wonderful combination of stories you can read aloud in your family to start your own family aural tradition.
Each year our local library puts on a collective reading of A Christmas Carol for the public. And each year our family watches the black and white remastered film version starring Alister Sims on Christmas Eve, all of us huddle together on our old couch at the ski cabin with a fire blazing, hot rum toddies and various savory treats along with Nana's traditional Christmas fruitcake with a large chunk of aged cheddar on the side, and Purdy chocolate balls wrapped in green or red tin foil being tossed around the room along with Mandarin oranges that we compete to remove the skins in one intact piece. Get the new Blu-ray version.
Jeffrey Sachs is a writer economist with numerous distinctions; he's on the list of the 100 most influential people in the the world, the 50 most important leaders in globalization, the 500 most influential foreign policy advisors, and he's the director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. In his previous 14 books and publications Sachs has written about the economies of the developing world and macroeconomics of the globe. He's been a champion of people in extreme poverty and as director of the UN Millennium Project he helped write the Millennium Development Goals among other groundbreaking initiatives. He's been criticized as "leftest" and "neoliberal". His latest book, The Price of Civilization: Economics and Ethics After the Fall (Random House 2011) turns the telescope away from those "other nations" and focuses it firmly on the USA. And although the book was written before the "occupy movement", he feels that it is the banner to which his book's message speaks.
The following video posted on You Tube comes from a talk he gave at the Toronto Public Library. It is a 3 part series.
Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short has a new book out that essentially takes TBS on a world tour. Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World is Lewis's take on how the world financial markets got caught in the financial crisis. He devotes a chapter each to Iceland, Germany, Greece and Ireland and asigns sweeping character assessments to explain their investor Gestalt. Forbes says "[Boomerang] demystifies Germany's role in the global debt calamity." Jackie McNish at the Globe and Mail says, "In Boomerang, a travelogue through the globe’s economic ruins, Lewis takes us into the lives of the hapless and misguided government officials, bankers and speculators who stoked the 2008 financial fires we wishfully and wrongly believed had been doused by massive government bailouts. Turns out, taxpayer dollars only stalled the carnage. Like a boomerang, the crisis is now swinging back with a vengeance and this slight, poignantly humorous 212-page book tells even the most informed student of global economics why it was inevitable." Check out Lewis's interview on You Tube with PBS economics correspondent, Paul Solman at this cozy little European-style restaurant in Washington, DC. What I love is how Lewis pokes a stick in the eye of all the people who he says thought they could beat the system. He says they were that guy in a dark room sitting next to a wad of money. Who could resist? They all knew what they were doing, and they handled it in their own stereotypical way. Don't take offense. The world tour's last stop is America, where Lewis claims that Americans, adept at re-inventing themselves without the fear of a European-like stigmata post-bankruptcy will use their "stories of woe" to rise pheonix-like out of the current world quagmire. My stock portfolio could use a little boost - thanks Michael..
I've been looking for a novel that captures the essence of life for the citizens of Libya during the Quadafi regime, and found it in Egyptian author, Idris Ali's The Leader Gets A Haircut. Unfortunately, I cannot read Arabic. If anyone knows of an English translation - please let me know; info @ bookbuffet.com. The Sept 5th, 2011 edition of The New Yorker has a feature by Hisham Matar, a Lybian writer, who describes his own experience under that regime; the disappearance of his father who became a permanent statistic of men who crossed Quadafi's political boundaries and paid the price with their life. Matar explains how Haircut derives its title: it is based on a well-circulated account of the day all the barbershops in Libya were closed by order of Colonel Muammar Quadafi. Apparently the dictator had had a nightmare where he was getting a haircut and a shave at a local barbershop and the razor-weilding barber slits his throat. Convinced that his dream is a premonition of some diabolical plot against him, the ensuing public consequence demonstrates how irrationality became the norm for the citizens of Libya. Arabic Literature in English writes "The 130-page book was based on Ali’s four years (1976-1980) as a foreign worker in Libya, and describes Egyptians toiling there under inhumane conditions. According to the the website Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the book 'included testimonies of Libyans about social life there and how it was affected by repression under the rule of Colonel Quadafi.
With so many wonderful Indo-diasporan authors making waves in the fiction world over the years: Kiran Desai, Salmon Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vikram Chandra, Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy... the list goes on, here is an interesting new book by Rupinder Gill, On the Outside Looking Indian (McClelland Books, 2011) that details a spirit and insight through her own non-fiction coming-of-age story that is both laugh-out-loud funny and full of universal truths. Listen to her interview on BookLounge.ca here. And if you're intrigued, there's also this excellent in-depth interview by Allan Gregg on TVO via YouTube.
The author's blurb goes: "There's a phenomenon in Amish culture called Rumspringa, where Amish adolescents are permitted to break free from their modest and traditional lifestyles to indulge in normally taboo activities. They dress how they want, go out if and when they please, smoke, drink and generally party like it's 1899. At the end they decide if they will return and join the Amish church.
"I am 30 years old. I wore my hair in two braids every day until I was 12. I dressed more conservatively than most Amish, barely left my house until I was 18 and spent the last 12 years studying and working hard on my career like a good little Indian girl. The time has come; you are witness to the dawning of my Indian Rumspringa, a Ram-Singha if you will. But instead of smoking and drinking Bud Lights in a park while yelling 'Down with barn raising!' I plan to indulge in a different manner — by pursuing everything I wish had been a part of my youth. Things I always felt were part of most North Americans' adolescent experience...
"This is the story of the ultimate New Year's resolution, more akin to a new life resolution. Will it all be fun? Will my friends and family support my walk down memory-less lane? Will it all matter in the end? I don't know yet but much like my young Rumspringaed-out counterpart, I will decide whether or not there is any going back."
For those of us who have forever missed meeting or hearing David Foster Wallace speak, here is an interview titled, "A Frightening Time in America" published in The New York Review of Books by Ostap Karmodi.
The following conversation is drawn from an interview I did with David Foster Wallace in September 2006 as part of a series of articles and radio pieces about important foreign writers, artists, and movie directors who were not well known in Russia at the time. (Unfortunately, Wallace’s readership in Russia is still very small.) The occasion for our talk was the tenth anniversary of the publication of Infinite Jest. I planned to talk to Mr. Wallace for fifteen minutes, but we ended up talking for
Almost everyone these days has a Facebook page to keep in touch with friends. Some people stop in once a day, others check their wall obsessively through out. But how many of you notice the advertisements on the side bar, and how many of you are compelled to click on them? As a book reviewer the Facebook marketing department got my attention when they served me an ad about a book with an intriguing cover written by Jim Hanas titled, Why They Cried.(Kindle version $7.95) I clicked on the ad, got to his website and saw that the book is a collection of short stories published in every digital format currently available— Kindle, iPad, iPhone Ap, and iTunes. Between the review, the cover and the savvy of marketing and distribution I decided it was time to contact Jim Hanas to ask, "How's it going with that?"
BB: Hi Jim. Thanks for taking this interview. Your book advert came up on my Facebook page and I was intrigued by both the cover and the concept of self promotion using social networking. Everyone says it works - what's your experience?
Jim Hanas: Whether or not social networks "work" depends, I suppose, on what work you want them to do. I've been a blogger for years, so there was never a moment when I calculated that using social networks could help me sell books. That would be like wondering if a telephone or e-mail would help me sell books. They might, but that's not their exclusive purpose.
Having spent several summers doing research at the British Library I am a confessed fan of the institution. As a board member on the Vancouver Public Library Foundation I am keenly aware of the impact libraries have in our community locally. With the digitization of books transforming the way we access, borrow, read or purchase books and store them, we need each be interested in public library policy concerning the uptake of e-technology and whether we are meeting the public needs. It is the jurisdiction of the acquisition librarian(s) to decide whether a particular item is acquired in print, digital or both versions for library lending use. One would think that rapid-turnover items such as light fiction and romance titles would be a good choice for digitally stocked copies with resource books, biographies and say classics stocked in print and digital versions. It brings up interesting questions such as "how do we avoid the 'digital divide'? That's the difference between library patrons who can afford to purchase or perhaps already own a digital reader offering them the ability to download both library and retail digital books for their pleasure, and the people who cannot afford such a costly electronic device who would be left picking over whatever remains on library shelves? But the most profound debate of all facing libraries is: "Is there really a need for 'brick and motor' libraries at all?" To that I respond a resounding YES, but don't take my word for it. Here are two excellent resources to help you decide.
The first is an essay written by Philip Pullman, CBE, FRSL and author of The Golden Compass. Please read through the excellent debate raging in the comments section!
The second is this BBC tour of The British Library with journalist Spencer Kelly who addresses these issues. The BL that is one of the largest resource libraries in the world; for every book published in the UK there is at least one copy in the BL stacks. Take a look at how they're handling things. VIDEO LINK
We are taking a week off from BB author interviews and insert instead in this column an interview with two fabulous writers who both made it onto the NYRB top 10 for 2010 list. Meet Jennifer Egan and Siddhartha Mukherjee in conversation with Sam Tanenhaus, editor for the New York Review of Books. (31:34 min)
As an interviewer it is great to listen to dialogue between authors and other reviewers. Good interviews result from asking the right questions in the right order and having an acute understanding of the book and even the body of work of the person you are interviewing. Drawing analogies to other works or other artists, setting the piece in perspective and teasing the strengths or the controversies, the illuminations or the craft of the design is what distinguishes a great interview. It helps to be talking to powerhouses. I think you will find in the authors here, a compassion for their characters that informs and infuses their writing. We "get" 70s punk rock musicians (in Jennifer's case) and patients confronting the most ominous diagnosis - the C word (in Sid's case) because of this intimacy.
Jennifer Egan is an essayist and short story writer from Brooklyn whose work has been said to be unclassifiable, though others call it a postmodern experiment that comes off brilliantly. Here she talks about her book A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf, 2010) a series of short stories that feature different characters and settings, indeed different styles entirely, in each with the consistent theme of rock musicians and their worlds in the 70s. It all deftly fits together into a cohesive narrative. Egan says, "There are a lot of writers who find a groove and spend a career mining that vein. I seem to be exactly the opposite. Each book is its own exploration and obsession, with a certain set of ideas and concerns. And once I have finished it, I feel that they will never be alive for me in the same again. And I can really say that for every one of my books."
Rose Tremain was on Granta’s first Best of Young British Novelists list in 1983 – along with Martin Amis, Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan. Here she speaks to Ollie Brock about historial versus contemporary writing and exile - ‘freighted with possibility but also with a high degree of danger’.
OB: Was it a surprise, or the realisation of a long-held ambition, to appear on the 1983 list?
RT: I understand, retrospectively, that there was quite a scramble among publishers to get their authors on this list, but I - who was living in rural Suffolk in 1983, had published only two books and knew very few people in literary London – was blithely unaware of it, so my inclusion came as a complete surprise. I remember being very pleased that Claire Tomalin, who was one of the judges, described me as ‘an interesting and honourable writer’, but it didn’t change my fortunes. That change only came six years later when my novel, Restoration, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was sold in 25 countries.
OB:You also won the Orange Broadband Prize for fiction by women in 2008. What do you think of the claim – made by AS Byatt, among others – that it's a sexist prize?
Each week BookBuffet presents a new author in our podcast series made available here in .mp3 format either in interview with Executive Editor, Paula Shackleton or as excerpted from an event we've attended, taped and edited for broadcast. Today's podcast features acclaimed Canadian novelist Alissa York who appeared at the Vancouver Public Library to give a reading from her new novel, Fauna published by Random House Canada (2010). Alissa was introduced by Vancouver International Writers Festival Director Hal Wake who has begun a collaboration with the VPL to bring authors here from across the country and around the world. Audience members were invited to ask Alissa questions after her reading and those tended toward an interest in her writing and research techniques. Fauna is Ms York's third novel. It is a contemporary urban story set in Toronto, but as Alissa points out, it could take place in any green space in cities around the world. Alissa is a lovely speaker who interacts easily with the audience. She elicits a spontaneous chuckle with several of her anecdotes and it is not surprising to learn of the demand for her as a writing instructor. Like her protagonist Lily in Fauna who holds birds in the palm of her hands and marvels at their beating hearts, this story will capture yours. Join us today in listening to Alissa York, and then pick up a copy of this or perhaps all three of her novels: Mercy (2003) was a Canadian bestseller, Effigy (2007) was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Alissa has lived all across Canada, but makes her home in Toronto with her husband Clive who is a writer and film maker.
The joy of hearing an author speak (as opposed to merely reading their words) is that you get a feel for many things about them, as people, as speakers, their creative process; the backstory of their novels as it were. Writers can be introspective people who live in a silent world of words. Getting out in front of the public is a part of the book promotion process these days, and inevitably authors develop a style to fit their public persona. They take time before readings to consider the audience when selecting particular excerpts from their books. The interplay between writer and reader can be a rewarding part of their profession. Recently I watched an interview of J. K. Rowling who became emotional when describing a chance street encounter with a girl of about 19 who told her: "Ms Rowling - your books are my childhood. Thank you."
Hearing a writer speak from their own text can be a chilling experience. You get to hear the words that took form and lived in the mind of that writer, often for years before becoming available for public consumption. The writer has agonized over every comma, every transitive verb.
Today's podcast features a reading by Richard Harvell whose novel is titled, The Bells (RandomHouse 2010). "Bells" is getting rave reviews and will likely become Random House's fall blockbuster. It has all the elements of a bestseller. In listening you may pick up on his barely discernible accent. Richard has been living in Switzerland for the past 6 years where his novel is set. The Bells captures European life in the 1200s with incredible nuance of detail.
When I met Richard he was dressed in an open collared shirt and dress pants. He's about 5'6' and slight but fit. His close cropped hair and wire frame glasses speak calculated conservative. As a former math major, it seems natural that he'd be attracted to music - a subject that intuits math and intervals. But Richard claims he is not musical; he leaves that bit to his wife.
I would not be the first person to admit that Graham E. Fuller is a person whose intellect, career and breadth of life experience is intimidating—I'll get to his credentials in a second. But in meeting him, one is immediately disarmed to find a soft spoken individual who stands ready to take any question, debate any point and who routinely pitches-in in his adopted community of Squamish, BC on everything from civic planning issues and the preservation of bald eagles to teaching watercolor painting classes each summer at the Whistler Art Festival.
However, in the sphere of history, world affairs and US foreign policy Fuller has been a player, not just a bystander like the rest of us. Author and co-author of at least a dozen political science books, his newest, titled A World Without Islam (published by Little and Brown Oct 2010) takes the reader on an examination of "what if's" as he lays down facts to support his thesis that the current situation in the Middle East and other hot spots around the world: Pakistan, Indonesia, the Baltics... concerning the attitudes and actions of Muslims, is far deeper and more complex than can be pinned on Islam alone, and we do ourselves a grave disservice if we choose not to consider and confront these factors.
For this week's BookBuffet podcast we got to thinking about the subject of democracy. World news reports failing economies, scam elections and repressive fanatical regimes. Whatever happened to the temple of democracy? Shockingly the bastion countries around the world that we consider exemplars of this form of government are themselves facing a decline on the "Democracy Index" compiled bi-yearly by the Economist magazine research arm. It's not because of any new ultra right or left wing parties gaining power; it's due to public apathy [in the UK and USA] over their democratic rights: the right to vote as well as the "homeland security" initiatives instigated by both countries in response to terrorism. You will now be photographed over 1,000 times a day on the streets of London by closed circuit cameras, and despite President Obama's efforts to reverse the Bush administration's executive infringements to the civil rights act, a dappled cloud of paranoia remains. Since we are a literary site, we wanted to take a look at who has been writing novels that deal with this topic. I had to look no further than two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey. Peter talks about his latest novel Parrot and Olivier in America published by (Knopfdoubleday, 2010) which is based on Alex De Tocqueville's classic tomb on democracy, Democracy in America (Penguin Classics), which Carey says, "All my clever friends quote Tocqueville and pretend to have read all the way through America in high school or college, but they've really only skipped through the good bits. If you read through it, you see how a man of Tocqueville's background dealt with the times and reasoned how this form of government would fare through to the future." Parrot and Oliver is a riff on Tocqueville wrapped up in an imagined love story. Watch this excellent interview with GRANTA editor John Freeman. And don't forget to browse our previous podcasts, both homegrown and borrowed.
OK, you guessed it. I'm back at the farm slacking off (working my fingers to the BONE) and so this week's author podcast does not derive from moi. It is a hilarious riff from Russian born American writer, Gary Shteyngart. Who is Gary Shteyngart you ask? Well if you crossed Woody Allen with Pushkin, I think you'd be close. To prove my point, just watch this "serious video" from Random House introducing Gary's new book, Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel (Random House, July 27th 2010). It's fiction. It's a whopping 352 pages, and the video has real authors going with the schtick [including Edmond White, Mary Gaitskill, Jeffrey Eugenides.} Gary lives on the Lower East side of Manhattan and teaches at Columbia University, Princeton University and Hunter College. Check out his new book, but don't take MY word for it! Wikipedia (the source of all good journalist's information) wrote this: "Absurdistan: A Novel was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time Magazine, as well as a book of the year by the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and many other publications. The Russian Debutante's Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, the Book-of-the-Month Club First Fiction Award and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. It was named a New York Times Notable Book and one of the best debuts of the year by The Guardian (UK). In June 2010, Shteyngart was named as one of The New Yorker magazine's "20 under 40" luminary fiction writers."
Matthew Hooton was named one of Canada's new literary talents to watch. His first novel is titled, Deloume Road published by Knopf Canada. Matthew's prose captures the Pacific Northwest in a style reminiscent of other favorite regional authors whose work shows a reverence for and understanding of the natural physical world; I'm thinking John Vaillant (The Golden Spruce), Steve Gutterson (Snow Falling on Cedars), with a bit of W.O. Mitchell thrown in for good measure. What these authors' writing share is an understanding of place and character all wrapped up in compelling suspenseful stories with intersecting characters from immigrant, native and First Nations backgrounds whose respective lives connect in touching and sometimes violent ways with each other and to nature. You will recall Vaillant's book dealt with the eco-terrorism of the giant golden spruce destroyed on the Queen Charlottes Island while Gutterson's novel was set on the small American San Juan Island community of Nordic and Japanese immigrants at conflict over a murder trial. Matthew's novel takes place on Vancouver Island on the titular rural road and it involves several families whose lives intersect with escalating levels of suspense and mystery one hot summer.
Ian McEwan came to Vancouver this past week as a stop on his book tour to promote his new climate-themed novel, Solar (published by Nan A. Talese in the USA and Knopf in Canada). I had 4 tickets, but had to give them up due to the Iceland ash cloud. Funny that an ash cloud should preclude my "solar" experience, but I suppose that's poetic irony. While I would presently be offering you an exclusive podcast, if not for the ash factor, I will instead offer you this (pronounced in Shakespearean style) swipe-ed video interview obtained from his publisher. Try not to be distracted by the people walking past the window outside behind where IM is seated. I'm still trying to work out if this indeed is his London flat or whether it's his publisher, editor or publicist's flat, in which case they have much better accommodations than NYC publishers.
Ian McEwan is one of those authors who could write about paint drying and make it seem interesting, even dramatic. He once queried whether literary authors should pay more attention to plot in their writing? The plots in his novels are clever fancies of intricacy criticized by some. For pedantic requirements we list his recent novels many of which have been adapted into memorable films: Atonement, Saturday, Amsterdam, Enduring Love- eighteen titles in total. On Chesil Beach was a charming novelette about young love. In fact one would have to say love and all its many manifestations: passionate love, childish love, incestuous love, unrequited love, tragic love are all covered in McEwan's writing. Solar is a book about planetary love, or the sufficient lack thereof.
I wish I could tell you what McEwan is like in person. I wish I could tell you if he seemed jaded by success, or feigned mock coyness despite having it. I wish I could bring you the sound of his voice echoing in the open spaces of St. Andrew's Wesley Cathedral (a location that curiously made John Irving physically uncomfortable to speak in when he appeared here). I doubt that Ian McEwan is uncomfortable in churches, or on the set of a feature film he's adapted from one of his books, or riding in a plane first class around the ash cloud that now envelopes his emerald island home. Without further adieu, please enjoy this reading by Ian McEwan and then scroll down to listen to another of our BookBuffet Author Podcast series.
The great thing about hosting the Olympics in Whistler, BC Canada this week is that we get to attract stunning literary figures like Annabel Lyon. I couldn't think of a more perfect author to feature this week as Annabel's book, The Golden Mean (published by Random House 2009) is set in 300BC Greece (and Olympia being the birth of the Olympics in 700BC... ) is about the relationship between Aristotle and his royal pupil, Alexander III of Macedon, son of King Philip II of Macedon, or as most of you know him, Alexander the Great. Don't miss this lesson in history and fiction writing as Annabel speaks to the Whistler Reads book group marking their 28th book discussion. Annabel tells us, "I didn't want to write an historic fiction - I wanted to write a modern book set 2300 years ago." This podcast is part of a growing series, the BookBuffet Author Podcast Series, with over 100 segments posted on iTunes and various other podcast aggregators. You get to listen here first! Our downloads average in the hundreds per day, and that bandwidth costs money. Consider making a donation to the site to support our efforts to bring you quality conversations with established and emerging writers. From Nobel prize laureate Orhan Pamuk to triple-prize-nominated Canadian writer Annabel Lyon, we bring you the voices and conversations of select authors that will intrigue and inspire you and your group.
I had the good fortune while on business in snowy London, to nab a ticket to the sold out event on January 12th featuring Turkish author and Nobel Prize Laureate, Orhan Pamuk at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the Southbank Centre. Pamuk of course is promoting his new novel, The Museum of Innocence (Published by Knopf, October 2009) which has been getting both impressive critical reviews and receiving popular acclaim. Pamuk has been working on Museum for many years and has alluded to it thus: “The story, which takes place in Istanbul between 1975 and today, is about obsessive passion and the great question: What is love, really?” Tonight, Pamuk is introduced by Hermione Lee who is herself a gifted writer and important critical reviewer. The following podcast begins with an introduction by Ms. Lee, followed by a reading by Orhan Pamuk (with amusing antidotes), then a discussion period betwee Pamuk and Lee, and finally a selection of the questions from the audience. There is an interesting segment where Pamuk explains the derivation of the cover photo art: he found the picture in a Turkish photo archive, he photoshopped out the background and added the Bosphorous Sea, he added suspenders to the man in the back seat (which he then had to describe similarly in the book). After all the work, his publishers worried they'd be sued by anyone of the people depicted in the photo. A search to discover their identities and whereabouts found that the only surviving member is the woman seated in the front seat of the car wearing the kurchief. She was contacted and completely delighted by the story. Pamuk went to meet her and has a photograph taken of himself with her - she is now in her 90's.
BookBuffet attended the American Jewish University, LosAngeles where Israeli author, journalist and peace advocate Amos Oz was invited to speak about his life and his books with Rob Eshman, the Editor in Chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. It is all part the Third Annual Celebration of Jewish Books held this November in the city of angels.
Amos Oz, as many of you will recall, was this year’s favourite in to win the Nobel Prize for literature, according to the UK betting site Ladbrokes who rated Oz at 4-1 odds. While he lost to a reasonably obscure Romanian author, the publicity still serves to bring attention to his writing and his political advocacy for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Turning 70 this past May, Amos Oz said “Being a 70-year-old Israeli is probably like being a 200-year-old Swede.” [He uses 300 year-old American in this talk.] He is being celebrated in his homeland with a three-day festival in his honour that includes literary, musical and cultural events with President Shimon Peres taking part.
Oz has written 18 books and 450 articles and essays. His works have been translated into 32 languages. He famously writes with two pens, one colour for his fiction and another colour for his politics. Half of his books are set within a 30-minute radius of his home in Arad where he lives with his wife Nily. His last book is a slim 117 page memoir titled, Rhyming Life and Death, published in the USA by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and translated by Nicholas de Lange, Professor at University Cambridge. The author prefers to call it one of his “tales”. He says he just tells tales. Tales are what people told each other in caves and it is what we do today. The New Yorker says Rhyming is, “A prose poem… at once melancholic and sensual.” And that is how I find Amos Oz tonight. A warm, soft but firm-speaking man who exudes the depth of experience of his life – a life spent in war and peace, with family, soldiers, politicians, artists; loving, hating, and remembering.
I enjoy listening to podcasts in the evenings, and discovered a series that I know you will love too. Professor Dreyfus is a real curmudgeon by the sounds of things. He teaches "Existentialism in Literature and Film" in the Department of Philosophy UC Berkeley. (When I took philosophy at UCLA the professor said, "I am going to teach you how to think, how to reason.") His classes are full with 200 eager students, and more on the waiting list. He started podcasting as a way to reach the people who couldn't get into class. Soon, as one LA Times correspondent pointed out, he was broadcasting to oil rigs and other remote and isolated places. He receives regular feedback from listeners in Russia on his discussion of Dostoyevsky-how enlightening that must be! Each podcast is directly recorded, with all its amateur sound quality (no false voiced intros such as you hear in Audible.com recordings) at UC Berkeley. They're are a delightful combination of lecture hall banter and didactic discourse, incorporating a select list of works of literature and film, from Plato to Present. If you're interested, tune into streaming audio or download the FREE podcasts from either itunes U or a podcast directory site called Learn Out Loud. The lectures address such questions as, "What is the similarity in sense of self between Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard?" and "How does Plato's view the universe resemble (remarkably) some modern day philosophers?” Be sure to get the handouts he references here: The last movie, Breathless, is available free on Google Video. For those of you less interested in philosophy, the lectures are well worth listening to for the method of close reading Professor Dreyfus uses. It’s really a delight. A wonderful opportunity to read or re-read the books he references and get more out of them and to apply the knowledge to your own life or gain insights into your current reading. I’ve included the links and to purchase books online. Start your home Philosophy in Literature lessons today.
Graphic novels are not just for kids. Manga is the Japanese version of this popular phenomenon and a Canadian duo by the name of Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki has joined forces to produce a work of art that blends poignantly funny text with award-winning graphics. SKIM (published by Groundwood Books, June 2009) has already been hailed by the NYT, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Quill & Quire and Slate as a winner. The titular character, Skim, is being compared to Holden Caulfiel as, "a clear social commentator on adult and adolescent behaviour whose ironic observations on social hypocrisy ring sharp and true.“ The artwork has, "a swooping, gorgeous pen line — expressive, vibrant and precise all at once," say the journals. We took a look and couldn't agree more. If you've never tried graphic novels, this should be your first taste. If you want to understand the gestalt of the current generation, this should help you get a handle. If you're looking for looking for something to open the barriers of discussion with your teenager, what can I say, get this book. Listen to the podcast interview here (about a minute in after the musical intro).
The Contemporary Art market has been on fire and who better to talk about it than Sarah Thornton, ethnographer and author of Seven Days in the Art World published by Norton in 2008. Her book has been making waves as having the best insights into this fascinating subculture, market segment and art world phenomenon. Join BookBuffet's host, Paula Shackleton in this three-part interview with Sarah who joins us from her studio in London. The New York Times says,
“Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton is a field guide to the nomadic tribes of the contemporary art world. The book was reported and written in a heated market, but it is poised to endure as a work of sociology… Where others would be content to gawk and gossip, she pushes her well-chosen subjects to explore the questions ‘What is an artist?’ and ‘What makes a work of art great?”
Alan Yentob, creative director at the BBC says,
“It’s like having your own spy in the art world. Thornton parachutes the reader into the fascinating nitty-gritty of how it all works.”
Annalyn Swan, co-author of DeKooning: An American Master says:
“A smart, engagingly written insider’s look at the machinations and manipulations of today’s art world…. A great read.”
Grayson Perry, (artist) says:
“Seven Days in the Art World” is a great page-turner, I worry that the book demystifies things so much that the next generation of artists will be overinformed.” Join our RSS feeds to get our interviews monthly, or click on the mp3 link for this segment, or just read along with the transcript.
Patrick French is an English writer, historian and biographer educated at the University of Edinburough. His latest book, The World Is What It Is (Random House 2008) is his second work of biography. His subject is widely considered to be one of the masters of modern English prose, the Indo-Trinidadian novelist and essayist V.S. Naipaul who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001 and subsequently knighted. People currently refer to him as Sir Vidia Naipaul. In an interesting, if not ironic twist, Patrick French was also offered the OBE for his literary contributions back in 2003. He turned it down. His comment was, "It is ridiculous that honours given in the 21st century would have the word empire in them. The motto that goes with the OBE is 'For God and the Empire'. Which God and which Empire?" He added that understanding the British Empire in history lessons is "crucially important" and that it was not "taught in enough detail in schools". But this argument about medals relates to the present. And so we have a citizen of Britain refusing the same honor that a colonialist (who he is writing about) has accepted with pride if not glee. Didn't the Duke of Edinburgh suggest, about 30 years ago, that "the word empire in the medals OBE, CBE etc should be replaced by the word 'Excellence'? 'The Order of British Excellence' has a good ring to it." At any rate, turning down the OBE hasn't stopped Patrick French from winning the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for this book, or being shortlisted for the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction 2008. BookBuffet caught up with Patrick French this past summer at the Southbank Centre on the banks of the Thames, London when he spoke about The World is What it Is and the issues of working with such a reputedly idiosyncratic personality.
Orlando Figes is one of the most distinguished historians of Russia today. He is Professor of History at University of London, having the distinction of graduating with a rare double-starred First in 1982, and completing his PhD at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Fellow from 1984 to 1999. He was a Lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge from 1987 to 1999, before taking up the Chair of History at Birkbeck College, University of London.
All of his books on Russia are bestsellers and all are eminently readable. Figes borrows from a broad range of methodologies, including social, cultural and oral history, and his writing combines literary and academic qualities. His latest book is titled, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia. At 784 pages you may want the hardcover version (published in the UK by Allen Lane 2008) and softcover is published in US by Picador. It is a treatise on the lives of people in Russia during Stalin's reign of terror. "One in eight people in the Soviet Union were victims of Stalin's terror—virtually no family was untouched by purges, the gulag, forced collectivization and resettlement", says Figes.
BookBuffet caught up with Orlando at the Southbank Centre in London when he was speaking, along with the 5 other shortlisted authors, on behalf of organizers for the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction in 2008. Listen to him in this podcast rebroadcast, then click to the links for the other authors' talks, and to discover the winner. This is the cream of nonfiction titles around the globe for 2008.
Tim Butcher is a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. When one thinks about journalists covering all the conflict hotspots: Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Lebanon, you can think of Tim Butcher. After a four year tour of Africa for the Daily Telegraph Tim spent three years planning his solo return to the Congo retracing the river route of another Daily Telegraph journalist, Henry Morton Stanley. In part on motorbike, and in part by river barge and perugue (canoe), Butcher traveled almost 2,500 miles from the Eastern border and lake district of the DRC to the Western border on the Atlantic, thus crossing the width of the country. His resulting book, Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart (Grove Press) was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction in 2008. Here is his account of aspects of his book and of course the perspectives he gained traveling and researching the country that is at the center of the continent of Africa. A former Belgian colony that passed into shakey independence in '62 and then kleptocratic rule under Mobutu as Zaire for close to 40 more years, the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo has at last achieved political peace with hopes for continued stability and renewed prosperity through development of its ample natural resources with the return of foreign investment and aid. This is the first speaker in a 6-part series from the Southbank Centre on the banks of another great river, the Thames, London. Please listen to Tim Butcher and then follow along with the rest of the 5 shortlisted authors via the podcast. Click on links to purchase their books. You can subscribe to our RSS feeds for this and all audio content, or click on individual mp3 files to select authors or segments.
Stephen Lewis is a consummate orator, which stems as he says from his days in the trenches as a "feckless politician" when he was NDP leader of the opposition in Ontario, Canada. A strong socialist reformer, his work took on global proportions when he became the Canadian UN Ambassador and Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Lewis has been working to help the continent since. His speeches are peppered with names, places, and people from all parts of Africa - from people in the smallest village in Malawi to the leaders and heads of state worldwide. His 2005 Massey Lecture became the basis for a best-selling book, Race Against Time: Searching for Hope in AIDS-Ravaged Africa has won many awards and accolades. The following presentation was sponsored by the Whistler Social Sustainability Society as part of their speaker series. Excerpts are with the permission of Stephen Lewis and the Stephen Lewis Foundation which funds community-based initiatives in Africa. TIME magazine listed Stephen Lewis as one of the ‘100 most influential people in the world.’ He was made a Companion to the Order of Canada in 2002.
Behind every successful television production is a team of hard working, talented people. For the past twenty (plus) years, the woman at helm of WGBH Boston Masterpiece has been Executive Producer, Rebecca Eaton. BookBuffet caught up with Rebecca on her recent visit to California and we've podcast and transcribed our interview for you here. Listen to Rebecca tell us what she loves about her job, what's it's been like to nurture and grow the Masterpiece brand and to work with the incredible actors, writers and directors at the BBC with whom she has collaborated, and subsequently been awarded a bookcase full of Emmy, Peabody and Golden Glob Awards as recognition for excellence from her peers. Then register with the Masterpiece Book to Film Group and be entered to win one of several promotional give-a-ways: re-issued Penguin classic editions of the four Dickens novels adapted for Masterpiece with stunning new covers, and DVD's of the Masterpiece miniseries showing on network TV and for a limited time online during the series run.
With the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to Whistler, BC Canada next February, listen to long-time resident, musician, journalist, author and poet, Stephen Vogler who speaks with BookBuffet today on location in his home town. Stephen is a quiet blend of determined talent. He's a two-book author who's beautiful coffee table book, Top of the Pass: Whistler and the Sea to Sky Country (Harbour Press) tells the history and shares the majesty of his mountain community, "where gravity drives the economy and the lifestyle." Whether you're an enthusiastic sports person or not, you'll be interested to hear how a remote village catering to honeymooners and hippies became the decades' top North American ski resort with an international community of residents and visitors. The bonus of course, is that you'll be ahead of the media hype on the town hosting the next Winter Olympics.
This week's author interview podcast is with the first woman on record to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean—in a row boat. She survived four hurricane class storms and documented her astounding journey in a book titled, Rowboat in a Hurricane: My Amazing Journey Across a Changing Atlantic Ocean. Named personality of the year by National Geographic, join us today as Julie recounts her incredible story and gives witness to the state of the one of the world's oceans. It will inspire you and make you think. This is the perfect gift for any adventurer or enviro-centric person in your life. Help us put Julie's book on the bestseller lists where it belongs with your purchase here today.
Join BookBuffet reviewer Dee Raffo in her very first author interview podcast. Dee speaks with Karen Essex (photo left), one of America's important contemporary historical fiction writers, who joins us from her home in Los Angeles. Karen is a mother, writer and we now discover, quite a feminist. She enjoys illuminating historic female protagonists with a view to educating readers on how far we've come in the pursuit of gender equality here in the West. Her captivating stories, exquisitely researched, bring history to life. The topic for discussion today is Karen's fourth novel, Stealing Athena published by Doubleday in 2008. It's a story where two characters 2300 years apart—one in ancient Greece, the other, 18th century Scotland—find themselves inexplicably linked with the Elgin Marbles, and the controversy and passion that surround them.
Join me for this week's BookBuffet author interview with Katie Hafner, as we discuss her fifth book, A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (McClelland & Stewart 2008, Canada; Bloomsbury in the USA and the UK) The quest for perfection is always a fascinating story - and here you have three stories in one. Katie Hafner is a journalist and author who's been known to write about technology and its effect on social behavior. Inspired by the idea of "writing a story through the prism of an inanimate object," she came upon CD318, a concert grand piano crafted by Steinway. What was so special about this piano? What were the demands of its owner, and who were they both reliant upon? Hafner tenderly unveils this three-pronged mystery for you today. Meet Glenn Gould, renowned Canadian pianist and one of the most complex, brilliant artists of the twentieth century. Famous for his bizarre habits, Hafner describes Gould's obsessive quest to obtain the perfect sound. Meet the blind Saskatchewan piano tuner, Verne Edquist, who labors with CD318 to produce her exquisite tone and responsiveness.
Edith Wharton satirized New York carriage society's attitudes to love, marriage and fidelity at the turn of the century in her novel, The Age of Innocence (Oxford World's Classics). Richard Yates captured married life in the bedroom communities struggling outside of New York in the '50s in his novel, Revolutionary Road. In this week's BookBuffet podcast interview we speak with best-selling author Joshua Henkin who tells us about his second award winning novel, Matrimony: A Novel recently published in paperback by Vintage, 2008. Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) captures contemporary couples dealing with the complexity of relationships in today's age. Julian, Mia, Carter and Pilar meet in an East coast liberal college and the book follows their lives for the next twenty years as they navigate adulthood and the most important aspects of life: love, friendship, careers and commitment. If you love Wharton and you know Yates, then you'll enjoy meeting Henkin.
Summer is here and all the folks at BookBuffet who have surfing on the brain decided to re-post an earlier interview [Nov 13 2004] with Kem Nunn, the legendary surf noir novelist. In addition to his own novel adaptations, Kem has a successful streak of screenplays to his name, Wild Things and his newest collaborations are with HBO Producer David Milch on the show "Deadwood" and he co-produced the HBO series "John from Cincinnati", a surfing series set in Imperial Beach, California which premiered on June 10, 2007. Kem spoke to BookBuffet about the third book in his surf-trilogy, Tijuana Straits, Random House (2004)
CS Richardson has worked in publishing for over twenty years. He is a multiple recipient of the Alcuin Award, Canada’s highest honor for excellence in book design, and a frequent lecturer on various facets of publishing, design, and communications. The End of the Alphabet: A Novel, published by Doubleday Canada, is his first novel and it has just been awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for A Writer's First Novel. Congratulations Scott!! [interview Feb 2008]
It is always a delight to speak with authors in the UK. BookBuffet caught up with Lucy O'Brien, who hails from London. Lucy is the author of several female rock biographies and female rock historical bestsellers. Her latest is the groundbreaking biography of pop icon Madonna. The Material Girl turns fifty in 2008 and in anticipation, Lucy has produced a thorough, sensitive, and illuminating treatise that will help demystify the woman who has made history as the most successful female singer to date.
When Canadian Joseph Boyden came on the literary scene he wowed readers with his powerful historical fiction set during WWI about brotherhood, native identity, and the raw face of war. To meet and speak with Joseph is a pleasure. He's handsome, and has a quick smile and a generous personality. His self-effacing modesty makes him accessible to people despite his success and obvious talent. Please join me in listening to Joseph talk about his life, his writing, and his upcoming new novel, which will follow on the success of Three Day Road.
Stress is an endemic fact of life for people juggling career, family and personal needs. How do you recognize the signs, and how do you restructure your priorities to reduce stress and return to balance? Monica Magnetti is the author of, Outsmart Stress and Being in the Present Moment: How to Create the Blueprint of your Life, she is and the founder of Luna Coaching. BookBuffet spoke with Monica about this social phenomenon and the ways her life coaching practice has helped clients. Listen to the podcast of this interview, and read along with the transcript. Then click to Monica's site for an appointment or book purchase.
What do you do if you happen to live in a small town with only one theatre that only screens one box-office blockbuster every one to two weeks? If you’re the red-headed dynamo Shauna Hardy Mishaw, you get your buns in gear and turn that paucity of celluloid vacuity into The Whistler Film Festival—Western Canada’s fastest growing cultural phenomenon, screening 80+ films (including top North American directors), $40,000 in prizes and commissions, and the country’s most innovative programming through the Filmmakers Forum. All that and more in just five short years! Learn more about this vital regional addition to the world film festival circuit in this interview with the WFF Co-Founder and Executive Dirctor.
The Whistler Reads village book group met March 7th at 7pm at Millennium Place to discuss Margaret MacMillan's award winning, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World (Random House) Three community members (City Councillors and the former Mayor of Whistler) brought history to life with a fun MadLib of the world leaders from the conference; (see pictures) the audience watched them argue and debate the terms of the peace and participated with their own comments and questions. Margaret MacMillan "addressed" the WR group via an earlier podcast interview with WR Director, Paula Shackleton. Fabulous Alsace regional wine was provided by Dundarave Wine Cellar with tasting notes and given out as door prizes. Thanks to Telus, for their support of WR literacy arts in our community.
Seattle author, Kit Bakke has had an interesting life. In the '60s she was a member of the Underground Weatherman, an activist group who protested the Vietnam war. This interested the FBI enough to compile a 100 page file on her. Today this mother of two with two post graduate degrees and a book publication speaks to us about another reformer, the one featured in her first novel,Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds(David Godine Books 2006) Intrigued? Click on the link to our podcast in this article and listen along.
Award winning Montana author and documentary filmmaker, Swain Wolfe joins BookBuffet host Paula Shackleton in speaking about his fourth book, The Boy Who Invented Skiing: A Memoir (St. Martins Press, June 2006) Listen to this podcast by clicking on the link, and follow along with the transcript. Swain's lilting, intentioned speech describes a world of experience growing up in the West during hard times, and points to the basis of his lyric prose and the complex characterizations in his novels. This book is an excellent gift for the men on your holiday shopping list.
Michela Wrong spent six years as a correspondent covering events in Africa for Reuters, the BBC, and The Financial Times prior to writing her book, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz. Printed by Harper Perennial and on its second edition, it is a history of the Congo and President Mobutu’s 32-year reign. It has been heralded by The Economist as a book that is destined to become a classic. She spoke with us from her home in London.
Bookbuffet recently had the pleasure of speaking with Margaret Atwood. Ms. Atwood is one of today’s most important writers. She has established herself as a prolific poet, novelist, literary critic, proto-feminist, and political activist. She is hailed as one of Canada’s most eminent writers and has been honored throughout her career both nationally and internationally. Atwood, through her perfuse writings, critiques, and activism has ultimately contributed to the growth of women’s writing and to the established legitimacy of Canadian literature.
Take a look at facinating elements of Japanese culture as revealed in Oyama Shiro's prize winning novel, A Man With No Talents (Oxford University Press 2005) Bookbuffet interviews Edward B. Fowler who translated from Japanese to English this unique memoir, and provides us with insights on areas of his expertise surrounding the culture and language. Listen to the audio and read along with the transcript.
Damian McNicholl's first novel, A Son Called Gabriel (CDS Books) is a poignant story of a young boys' ambiguous sexual awakening in the backdrop of Northern Ireland's turbulent civil rights struggle of the '60s and '70s. It is a must-readfor: every parent about to raise teenagers; every educator, councilor or psychologist; every minister or priest—indeed anyone seeking to be reminded of the importance of individualism.
Susan Orlean is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her style of journalism is among some of the best prose written in the country today by a new breed of journalists. Author of five books, three of which are compilations of her collected articles, her book, The Orchid Thief (Ballantine Books 2000) about an environmental controversy in the protected swamps of Florida inspired the film Adaptation. BookBuffet caught up with this intrepid travelor, dog lover, and new mother to talk about her writing.
Jack El-Hai, prize winning medical journalist and author of The Lobotomist (Wiley 2005) spoke with BookBuffet about the life and times of Dr.Walter J. Freeman—the man who helped pioneer and promote lobotomy as a revolutionary form of psychosurgery in the treatment of patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses. What went wrong? Why did this procedure become synonymus with the kind of repugnance and abuse we ascribe to it today? What can people, the medical community and healthcare policymakers learn from the unique life and career of Walter Freeman? Listen to the interview about The Lobotomist, and find out.
Tracy Quan first entered onto my radar screen while I was researching Jared Diamond (Pulitzer Prize winner for, Guns, Germs and Steel) and his new book, Collapse. There in the middle of an uber-geek website, between cognitive linguistics and intense scientific, technological and cultural conjecture was the short, alluring biography of author Tracy Quan. Her first novel Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, (Three River Press, 2003) has been translated into more than six languages. Her personal essays and other writings have looked at adultery, identity politics, AIDS, virginity, prostitution, technology, and numerous topics from a unique perspective. These have appeared in South China Morning Post, The Asian Review of Books, The Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), San Francisco Chronicle, Men's Health.
Tracy is a former sex-trade worker of ten years who crossed over into writing with her popular Sex series under the Health category of David Talbot's then ground-breaking website, Salon.com. That series grew to 55 episodes (still archived on salon) introducing Tracy's protagonist Nancy Chan, "Manhattan Call Girl of the Millennium".
Sharon Boorstin author of Cookin' for Love: A Novel with Recipes; iUniverse (2005) is a pleasure to speak with for three reasons: she is a self-made woman grounded in the values of food, family and friendship, (not necessarily in that order) who writes humorously about issues germane to women in their 40’s and 50’s, and has accomplished her goals by embracing technology in a creative way that you will enjoy reading about.
Sheila Hayman is a force to be reckoned with. In typical British selfdepricating fashion, she describes herself as "the daughter of a German pure mathematician and a Yorkshire Quaker, who grew up awkwardly with stick-out ears and an appreciation for upper Mozart while [her] friends were still listening to the Monkeys”.
What does a "Meat-eating, poker-playing, cigar-smoking, skirt-chasing, Ivy League graduate-come-screenwriter and yoga instructor have to do with it?" asks screenwriter and best friend Helena Kriel at the Santa Monica book launch of this author. Meet Arthur Jeon, in this month's author interview, discussing his new book, City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos, Random House (2004) his first in a two-book contract. Love and the Dharma is his next book.
May is InternationalTranslation Month and we caught up with Edith Grossman to talk about her latest work of translation, Don Quixoteby Miquel Cervantes, (Harper Collins 2004) NEW! Listen to the podcast interview.
BookBuffet interviews Sara Lewis, author of The Best of Good, is a story of Tom Good, a talented musician struggling with depression and losing his grip on life, who upon discovering that a decade old romance produced a son he never knew existed, becomes motivated to transform himself into a person his son will want to love. Sara writes like a female Nick Hornby.