Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Andrew Harding

Andrew Harding is a British journalist and author. He has been living and working abroad as a foreign correspondent for the past 25 years. Since 1994 he has been working for BBC News.

Harding has been visiting Somalia since 2000, and was in Mogadishu during the height of the battle against the Islamist militants of Al Shabab and during the famine of 2011. He is one of the very few foreign journalists to have travelled into territory controlled by Al Shabab and met their commanders, or to have visited (twice) the pirate town of Eyl.

Harding's new book is The Mayor of Mogadishu: A Story of Chaos and Redemption in the Ruins of Somalia.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m gearing up to write my second book – a non-fiction tale about a brutal double murder here in South Africa and the way the subsequent investigation and trial have been stirring up all sorts of political tensions in a small farming town. And so yes, I’ve been re-reading In Cold Blood, looking for tips, and have been left, once again, in awe of Truman Capote’s skill at hiding the seams and stitches that allowed him to transform years of interviews and transcripts into such a polished, perfect novel.

Jonny Steinberg’s A Man of Good Hope has been useful too. But not for the way it tries to hide any stitches - rather for the opposite. He tells the story of a Somali boy’s escape from war in Mogadishu, and the long trek down the continent to South Africa, where he encounters a different kind of hell. It’s a startlingly honesty and skillful work of reportage, and grows more topical by the day in this era of migration and closing borders.

In a similar vein, I’ve been enjoying Nadifa Mohamed’s beautiful, evocative Black Mamba Boy. This is another story about leaving Somalia – based on the life of the novelist’s own father, but fictionalised. I can’t wait to read her most recent book, The Orchard of Lost Souls.
Visit Andrew Harding's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Mayor of Mogadishu.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 28, 2016

David Welky

David Welky is the author of The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937, The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II, and other books. He is a professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas.

Welky's latest book is A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Welky's reply:
Having a family and a full-time teaching job – both of which I’m grateful for – leaves me with precious little time for discretionary reading. Most books I read are related to my current writing project. When I do reach beyond my field, my choices tend to be eclectic. I not only enjoy history and biography, but also books about biology, geology, and astrophysics written for general readers.

But a trend is evident in my recent reading. Events over the past several months have left me thinking deeply about race in America, and much of my “outside reading” has focused on that fascinating and thorny subject.

By now, most readers have heard of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, the author’s spellbinding message to his son. There’s not much point in adding another handclap to the thunderous applause Coates has already received, but I will say that I found his writing utterly devastating, and was particularly struck by the way in which he made the fragility of the black body central to the African-American experience. Between the World and Me is the kind of book you plow through in one sitting, then immediately return to the first page and start reading again.

Mat Johnson’s Pym had been on my list ever since I read Edgar Allan Poe’s bizarre novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a shambling travelogue about an Antarctic expedition that encounters a cartoonish tribe of black people. The protagonist of Johnson’s Pym, a modern-day professor of African-American studies named Chris Jaynes, uncovers evidence that Poe’s story was fact not fiction; there actually is a lost civilization hidden in the Antarctic. His pursuit of the truth becomes a charming, witty, satirical, provocative meditation on the relevance and irrelevance of race. Jaynes interacts with a hilarious array of stereotypes ranging from a hip-hop theorist to an old-school Black Power advocate to a group of “super ice honkies.” Best not to say much more lest I spoil a novel that revels in the unexpected. But anyone curious about what would happen if a band of intrepid African Americans stumbled across a Thomas Kinkaid-like painter who lives in a giant ice dome should check out Pym.

My wife kept raving about a book called Underground Airlines. I patiently (probably patronizingly) told her it was called Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning novel. I was wrong. Ben Winters’s Underground Airlines is set in a familiar world of cars and computers and cell phones, but with a twist: The United States never fought the Civil War, and slavery still exists in the Deep South.

Victor is an African-American bounty hunter who returns fugitive slaves to their owners. His self-acknowledged hypocrisy – maintaining his own freedom by denying it to others – becomes the central paradox driving the narrative. In less adept hands the theme could become trite: No one is free so long as anyone is deprived of their rights. But Winters creates a complex, nuanced environment that leaves space for the reader to empathize with multiple perspectives while fully grasping the horror of a modern-day, industrialized form of chattel slavery.

Underground Airlines’s world is utterly believable. Winters conveys big themes in small ways, whether by describing the economic ties between southern manufacturers that exploit slave labor and the supposedly “clean” northern retailers who sell their products, or by showing the intricate network of mechanisms that keeps the slavery system in place while minimizing white people’s exposure to it. Ugliness is easy to ignore when you can’t see it. Most people are content to leave the slaves to their fate so long as their suffering doesn’t inconvenience the lives of the free.

Finally, I just completed Patrick Phillips’s Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, a searing tale about how and why Forsyth County, Georgia expelled all of its African Americans in 1912 and remained all white until quite recently. Violence lies at the heart of this true story. African Americans fled following a series of hangings, some extralegal and some carried out by a prejudiced legal system. Persistent vigilantism kept the area all white for decades to come. Forsyth County’s “racial cleansing” also stemmed from white residents’ fears of losing their privileged status. The presence of successful black farmers and businessmen in the early twentieth century inspired a backlash grounded in a sense of white victimhood. Subsequent attempts to re-integrate the area failed amid angry denunciations of so-called outside agitators and cries for black people to stay in their place. Residents claimed, apparently without irony, that there were no racial problems so long as the area remained entirely white.

Phillips exhumes this sad story from old newspapers, local records, and oral histories. But what really makes Blood at the Root special is that Phillips himself spent his formative years in all-white Forsyth Country. The book therefore straddles the line between history and personal discovery.

Although many of us think (whether consciously or unconsciously) in terms of race or are troubled by our fractured race relations, we as a nation are uncomfortable talking about how race has affected (and continues to affect) the United States. Instead of frank discussions and forthright action, we employ coded references to “other communities,” “inner cities,” “assimilation,” and “post-racial societies.” Taken collectively, these four books poke at our hang-ups, urging us to thrust our fears into the open. In order to make progress, we must acknowledge inequality and deal with the consequences of it. We must accept that present-day racial inequities and suspicions have grown from deep roots. And, as all of these books demonstrate, we must stop pretending that race doesn’t matter.
The Page 99 Test: The Thousand-Year Flood.

My Book, The Movie: A Wretched and Precarious Situation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Zana Fraillon

Zana Fraillon was born in Melbourne Australia, but spent her early childhood in San Francisco. She has written two picture books for young children, a series for middle readers, and a fictitious book for older readers based on research and recounts of survivors of the Forgotten Generation. She lives in Melbourne, with her three sons, husband and two dogs.

Fraillon's new novel is The Bone Sparrow.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Fraillon's reply:
The most recent book I have read is Moose Baby by Meg Rosoff and published by Barrington Stoke. I really love the Barrington Stoke books – they are short, accessible reads, beautifully designed on thick paper and often with beautiful illustrations to accompany them. Moose Baby is about a teenage mother who gives birth to – you guessed it – a Moose. Apparently a fairly common occurrence. It is a story full of warmth and humour and completely quirky.

The other book I have read recently is The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan. This book, like Crossan’s Carnegie award winning book One, is written entirely in free verse. The wonderful thing about writing this way is that the rhythm of the words is very close to the natural rhythm of thought, so the reader is instantly inside the character’s head. This is one of those books in which the character’s voice sticks with the reader long after the book is finished. I only wish I’d thought of writing books like that…

And finally, I am about to start a book by one of my very favourite authors, Fredrik Backman. His most recent story is a novella, and I already know I will be devastated to finish it. It is called And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer. Backman’s books are always full of amazing characters expressed with real depth and love. They are always touching, and always full of gentle humour.
Follow Zana Fraillon on Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Sparrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stephen L. Moore

Stephen L. Moore is the author of eighteen books on World War II and Texas history. His latest, As Good As Dead: The Daring Escape of American POWs From a Japanese Death Camp, covers the dramatic escape of eleven American POWs from the Palawan Massacre in the Philippines during December 1944. Moore, a sixth generation Texan, is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Moore's reply:
The most recent book I’ve read is James Hornfischer’s new release, The Fleet at Flood Tide, which covers the last year of the war in the Pacific. The depths of his research is evident in an important work that helps reveal the startling psyche of a Japanese culture that must be reckoned with if the Allies decide to invade mainland Japan.

Currently, I am reading John Stryker Meyer’s Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam. Meyer, a leader of a small Special Forces team of Green Berets, recounts his dangerous, and previously classified missions, as his team is pursued by NVA patrols while in enemy territory during the Vietnam War.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Battle for Hell’s Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stephen Aryan

Stephen Aryan was born in 1977 and was raised by the sea in northeast England. After graduating from Loughborough University, he started working in marketing, and for some reason he hasn't stopped. A keen podcaster, lapsed gamer and budding archer, when not extolling the virtues of Babylon 5, he can be found drinking real ale and reading comics.

Aryan's books include Battlemage, the first book in his Age of Darkness trilogy.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Aryan's reply:
I’m currently reading 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs. I was in the mood for something light hearted and funny, but also gothic and a bit dark, so this book is perfect. I’d previously read most of his Brenda and Effie books, about the Bride of Frankenstein and her friend who is a witch, as two old biddies fighting the forces of darkness in Whitby. His books are always funny, clever and very witty.

In 666 Charing Cross Road, imagine if Buffy had retired and was now someone’s grandmother. She’s enjoying her quiet time when once again the forces of darkness rise up in New York and she very reluctantly has to dust off her stakes and go out and fight evil again. The story is fast paced, the humour leaps off the page and Magrs always make me laugh with his mix of horror and comedy.

Before that I’d just finished reading the penultimate volume of Chew, the Image comic from John Layman and Rob Guillory. This comic book completely divides people. They either love the concept or they think it’s gross and never want to read it. It’s about a cop who gets a psychic impression from everything he eats where he sees the origin of whatever it was. So if it’s a burger he sees the cow’s sudden demise, then right before that, then it living in the field, then being born and so on, which makes it very difficult for him to eat much of anything. However, he uses his special ability to solve food related crimes in a world gone mad where chicken is banned, there’s alien writing in the sky and another person like him, a Cibopath, is killing other people for their food related powers and absorbing them. It’s incredibly graphic, very funny, quite dark and suddenly it sounds like everything I read is twisted and weird. I really like how over the top it is and how it mixes comedy and the writer’s genius at coming up with new powers. It is without a doubt the most unique comic I’ve ever read and in an increasingly crowded entertainment market I like its originality.

Before that I read The Fireman by Joe Hill. It’s about a post-apocalyptic world where a dangerous spore has infected the entire population which makes people spontaneously combust. Joe Hill is really good at creating characters that, on the surface, seem like awful people. However no-one is completely a white hat or a black hat. We are all flawed to one degree or another and in all of his stories he takes these broken, damaged people and puts them through the wringer and during that process we find out who they really are. Sometimes they are unpleasant people who can be heroic and sometimes they’re good people who are just trying to survive. I like the fact that no-one rips open their shirt and transforms into a superhero. They’re just ordinary people doing their best.

On a slightly more light-hearted note, I recently read The Good, The Bad and The Furry, a non-fiction book about a British man, Tom Cox, and the escapes of his five cats. One of them is nearly twenty years old and has had a very interesting and long life. This third book chronicles another chapter in Tom’s life and it’s a gentle read about his cats but also relationships, getting on a bit in life, moving house and trying to find your place in a new area, meeting the neighbours and all of it is done in a humorous and touching way. As a cat owner, but also someone with a bit of grey in my hair, I can relate on many levels. I moved house about a year ago so I see many parallels about trying to start over, build up a new life and network of friends. It’s not as easy as it was when I was a child. Back then you’d just see someone playing in the street and join in. You can’t really do that these days, especially as an adult!

My next read is going to be the second Dexter book by Jeff Lindsay, Dearly Devoted Dexter, as I am a huge fan of the TV series and I started reading the books ages ago. I then got lost in the TV series but now that it’s finished and has faded a bit in my mind, I can read the books without getting the two muddled up as I know there are some distinct differences. I love the sarcastic voice overs in the TV show and the inner voice of his Dark Passenger, which you get much more of, in the books.
Visit Stephen Aryan's website.

My Book, The Movie: Battlemage.

The Page 69 Test: Battlemage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ashley Weaver

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University.

Her new novel, A Most Novel Revenge, is her third Amory Ames mystery.

Recently I asked Weaver about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m currently reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I bought the book before I succumbed to Broadway’s Hamilton craze, but having fallen in love with the musical I finally picked up the book and started reading. I’m still in the early stages of the 700+ page biography, but I’m already captivated. The wonderful writing and the non-stop dynamism of the subject are putting this book on course to be one of my favorites of the year.

While I’m loving the Founding Fathers’ story, it’s another era of history that is occupying my attention recently. I often get into phases in my reading, and my current subject of interest is WWII. I’m currently enjoying two books on this theme. The first is Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre. This is the fascinating true account of a British criminal and con man that became a double agent during World War II. It reads almost like a spy film, and it’s such a pleasant mix of history, adventure, and even a dash of humor.

The second WWII book I’m enjoying is When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rossbottom. This is an excellent account of what life was like in Occupied Paris, and the author does a fantastic job of covering everything from the everyday life of Parisians to the workings of the Resistance.

A recent fiction favorite was Red Rising by Pierce Brown. The first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy set on Mars, it follows a young man’s rise from the lowest social order to its most elite through a harrowing and violent journey. This page-turner was both compelling and thought-provoking, and I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy!
Visit Ashley Weaver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 18, 2016

Levi Roach

Levi Roach is lecturer at the University of Exeter, and formerly a junior research fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge. His new book is Æthelred: The Unready.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Roach's reply:
My most recent read was R.I. Moore’s War on Heresy. I’m a long-time fan of Moore, so it’s something of an embarrassment that it took me so long to get around to the book. I started reading it while on holiday in Toulouse. The southern French city – which witnessed some of the most dramatic heresy trials of the Middle Ages – offered the ideal backdrop.

Moore seeks to understand the origins medieval Europe’s obsession with heresy. As he notes, before the second half of the twelfth century, false belief had only been a matter of passing concern; thereafter, however, it became something of a fixation. Moore argues that this was a consequence of socio-economic changes in the preceding years (above all, economic boom and the growth of government and administration). These placed traditional social bonds under strain, encouraging a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to faith; they also provided authorities with new means of imposing their will.

It was out of this heady brew that the ‘war on heresy’ was born. Confronted by local customs and beliefs which did not conform to Church teachings, ecclesiastical and secular authorities became convinced that they were dealing with a unified a movement, and proceeded accordingly. Though some of the people accused of heresy were willing to die for their beliefs, it is far from clear that these constituted a coherent body of teachings. Heresy was, in short, largely an invention of those charged with pursuing it.

Moore’s is a disturbing book. While some of his arguments have proven controversial, his basic point, that medieval heresy – like early modern witchcraft – was in the eye of the beholder, is as convincing as it is troubling. The book serves as a timely reminder that the scapegoating of minorities and non-conformists – all too evident in modern politics – is nothing new.
Learn more about Æthelred: The Unready at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lisa Napoli

A journalist for over thirty years, Lisa Napoli was among the pioneering team of reporters at the New York Times who covered the early days of the dot-com era. Her new book is Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Napoli's reply:
I’ve been obsessed lately with aging and ageism in our culture; like many of my age peers—I’m 53—I’m grappling with much-older relatives, far-away, ageism in the workplace, and general questions about how to grow old gracefully while imbuing our lives with meaning and purpose. So I’ve started a podcast with that title—Gracefully—and gravitate toward stories on those themes. When I saw a recent essay in The New Yorker by the 87-year old poet Donald Hall about his daily routine, I became intrigued, as I knew little about him. As I often do when I get excited about a subject, I requisitioned a number of books from the Los Angeles Public Library, right up the street from me. In addition to several volumes of his poetry, I’ve been immersed in the biography he wrote about his late wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, The Best Day The Worst Day. His recounting of her untimely decline due to leukemia is every bit as wrenching and illuminating as you’d imagine an accomplished man of letter’s articulation of love, lust, and grief might be.
Visit Lisa Napoli's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 14, 2016

Leah Kaminsky

Leah Kaminsky, a physician and award-winning writer, is Poetry & Fiction Editor at the Medical Journal of Australia. Her debut novel, The Waiting Room, is followed by We’re all Going to Die. She conceived and edited Writer MD, a collection of prominent physician-writers, which starred on Booklist. She is co-author of Cracking the Code, with the Damiani family. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Recently I asked Kaminsky about what she was reading. Her reply:
I recently read John Banville’s novel, Eclipse. It is a powerful exploration of the hold the past has on us. I was fascinated by his use of the beckoning of ghosts as a tool for self-reflection in the main character. This is something I explored thematically in The Waiting Room – the importance of bearing witness to the dead as a way of connecting us with our individual heritage. His prose is engaging and poetic.
Visit Leah Kaminsky's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waiting Room.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Christopher P. Dum

Christopher P. Dum is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Kent State University. He is a contributor to Justice Quarterly and Children and Youth Services Review.

His new book is Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel.

Recently I asked Dum about what he was reading. His reply:
As a sociologist, I end up reading a lot of non-fiction scholarly books related to my fields of study. Because of this, I always make sure to have a fiction book on hand to provide some balance. I am currently reading Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. I first encountered McCarthy's work when my father bought me The Road for Christmas. I really enjoy the McCarthy's writing style, especially the way that he writes dialogue and handles violence. He captures gruesome and depraved acts in a very simple and graphic way, and I find myself re-reading many of these passages. Blood Meridian is filled with them, due to its subject matter, and it reads in many ways like a horror novel that just happens to be set in the West. This is actually my second time reading this book, but I feel like I wasn't able to appreciate it and focus on it during my first read. However, this revisiting of the novel is very enjoyable. Each page captures my attention and I feel like I am really being transported into the story.
Learn more about Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Brad Osborn

Brad Osborn is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Kansas. His articles on Radiohead and other recent rock music are published in Music Theory Spectrum, Perspectives of New Music, Music Analysis, Music Theory Online, Gamut, and in several edited collections.

Osborn writes and records atmospheric rock music under the artist moniker, D'Archipelago.

His new book is Everything in its Right Place: Analyzing Radiohead.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Osborn's reply:
I teach a graduate seminar on analyzing popular music, so I’m (re-)reading music-analytical articles along with my students. We just read Robert Fink’s excellent 2011 article on rhythmic teleology in African-American popular music. It’s all about how late-60s Motown sometimes withheld that signature 4-on-the-floor beat until a pivotal moment, and how this plays directly into lyrical themes of the time, which preach striving for the American (bourgeois) dream instead of ingesting instant (chemical) pleasures. We also just read Suzanne Cusick’s article “On the Musical Performances of Gender and Sex,” after which I had each student share a music video in which they saw (and heard) an artist performing various gender roles in interesting ways.

Even when I’m not working, in truth, I’m not much of a fiction reader. I consume, voraciously, every issue of The New Yorker the moment it hits my door, but I often skip the fiction.

That said, I just finished Dubliners, which really transported me into early 20th-century Ireland. I love the way that each chapter telescopes in length, so that Joyce warms you up with short stories about childhood and you end up mediating, at length, on mortality.

I’m juggling two fiction works right at this moment. Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a pocket sized volume I borrowed from a friend for a trip to LA. It fit in my carry-on, and was a good companion for the many bars I wanted to visit, alone. The Martian Chronicles really resonated with me, and, though this one is much more…well, terrestrial, it’s every bit as otherworldly.

After working my way through all of his non-fiction (that I know of), I’m now diving headfirst into DFW’s Infinite Jest—though I sometimes feel like a cliché reading it in public. A tome of a volume, to be sure, it’s nevertheless split into short scenes. While these scenes aren’t even chronological, the punctuation pushes and pulls the rhythm along. I write so much about rhythm and form in music, I guess I think about these things all the time.
Learn more about Everything in its Right Place at the Oxford University Press.

The Page 99 Test: Everything in its Right Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Robin Blake

Robin Blake is the author of the Cragg & Fidelis series, including A Dark Anatomy and Dark Waters, in addition to acclaimed works on the artists Van Dyck and Stubbs. He has written, produced and presented extensively for radio, is widely published as a critic.

Blake's latest novel is Skin & Bone, the fourth Cragg & Fidelis mystery.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading:
I’ve got three books on the go at the moment. One is So Pretty a Problem, a crime mystery by the British author Francis Duncan. It was first published in 1950, during the period known as the Golden Age of crime fiction – i.e. the time when Queen Agatha was in her pomp. The bookshop shelves were infested with Christie-esque amateur sleuths whose interference in police murder investigations was accepted by the Constabulary (as they tended to be called) with unbelievable tolerance. Duncan’s hero is typical of the genre: a meek retired tobacconist called Mordecai Tremaine who wears pince-nez instead of regular glasses, reads for preference romantic fiction (and certainly not crime) yet happens to possess a mind that cuts through a murderer’s lies and obfuscations with the sharpness of a cut-throat razor. To magic this kind of character into a believable human being can be a hard trick to work and Duncan’s magicianship has not really stood the test of time. Compared to the American hard-boiled fiction of the same period, I’m finding this book a very soft egg.

I’m also re-reading Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, which was published in 1749. It was a very famous novel in its time, and although very long it remains a wonderful read partly because it is a rollicking story (brilliantly filmed in the 1960s with the young Albert Finney as Tom) but also because Fielding is a fantastic stylist with a keen eye for the ridiculous and a notably humane attitude towards moral frailty. Fielding is also of interest to all fans of crime fiction since, as the chief magistrate in the criminal milieu of London’s Covent Garden, he set up the city’s first professional police force, the Bow Street Runners.

My third book is The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us whose author is, appropriately, Bee Wilson. The story I am writing at this moment has a beekeeping leading character, so I am boning up on the subject. Yet, like so much historical research, the book is nothing but a huge pleasure. It not only explains the organization of bee society (completely fascinating) but also the reciprocal relationship between humans and bees, which stretches back into the mists of time. The thought that bees as a species are now under threat of extinction by new and devastating agricultural pesticides is an unbearable one.
Visit Robin Blake's website.

The Page 69 Test: Skin & Bone.

My Book, The Movie: Skin & Bone by Robin Blake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Christian Lee Novetzke

Christian Lee Novetzke is professor of religious studies, South Asia studies, and global studies at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He is the author of Religion and Public Memory: A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India and coauthor, with William Elison and Andy Rotman, of Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation.

Novetzke's new book is The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Amitav Ghosh is a writer I admire. Ghosh is a trained anthropologist and he taught at Columbia for many years. When I was a graduate student there, I attended a few of his lectures. I love his writing and the linguistic worlds he creates, especially in the Ibis trilogy. Now I’ve been reading The Great Derangement by Ghosh. It’s about the madness of our ecological self-destruction. I’ve only just started the book, but I like what he does in the beginning: he reminds us that the story of the earth around us, of the climate in which our lives transpire, is also the story of our lives. By destroying our environment, we destroy our biography, the context for the story of all lives on earth.

When The Great Derangement gets me down, I pick up my other book, Selection Day, by Aravind Adiga. The book is about boys who hope to become professional cricket players in Mumbai, and Adiga shows us the kind of cricket factory that exists at the nexus of a national fascination with the sport, the intense wealth of Mumbai, and the aspirations of the semi-impoverished in one of the world’s largest cities. It’s hard to say what else the book is about because it is about so much. I read it as a father to two children, and so from my point of view, it is about fatherhood—about how hard it is to help human beings form. I’m also thinking of this theme because I just finished One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which are very similar books—you can feel Márquez haunt Diaz’s prose. They are both beautiful, disturbing books. Adiga’s book is less disturbing, but no less delightful. All three carry forward the theme of fatherhood, or the absence of fathers, or fatherhood as the cover for violence. Actually, now that I think about it, another book I just finished, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is also about fatherhood in a way. I suppose I’m reading about fatherhood—which is surely its own sort of “great derangement” but of a happier kind.
Learn more about The Quotidian Revolution at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Quotidian Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Stephen Engle

Stephen D. Engle is professor of history at Florida Atlantic University and director of the Alan B. and Charna Larkin Symposium on the American Presidency.

His new book Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union's War Governors.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Engle's reply:
I'm reading Richard Wightman Fox's Lincoln’s Body: A Cultural History…..which explores the many (and varied) uses of Lincoln and his body….a terrific read….
Learn more about Gathering to Save a Nation at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gathering to Save a Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Martha Freeman

Martha Freeman is an author of books for children of all ages, including The Orphan and the Mouse, the First Kids and Chickadee Court mysteries, and The Secret Cookie Club: Campfire Cookies.

Her latest novel is Strudel's Forever Home.

Recently I asked Freeman about what she was reading. Her reply:
About a year ago I joined a take-no-prisoners book group, by which I mean we read only serious stuff, and we are crazy opinionated. We keep scaring new members away. This year we’ve read Swann’s Way and The Magic Mountain, along with a book of essays on botany, Cabaret of Plants. Currently, we are reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, a book I hadn’t read since high school. I am happy to report that a) it stands up well, and b) I am smarter than I was in high school.

Invisible Man, National Book Award winner in 1953, is the story of a never-named black man who is increasingly disillusioned after being expelled from college in the south and moving to New York City. Almost everyone he meets seems to want to use him for their own ends – if they see him at all. The book is as upsetting as it is beautifully written – Ellison said he was going for jazz rhythms and I’d say he succeeded. It’s also a fascinating period piece. Here we are sixty years later, and some of the problems detailed in it are worse instead of better.
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Leah Platt Boustan

Leah Platt Boustan is professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her new book is Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Boustan's reply:
Most of my reading these days is with my two kids. We especially enjoy Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem. The setting of the book, Harlem in the early 20th century, interests me because of my work on the Great Black Migration. My kids like the book because the illustrations are gorgeous, the colors are bright, almost as if Jacob Lawrence himself was the illustrator. And they like imagining that their art could blossom into a whole world.

I read a lot myself, usually before bed or at the gym. When I was nursing, I read 40 novels on my phone! The non-fiction book that has interested me the most recently is Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. Before the social insurance programs that we know today, like Social Security, many of which were established during the 1930s, some workers insured themselves against job loss and illness through ethnic organizations. When the border closed in the 1920s and immigration slowed down, these workers were more interested in turning to collective solutions, including looking toward the government.
Learn more about Competition in the Promised Land at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue