Friday, October 31, 2008

Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux's new book is Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar.

It's his account of retracing most of his original route that he chronicled in his 1975 best seller The Great Railway Bazaar — from London to Tokyo and back via Russia, mostly by train.

Bob Minzesheimer of USA Today asked him a few questions about the book, including:

Q: The most striking change you saw?

A: Without question, Vietnam. From a country that was a muddy, flattened, bloody, beleaguered hell hole … to the country it is today: flourishing, forward-looking and, almost incredibly, forgiving.

Q: The biggest disappointment?

A: Burma was a military tyranny when I took the train to the far north all those years ago. Nothing has changed, though it seems quite a bit worse: poorer, more oppressed, more exploited, thanks to China and India's support of the Burmese generals.
Read the full Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 30, 2008

David Hewson

From a Q & A with David Hewson about his first Nic Costa novel, A Season for the Dead:

A Season for the Dead crosses several genres. It is a novel of suspense, as the Italian police attempt to stop a serial killer. It is a psychological novel that slowly gives up clues as to the killer's motivation. It is, in some ways, a historical novel, as the reader is given a guided tour through the Roman churches and the paintings within which motivate and inspire the killer. It is a love story about the bittersweet romance between policeman Nic Costa and the enigmatic Sara Farnese. What was your inspiration for this novel? Did you know where it was headed from the start? Or how it would twist and turn?

The idea for A Season for the Dead came into my head when I was in Rome one very hot August editing the final draft of my Venice novel, Lucifer's Shadow. When I wasn’t sweating – literally – over the computer, I wandered around the very local part of Rome where I was staying and was struck by the very vivid – ghoulish frankly – depictions of martyrdoms on some of the small, early churches there. It prompted the question: Why does a religion based around love need such violent images? And with the success of Mel Gibson’s "Passion" I guess it’s not an entirely historical question either. I also wanted to write another cop story, this time with a cop who was totally against type: good, young, fit, optimistic, and trying to do the right thing. The two married up somewhere. For me, the core of the novel is Nic’s attempt to define what it is to lead a good life, at a time when he’s dreading the loss of his father and facing the horrors of these crimes and his destructive relationship with Sara. I always know the eventual destination of a novel but the journey there is a little like a ride on London Transport: You're aware of where you’re headed but you’re never quite sure how or when you’re going to get there. Writing has to be a journey of discovery for me too, one in which the characters dictate some of the moves, otherwise I’d be bored stiff.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn more about the author and his work at David Hewson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sacrament.

The Page 99 Test: The Garden of Evil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jeri Westerson

From an interview with Veil of Lies author Jeri Westerson at

Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration?

I had many authors inspire me over the years, but I would have to say that my first inspiration was J.R.R. Tolkein. I was always writing stories when I was a kid, since the first moment I could pick up a crayon. But in high school when I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy I was truly inspired by this enveloping sort of writing, of this world-building that took in so many of the myths and legends that I already enjoyed (having grown up in a household of rabid Anglophiles with a hunger for history). It was in high school that I wrote my first novel. Four hundred long hand! And then for many years after, I wrote Tolkein-esque fantasy novels. Just for fun. It never occurred to me to cultivate this interest into a career till much later in life. It was just a hobby, just something I did for fun.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn more about Veil of Lies and its author at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. She is the author of eight sf/f novels, including A Companion to Wolves with Sarah Monette. Her new novel is All the Windwracked Stars.

From Joe Sherry's interview with Bear at Adventures in Reading:

All the Windwracked Stars is the first volume of your new trilogy The Edda of Burdens and is scheduled to be published in November. I've seen you describe All the Windwracked Stars as "periApocalyptic Norse steampunk noir high fantasy", which has to be one of the most baffling yet fascinating descriptive labels ever to be slapped on a book. Can you expand upon that description a bit and talk about All the Windwracked Stars?

Bear: End of October, actually.

AtWS is a story which takes place after, during, and before the end of the world. In that order, yes.

It stars a valkyrie who has gotten herself shipwrecked in time, a kickboxing gigolo, a kitten with a whip, a two-headed iron horse, and a nihilistic wolf, and it's about all sorts of things--the differences--or lack thereof--between service and slavery being one of them.

Congratulations on the Hugo Award for your short story "Tideline". What does winning the award mean to you personally and what do you hope it will mean for you professionally?

Bear: Alas, I hate to disillusion you, but to take the second half of your question first--it's generally accepted in the industry that the only award that has any effect on sales whatsoever is the Best Novel Hugo, and that is a minuscule bump at best.

What it means to me personally is a little different. It's a wonderful, flattering vote of confidence from the readers and fans, and I could not be more pleased that the SFF community enjoyed "Tideline" and chose to tell me--and the world--about it. Also, it's been a wonderful opportunity for every single person I know even slightly to bust my ass from here to Texas and back. *g*
Read the complete Q & A.

Read excerpts from All the Windwracked Stars, and learn more about the author and her work at Elizabeth Bear's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: All the Windwracked Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 27, 2008

Laurel Corona

Laurel Corona is the author of more than a dozen middle school books and is a professor of English and Humanities at San Diego City College.

From a Q & A about her new novel, The Four Seasons, at the publisher's website:

Q. What inspired you to write The Four Seasons?

A. I ran across a reference to Vivaldi’s work with the female musicians of the Pieta in a textbook I used for a Humanities courses at the community college where I teach. When I did a little research, I realized how rich and complex a subject the Pieta was in and of itself, how magnificent it became when a great composer and his music were added in, and how explosive a result there would be to have the opulent, complicated and gorgeous city of Venice as the foundation for the story.

Q. While Venetians were—by their own admission—often described as too impassioned, your characters are often in situations where they must suppress any passion. Do you see your most successful characters as those who were able to conceal it the best?

A. My goal was to create central characters with a deep sense of personal dignity, characters who are trying to be all they can be, and not disappoint themselves with the way they’ve lived their lives. I think people recognize that suppression of at least some of our passion is the price of keeping or enhancing our social status, and I think most of us probably aren’t proud of at least some situations where we let passion overwhelm us. I perceived my characters as having all this in mind as they made decisions in their lives, whether I wrote any of it into their thoughts or not.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Laurel Corona's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amitav Ghosh

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal interviewed Amitav Ghosh about his latest novel, Sea of Poppies.

Part of their conversation:

The Wall Street Journal: Why did you decide on a historical novel set in 19th century India?

Amitav Ghosh: I've written one other historical novel, "The Glass Palace." It's the book for which I am probably best known outside of India. When I was writing it, I became interested in the history of indentured workers leaving India -- workers who went to Burma and Malaysia, where they were called "coolies." The history of that experience fascinated me. It wasn't possible to write about it at great length in "The Glass Palace," but I wanted to explore the earliest period of indenture and steep myself in it, so I came back to it.

WSJ: This novel is very much an ensemble piece. Was that your original intention?

Mr. Ghosh: Yes, always. One of the books that has been a great inspiration to me since I was an adolescent is Thornton Wilder's "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." It's a wonderful book about a bridge in 18th century Peru. One day, while five people are crossing, the bridge collapses and they die. The book then traces their histories. [The novel won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.] As I researched "The Sea of Poppies" I looked at a lot of crew lists and passenger manifests of actual ships that sailed the Indian Ocean in the 19th century. The officers were white men, basically, Australian, English, American. The passengers were often indentured workers leaving India. And then there were the sailors, Indian sailors called "lascars." The way in which all of their destinies were connected in the enforced proximity of a ship was something that fascinated me.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stephen King

For, John Marks talked with Stephen King about his 30-year-old novel The Stand and other topics. Part of their dialogue:

It's 30 years since the publication of "The Stand," which was written, as you say in "Danse Macabre," "during a troubled period for the world in general and America, in particular." We're in another troubled period now. Do you feel yourself itching to write another apocalypse?

I just did. I finished a very long book called "Under the Dome," and it isn't like a worldwide apocalypse or anything like that, but it's a very long book, and it deals with some of the same issues that "The Stand" does, but in a more allegorical way.

As you worked on it, was "The Stand" at all in your mind?

Not really, because it has a different setup than "The Stand," but beyond that I don't want to say too much about it, because it's got to be rewritten and spruced up and everything. But you're right, the two eras are very similar. I just finished reading a book called "Nixonland," and the parallels to the Nixon campaigns and McCain campaigns are just depressing. He's doing a lot of events that are supposed to be populist but are in reality completely managed. He's got a vice president who's Joe Six-Pack. The parallels just go on and on. You've got the unpopular war, economic problems, gasoline problems. Whatever goes around, comes around. "The Stand" even says that. Life is like a wheel. Sooner or later, it always come around to where you started again.

Do you find that Americans have become a lot more apocalyptic in their thinking in the last 30 years?

Americans are apocalyptic by nature. The reason why is that we've always had so much, so we live in deadly fear that people are going to take it away from us.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hooman Majd

Hooman Majd is the author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran.

From his interview with TIME's Adam Zagorin:

[M]any Americans find President Ahmadinejad extreme, for example when he calls for the destruction of Israel. Is that view widely shared in Iran, or by the Supreme Leader himself?

President Ahmadinejad may be extreme in some of his views, and I think it is safe to say most Iranians do not share them. The Supreme Leader has made it clear on a number of occasions, rarely reported in the Western media, that he disagrees. On Israel, for example, soon after Ahmadinejad first suggested, in 2005, that Israel would be "wiped off the map", the Supreme Leader made a speech saying that Iran has not and would not be the first to start any war, and would not attack any country. That statement was intended to show that Iran wanted to play no part in Israel's disappearance, regardless of the inflammatory rhetoric of the president.

The book contains a lot of descriptions of Iranian manners and behavior, and you tell stories that give readers a sense of what it's like to be immersed in Iranian society. What do you think is a fundamental misconception that Americans have about Iran and Iranians?

As Americans, we have a tendency to believe that Iranians are a bunch of fundamentalists, even crazy. Sure, there are plenty of fundamentalists or arch-conservatives in Iran, including those in power, but the society is far more diverse than that stereotype would suggest. There are all kinds of civic groups, political activists, even secularists, along with 30 or 40 daily newspapers that offer a wide range of opinion. Even among the clergy, there are liberals and conservatives.
Read the complete Q & A.

Read an excerpt from The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, and learn more about the book and author at Hooman Majd's website.

View the video trailer for the book, and watch Jon Stewart's interview with Hooman Majd on The Daily Show.

The Page 69 Test: The Ayatollah Begs to Differ.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Charlie Huston

Graeme Flory of Graeme's Fantasy Book Review interviewed Charlie Huston about his terrific Joe Pitt novels.

A few of their exchanges:

The Joe Pitt novels have a noir tone but Joe Pitt is not your typical ‘noir private eye’, what gave you the inspiration for his character and is Joe the same character that you originally concieved?

I was thinking tough guy as much as I was thinking PI. Joe’s ended up being a little more sympathetic than I thought he’d be. Which seems absurd in retrospect.

One of the things that I really like about your Joe Pitt books is that a great deal happens in a relatively short space of time. Have you ever been tempted to write a Joe Pitt book that is twice or even three times the length of previous books?

Not really. If the books moved any slower the holes in the plots would become too obvious. But the fifth and final book is likely to be the longest. There are a lot of loose ends to tie.

‘Every Last Drop’ is now in bookstores, what can fans expect from this latest installment?

Toe biting. Lots of toe biting. More than one toe is bitten off. Toe biting.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Charlie Huston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gary Cross

Gary Cross is an historian and the author of Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Question: Why did you write a book about men becoming “boys” at this time?

Gary Cross: I am an historian who asks questions of the past by observing the present. So when I saw evidence everywhere of how growing up male has changed and how increasingly maturity is mocked and denied in the popular and commercial culture, I was compelled to explain it historically. All this not only profoundly shapes the many (especially women) who have “boy-men” in their lives, but it has led to much confusion among men of all ages about who they should be and what they should want. As important, the boy-man has shaped contemporary culture in many, often undesirable, ways.

Q: How is your approach different from others who explore the issue of male maturity?

GC: I agree with many who explain these trends in psychological or sociological terms, as consequences of changing child rearing methods or new economic and social realities that have reduced the authority and responsibilities of men, but I take a different approach. I try to show how delayed marriage and careers, denial of childrearing responsibilities etc are related to wider changes in male culture over the past three generations. I look at the transformation of men’s hobbies, tastes in magazines, movies, and TV, and dress and attitudes toward aging, for example, to plot how and why men became boys.
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Daniel Herwitz

Daniel Herwitz is the author of The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Q: There’s a Lady Diana book industry out there that keeps the discount catalogues of England and America in business. Marilyn Monroe lives a second life on the covers of oversized coffee-table books. The expanding number of celebrities is matched by the expanding number of books about celebrity. Star books pile up in the corners of used bookstores to be donated to charity or used for recycling. Theories are constructed and dismantled about the how and the why of it. Is there a reason to add to this pile with another book?

Daniel Herwitz: No book has been written that seeks to cut through the gossip, the tabloids, and critical canons of scholarship, the innuendo, adulation, and also the theory to focus on the aesthetic formation of the star icon. Most books either treat her as a melodramatic celebrity (Tina Brown’s recent Diana book for example, which is about love, desperation, celebrity exhaustion, and the lunches she had with Diana), or they effuse rapturously about her beauty, bemoan her miserable life (hunted and haunted by the media, oh poor, poor little rich girl!). Or they begin from a stance of disgust at the system and move quickly to its theorization.

The fact of these many books speaks to ongoing public obsession around this type of star (there are precious few of them), and that is interesting. But she (it is mostly a she) is neither a mere celebrity nor any ordinary kind of star. Celebrity we know how to understand. The star icon we do not. I think of her as a being caught between transcendence and trauma. This is how the public sees her. An effervescent film star living on a distant, exalted planet, she is at the same time a melodrama-soaked soap opera queen whose dismal life she is ever trying to flee or overcome and into the mire of which she constantly sinks—always with the help of the media and before the fascinated, tearful public. She cannot escape its commanding gaze except to drive at two hundred kilometers an hour through the tunnels of Paris to her death. The very public that eggs her on also secretly desires her to fall apart, since it will be the culmination of a whopping good story: there is adoration and blood lust in its relation to her. But she is also a figure of grace.

The cult around her comes from the way she appears in the media, for that is almost entirely where she is encountered. And so a great deal depends on understanding the powers of film and of television. Indeed film and television are so central that the public projects qualities of film star and soap queen onto the star icon even if she neither acted in any films (Lady Diana) nor appeared on television except peripherally (Marilyn Monroe). This was brought home to me while I was watching the Lady Diana funeral live on BBC sitting at my TV in Durban, South Africa where I lived and worked in the 1990s. The Diana funeral was the second most watched television program in South African history. Glued to my set I was struck by how easily the BBC commentators elided Lady Diana and Grace Kelly. It was as if they were two sides of the same coin of the realm—but which realm? Grace Kelly was a film star turned princess of an ersatz kingdom run on fast cars and gambling. Diana was a British royal whose classical beauty was offset by a face and posture that registered every raw nerve ending, expressed every burst of feeling. Both were birds of prey for the media, which also canonized them. Both lived lives of melodrama and died in speeding cars. From this pairing of the two came my idea that in contemporary life aesthetic qualities migrate from their medium of origin to the wider public world, so that around Diana’s head flowed the aura of film, star even though she was no film actor, and from Grace’s film stardom issued royal pedigree. Of course you have to be constantly in the media eye—a persona—in order for these qualities to transpose themselves onto your head. But, once you are in the media eye (a celebrity of sorts), the public has the ability (or liability) to graft all manner of aesthetic features onto you. The star icon cannot be what she is apart this migration of aesthetic qualities across media and onto her head. The aesthetics of film and television need to be closely studied to figure out how this spreading of qualities from point of origin through public imagination to a persona like Diana happens. She demands a new kind of aesthetic approach. Since I am by training a philosopher who writes widely on and is in love with popular culture, I thought, well, why not try to tell this story?
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker is one of Britain's most original and exciting literary talents. She is the author of two short-story collections: Love Your Enemies [winner of the David Higham Prize and the Macmillan Silver Pen Award] and Heading Inland [winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize]. Her novels include Reversed Forecast, Small Holdings, Wide Open Behindlings, Clear, which was long-listed for the 2005 Booker Prize, and Darkmans. Her work is translated into twenty languages, and in 2000, she won the IMPAC Award for Wide Open. In 2003, Nicola Barker was named a Granta Best of British Novelist.

From a Q & A about Clear at her publisher's website:

How close to the David Blaine spectacle were you? Were you living near the exhibit at the time, or were you influenced by the media blitz covering it?

I was very close to it. I live in a flat just over the other side of Tower Bridge, on the river. When I found out that Blaine was coming to my neighborhood to starve himself, I thought it was the most ridiculous idea I'd ever come across. I just ignored the whole thing. I wasn't interested. But after he'd been there for about a week, my curiosity got the better of me. I used to take my two dogs out running in the morning — very early — and so changed my usual route to cross the bridge and have a quick look at him. As soon as I arrived on site I was hooked. From there on in I went to see him most days. I was initially delighted (and amused) by the impact Blaine was having on my local environment, but then things started to turn nasty and it grew increasingly difficult — as a local — not to feel implicated in the whole thing. Even responsible. The media coverage was almost entirely superficial and violently anti-Blaine. It was unbelievably inflammatory. I ended up writing a letter to The Guardian in response to a repugnant column by a journalist who felt it was funny to actively encourage people to attack Blaine. Ironically, I'd recently published a novel (Behindlings) which was entirely about the nature of charisma. When I went to see Blaine it was as if the novel had split open and come to life. It was a very strange feeling. All of these factors made me sit down (a week before the fast ended) and start writing. The book took only three months to complete. I wanted it to be a snapshot of a particular moment. I wanted to try and make the people who derided Blaine sit back and think — to analyze why it was that he made them feel so angry and so threatened.
Read the complete Q & A.

The Page 99 Test: Nicola Barker's Darkmans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ariel Sabar

The introduction and first exchanges from Amy Waldman's interview with Ariel Sabar, author of My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq:

Ariel Sabar's father, Yona, was from an Aramaic-speaking Jewish community in remote Kurdistan. Yona immigrated to California and had a son who felt alienated from Yona's antiquated ways. In My Father's Paradise (Reviews, June 23), Sabar journeys to Kurdistan to bridge the barrier.

What is the most surprising thing you learned?

How central Iraq was to the history of the Jewish Diaspora. This was Babylon, where most Jews were exiled when they were booted out of ancient Israel. This is where synagogue Judaism got its start and where the Babylonian Talmud was written. Iraq allowed Judaism to succeed and flourish in exile. In Kurdistan, it mattered more what your contributions were to the community than whether or not you were Muslim, Jewish or Christian. The terrain itself, the towering mountains that bred this community, kept out the ideologies and intolerance that have led to so much bloodshed in recent history.

What was your father's reaction when you told him you wanted to write about him, and did your relationship change as a result?

Initially, I think he humored me. He was supportive, but thought I was a little crazy when I told him I wanted us to go to Iraq together. We talk more now and a lot of the old tensions that were there when I was younger have faded. I now see and appreciate the cultural inheritance he's passed on to me.
Read the complete Q & A.

See another interview with the author at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: My Father's Paradise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham is the author of seven police procedurals featuring Inspector Tom Thorne and his team of inner-city cops. His latest book is the stand-alone thriller, In the Dark.

Ali Karim interviewed Billingham for January Magazine. Part of the Q & A:

AK: In the Dark is very topical, with its theme of inner-city gangs and street crime and its subtle social commentary. Has that criminal world ever crept into your own?

MB: Firstly, I’m glad you use the word “subtle.” I never set out to write anything that’s issue-led. I think that’s the kiss of death. The story always comes first. In previous books I’ve written about violence that was meticulously planned, but I’ve become obsessed with random acts of violence and how they affect people. The nature of the violent act that precipitates this story meant that I was dealing with some of the themes you mention, and inevitably some social commentary creeps in there. I mean, I do have an opinion.

The world you talk about is not one I move through on a daily basis, but I live in the same city and I’m deeply fucked off by some of the things that are happening and by the reactions to them. Kids are killing kids every week and the best our politicians can come up with is the suggestion that parents ask their children if they are carrying a knife before they go out for the evening. Right, that’ll work! They’ve started a stop-and-search campaign with the determination to lock up anyone found carrying a knife, which is knee-jerk and frankly ridiculous when only a tiny percentage of those young men have any intention of using one.

AK: In the Dark reminded me stylistically of George Pelecanos’ work. He writes about the problems of Washington, D.C., while you write about the problems facing your hometown of London. Would you say that’s a fair comment?

MB: If I was stylistically a fraction as good as George Pelecanos, I’d be a very happy man. One strand of the story takes it into the same sort of areas -- geographical as well as thematic -- that he writes about, but right now I feel almost compelled...[read on]

Read the complete interview.

Visit Mark Billingham's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 17, 2008

Charles D. Ellis

Charles D. Ellis is the author of The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs.

From a Q & A at the publisher's website:

Is Goldman Sachs really a lot better than other firms at managing risk?

The big difference is in the cumulative power of many “small” details. The difference in the speed, accuracy, and extent of communication inside the firm; the difference in intensity, focus, and disciplined toughness of the men and women hand selected to work there and real difference in recruiting, training, and compensation. All add up to a decisive advantage in management. Leaders and co-leaders manage Goldman’s many business units with rigor and drive; risk management is the envy of other banks; and coordination is powerful across business units and markets around the world.

As every Olympic athlete knows, such small differences make all the difference between gold, silver or bronze – or no medal at all. In the current, very difficult test, Goldman Sachs has come in 1st – again.

Goldman Sachs is often described as the best managed Wall Street firm. Is that true?

Yes, it is true. Goldman Sachs is the best managed “Wall Street” firm – and the best led. Management is why Goldman Sachs is consistently rated the best firm to work for and gets top ratings from clients all over the world. Superior management is why the firm earns more profit, develops more effective people, has made itself the market leader in the U.S., U.K, Germany, France, China, Japan, and in most major lines of banking business. No other firm comes close.

One of the things you will learn in The Partnership is just how Goldman succeeded in making themselves different from any other Wall Street firm. They learned early on that in order to survive, they had to not only make money, but create a culture that was universal, that demanded absolutely loyalty and, most importantly, act as one organism.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn more about The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs.

Five best: books on financial meltdowns.
Critic's chart: books on cash crashes.
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elizabeth Aries

For Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik interviewed Elizabeth Aries about her book, Race and Class Matters at an Elite College.

One exchange from the Q & A:

Q: What do you think your most important findings are about race?

A: My study shows racial stereotypes to be prevalent on campus (e.g., blacks are less intelligent than whites, blacks have more athletic talent than whites, blacks are poor/whites are rich) but that the development of cross-race relationships and interactions inside and outside the classroom can make an important contribution in breaking down these stereotypes and changing students’ notions about race. The potential for learning from a racially diverse community, however, was not realized for many students.

Two other important findings about race pertain to whites’ misperception and lack of knowledge about blacks. Many whites tend to see black students to be self-segregating. When black friends eat together at tables in the dining hall, or hang out together in groups, whites take notice. Yet no one comments on the tables of whites eating together in the dining hall or on whites hanging out together on campus. The students showing the greatest degree of self-segregation are white. White students reported on average that two-thirds of their close friends were white, but only a third of black students’ close friends were black. In addition, many whites saw black students on campus as a homogeneous group, and were relatively unaware of the divides between black students: divides in social class; in the centrality of race to identity; in whether they are African American, Caribbean American, or African; in preferences for “black” forms of dress and music or “black” forms of speech; and in their experiences with racism in society. My study highlights the importance of these differences and how they are being negotiated between blacks.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jennifer Lee Carrell

From a discussion with Jennifer Lee Carrell, author of Interred with Their Bones, at her publisher's website:

One of the most intriguing things mentioned in your book is the surprising relationship between the writings of Shakespeare and pioneers of the American West. Can you tell your readers a little more about this? Why were cowboys so fascinated with the Bard?

In the nineteenth century American West, Shakespeare hadn't yet become Literature with a capital, elitist "L." He was simply the best storyteller out there. His popularity is actually less of an oddity than it might seem—it's a holdover from earlier periods, all the way back to Shakespeare's day, when his plays belonged to everyone, from the King down to the lowliest London apprentice ducking out of work to stand in the Yard of the Globe with his mates, gaping up at the shenanigans unfolding on the stage.

In the American West, Shakespeare's stories tended to be heard, not read. If you'd had any schooling at all, you'd probably learned some long passages by heart, reciting them in front of everyone in the one-room schoolhouse—and listening to everyone else recite their passages. His language would not have seemed as foreign as it does now. If you'd ever been to church, you'd heard the rich poetic cadences of the King James bible, published in Shakespeare's day, read aloud. Very likely, someone at home read long passages from the same Bible aloud in the evenings and on Sundays too. Just about everybody knew the sound and feel of Shakespearean language on their own tongues.

Of course it helps, too, that Shakespeare's plays tend to be epic tales of love or war, their emotions sized XXL. Even his silliness tends to be outsized, sometimes literally, as in the comic character of jolly, rumbustious, drunken Sir John Falstaff. In thinking about Shakespeare's popularity among cowboys in particular, it's worth remembering that many of them were veterans of the Civil War. After the fighting stopped, they turned their backs on the cities and farms of their boyhood, choosing instead to wander professionally through vast, little-known, and often dangerous territory. (I sometimes wonder how many of them, brought forward in time, would be diagnosed with PTSD.) It's my hunch that the grandness of Shakespeare's stories—the cruelty, killing, laughter, and loving—just made sense to them. There's a tale of a Montana rancher reading Julius Caesar to his cowboys in the 1880s. When he finished the "dogs of war" passage, one of the top farmhands shook his head and said, "That fellow Shakespeare could sure spill the real stuff. He's the only poet I ever seen what was fed on raw meat."

In the Wild West, theater kept its sense of "play" longer than it did in the more sophisticated cities. Audiences felt free to cheer, boo, hiss, whistle, applaud, and throw anything from flowers to rotten eggs onto the stage during a performance. During the gold and silver rushes in California, Colorado, and Arizona, famous actors from New York and London would travel out to the roughest of boomtowns, because the enthusiastic miners paid well, often in gold: The actors could make as much in a week in the mining camps as they might make in a month in the cities. In the absence of professional actors, though, entertainment-starved people banded together for amateur performances. Thus in Texas, a young lieutenant named Ulysses S. Grant was drafted to play Desdemona in an Army production of Othello.

Failing the willing numbers for a performance, intrepid storytellers would take it on themselves to recount the plays as stories. After hearing from an Army officer that Shakespeare was the greatest author ever, in 1863 the mountain man Jim Bridger made his way to the Oregon Trail and found someone willing to trade a yoke of oxen for a volume of Shakespeare. As he was illiterate and had no interest in learning to read, he hired a boy to read the book to him. Thereafter, he became famous for entertaining fellow mountain men around campfires by reciting his favorite plays—especially Richard III—from beginning to end. Apparently, he liked to salt his Shakespeare with oaths of his own, just to see if anyone could tell which bits were Shakespeare and which were Bridger.

American pioneers liked Shakespeare because they liked his stories and they were comfortable with his language. Nobody had told them to sit still, be quiet, and show respect in the presence of the Bard. Nobody had held up Shakespeare under glass on a silver platter and said "Look, don't touch." Nobody had said, Must have college degree to appreciate, much less must have plummy upper-class English accent to speak aloud.

If anybody had said any of those things, they would likely have been chased out of town with a volley of rotten tomatoes.

Read more of the discussion.

Jennifer Lee Carrell has won three awards for distinction in undergraduate teaching at Harvard, where she taught in the History and Literature Program and directed Shakespeare for the Hyperion Theatre Company.

The Page 99 Test: Interred With Their Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nick Bostrom

Nick Bostrom has more than 140 publications to his name, including the books Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (OUP, 2008), and Enhancing Humans (OUP, 2008). He is Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and a full professor in the Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association.

In 2006 John Sutherland interviewed Bostrom about transhumanism for the Guardian. Part of the interview:

How is transhumanism different from discredited notions of "creative evolution" - the idea that mankind, as a species, was evolving ever higher up the ladder, passing on its acquired traits to succeeding generations?

"Creative evolution, as propounded by Lamarck, was discredited by Darwin. Traits acquired during one's lifetime - muscles built up in the gym, for example - cannot be passed on to the next generation. Now with technology, as it happens, we might indeed be able to transfer some of our acquired traits on to our selected offspring by genetic engineering."

Transhumanism, as I understand it, is moving its focus on to ethics, regarding many of the technological enhancements as being in place. Is that the case?

"When I first got interested in this area a few years ago, the discussions would typically revolve around the question, 'Is this science fiction? Or are we dealing in realistic future possibilities?' Now the discussions tend to start from the position that, yes, it will be increasingly possible to modify human capacities. The issue now is whether we should do it. And, if so, what are the ethical constraints?"
Read the complete interview.

Read more, including the table of contents, about Human Enhancement, edited by Julian Savulescu and Nick Bostrom (forthcoming, Oxford University Press).

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ann Packer

From a Q & A with Ann Packer about her debut novel, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier:

Q: In The Dive From Clausen’s Pier your 23-year-old heroine, Carrie Bell, is torn between whether to stay or go when her fiance? becomes quadriplegic after a terrible accident. It is a coming-of-age story that draws us in immediately to a complex web of moral dilemmas. What made you tackle this tragic subject?

A: That’s a hard question, because it assumes an awareness of why one writes what one writes, and a measure of control over one’s subjects that I don’t think can really exist. I know HOW I began to write The Dive From Clausen’s Pier; that is, I can locate the earliest retrievable moment in the process, which was a phrase I jotted down in my notebook, along the lines of “a woman whose boyfriend is injured in maybe a hunting accident.” Looking back, I can see that I was intrigued by the ambiguities of the situation: he’s her boyfriend, not her husband; he’s injured, not killed. I imagine I was wondering what I’d do if I were this woman, how I’d find a way to live with and understand the choices I’d make.

Getting back to the why, though: I think that’s more complex and perhaps not fully answerable. One of the characters in the book actually speculates about this, or something like it. An aspiring poet, she says, “I think the family IS the artist. Just like the sky is, or all the books you’ve ever read.” I suppose I think, similarly, that a novel—whether “art” or not—is formed because of and by all that has formed its writer: her family, the sky, all the books she’s ever read. In other words, more than can be named. In the case of me and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, I think the family part played a prominent role in the formation of at least one aspect of the book: when I was ten years old, my father had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body, which is similar to what happens to Mike in the novel. I say this played a prominent role, and yet it’s also the case that I wasn’t thinking about the parallel as I wrote.
Read the complete Q & A.

Learn about Ann Packer's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Susan Squire

Katharine Mieszkowski of Salon interviewed Susan Squire about her new book, I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage.

One exchange from the interview:

You write that early Christians came to see marriage as a "lust containment facility." What do you mean by that?

Up until that time, marriage had been viewed as essential for social stability. It was the reproductive factory, essential to protect paternal identity. Women were held to a standard of fidelity that was absolute. But nobody equated sex in marriage, or any pleasure that you would get from sex, as being innately evil.

For early Christians, celibacy was superior to marriage. Virginity was the highest value. Never being polluted by the sexual act was far superior to marrying and reproducing for men and women.

This was a new idea -- that sex itself was sinful, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of whether the social rules were observed. Part of this is because the early Christians expected the apocalypse, and figured that the world was going to end anyway. What was the point of populating it any further?

They grudgingly allowed sex only within marriage as a compromise, not for the sake of reproduction but for satiating lust. And if you were truly a superior being, if you truly wanted to please God, you would eradicate your own lust, or temper it.

Read the complete interview.

Read an excerpt from I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage, and learn more about the author and her work at Susan Squire's website.

Susan Squire is the author of three books. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, New York, and The Washington Post, and in the best-selling essay collection, The Bitch in the House.

The Page 99 Test: I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Michael J. Agovino

Claire Zulkey interviewed Michael J. Agovino, author of The Bookmaker: A Memoir of Money, Luck, and Family From the Utopian Outskirts of New York City. From her introduction, and their first exchanges:

[Agovino] writes about growing up the son of a buttoned-up union man who moonlighted as a gentleman bookmaker and gambler in the Bronx's Co-op City, the largest and most ambitious state-sponsored housing development in U.S. history. When the winnings were good, the Agovinos were taken on exotic vacations: when they weren't, well, they lived in Co-op City. When he's not working on his next project, Agovino contributes to such publications as the New York Times, Esquire, GQ, Salon, Elle, and The New York Observer.

Since when did you know that you wanted to write a memoir?

Probably since the mid-1990s. There was a former colleague of mine--from smalltown, Texas, a brilliant, well-read guy, who I felt very comfortable with--and I told him about my background and upbringing, and about my father's gambling, which I'd never told anyone. He said, 'Wow, that would make for a wonderful book.' But it seemed impossible to write a book. And frankly, I was afraid. Afraid of what people might say, about what they might think, and afraid I might write a bad book. And fear can paralyzing--especially for writers. I wish I wrote it ten years ago, but I probably wasn't ready, psychologically and intellectually. It's a rigorous pursuit, writing a book.

Why did your father bet so much on sports, as opposed to at the casinos or something?

My father was a smart guy--smarter than me--but when he didn't go to college and needed to supplement his income on top of his day job, he fell back on what he knew, which, in his neighborhood, East Harlem, was sports gambling. Casinos weren't that accessible to him and never a big deal in his world. And when he married and had kids, it was a good way to be at home. He never boozed or womanized. Being a bookmaker and sports gambler, he was always home. And that's what he wanted: to be close to his family, to be a present father....[read on]
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 10, 2008

Michael Kimball

Michael Kimball's recently released Dear Everybody is the story of Jonathon Bender told through a series of his own suicide letters, as well as his mother's journal entries, his brother's narrative, and other media.

He talked to Jonathan Bergey at Keyhole Magazine. Their opening exchange:

Jonathan Bergey: How did you develop Dear Everybody from the initial idea to completion, from the concept of suicide letters to its final form, which ended up including not just the letters but interviews, newspaper clippings, journal entries, and a narrator?

Michael Kimball: It went through a few different, very distinct stages. The whole novel actually started as just one letter, which then morphed into about 100 letters. At that point I actually thought I just had a longish short story, something like that, and that the thing was done. A few months later it happened again—I wrote another 100 or so letters, and so I just had this bigger bunch of letters. But at that point it started to open up a bit. I added an introduction to it. I added the last will and testament, a couple other things. So there began to be this frame around it. And it was really after I sort of recognized the possibilities of the frame that other things started to open up. And then I got to the newspaper articles, the encyclopedia entries, the psychological evaluations, all the weather reports, year book quotes, all that other stuff.
Read--or listen to--the complete interview.

Read an excerpt from Dear Everybody, and learn more about the book and author at Michael Kimball's website and blog.

Michael Kimball's first two novels are The Way the Family Got Away (2000) and How Much of Us There Was.

The Page 99 Test: Dear Everybody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rose George

For Library Journal, Wilda Williams interviewed Rose George about her new book, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.

One exchange:

In The Big Necessity, you tackle a rather unpalatable topic. Why did you decide to write a book about bodily waste?

I used to work as a writer at the magazine Colors. Its editor, a rather eccentric photographer, decided to do a glossy coffee-table book on excrement. I didn't like the pictures, but the research I did for the stories accompanying them stayed with me. That's when I was introduced to such memorable characters as Bindeshwar Pathak, an Indian sanitation activist who has installed half a million toilets in India. I noticed that every so often the topic would make the news but only ever in a jokey way. I found this odd, having learned the astonishing fact that four in ten people in the world have no sanitation whatsoever. When it came to writing a second book—my first was about refugees—the topic of toilets and sanitation transformed from a background noise in my brain to the obvious and compelling choice.
Read the complete Q & A.

Read more about The Big Necessity, and visit Rose George's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sean Chercover

Sean Chercover is the author of two excellent novels featuring P.I. Ray Dudgeon, Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City.

From his ITW interview with Tasha Alexander:

What do you think is the most important influence on a writer?

Reading. By a mile. It saddens me to meet aspiring writers who say they don't read much. They will never make it. You've got to read, every day. There's no substitute for reading good books. Reading is how we first learn the craft of writing.

Life experience is also important, and I gained enormously from my time working as a PI ... but it didn't teach me how to write.

Trigger City is simply impossible to put down. How do you write like this?

First of all, thank you. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it.

I think my inability to outline may be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes you read a thriller, and you can't avoid "seeing" the writer's bag-of-tricks. You "see" the writer thinking, "I must end every chapter (better, ever scene!) with a question or revelation or new peril or startling plot twist." But because you see the man behind the curtain, it all feels formulaic and you don't buy into it emotionally. The tension is lost.

But I'm not good at outlining in detail. I know how I want the story to end, and I know some major scenes that have to happen in order to get there, but most of the stuff that happens along the way comes to me as I write. So in many ways, I'm like the reader; as I'm writing the book, I want to know how it all turns out. Since I'm surprised by it, I assume the reader will be too. I actually have a piece of paper taped to my wall that says, "Just write the story that you would want to read." That advice has gotten my past many stumbling blocks, and I think it helps keep the tension high.
Read the full interview.

The Page 69 Test: Big City, Bad Blood.

Visit Sean Chercover's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Larry Beinhart

Larry Beinhart's new novel is Salvation Boulevard.

One exchange from his January Magazine Author Snapshot:

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?

That’s tough. I’m basically unemployable. I might try to make a go of it as a ski instructor, but the money is really insufficient. To even try you have to be a gung ho member of a team! Which is probably beyond my capacity.

I could, I suppose, be entrepreneurial again. I once co-owned a film production company. We did quite well. But the talent you need as a producer is to be a salesman, which I’m not that good at. You also have to be detail oriented, keep accounts, keep track of nickels, also not my forte. I was a director as well as a producer. But I know people, like my wife, who are much better at that than I am.

Perhaps, in desperation, I might try to found a new religion, or a new non-religion religion. That can be exceptionally lucrative. But it may require being more intuitively exploitive than I naturally am. I don’t know and wouldn’t find out until I tried it.

But, now that you’ve asked, I will give serious consideration to it.
Read the complete profile.

Visit Larry Beinhart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nick Harkaway

From a Q & A with Nick Harkaway about his debut novel, The Gone-Away World:

Gone-Away World has been compared to everything from Dickens to Rushdie to Terry Pratchett. Have you heard any parallels that you feel are really off the mark?

The Observer said it was "Thackeray on acid," and that caught me off balance. But the Vonnegut comparison makes me extremely happy.

But the authors you acknowledge yourself predate dystopian satire: Dumas, Doyle, and Wodehouse.

I would guess that if you could track down Vonnegut and his guys, they'd also point to those adventure-story writers. I think lots of boys sat down with The Three Musketeers and felt it was a really long book, but then discovered that it's a really gripping swashbuckling story. Pynchon's still around. You don't want to be doing something just like Pynchon. I want Pynchon to come up to me at a bar and say, "That book you wrote — it wasn't bad."
Read the complete Q & A.

About all these comparisons, January Magazine editor Linda L. Richards writes: "As the son of one of the top-selling authors in the world, one can imagine Harkaway has had it to here with comparisons. And, truly, The Gone-Away World demonstrates a clear voice and sharp vision. And, whatever else, with everyone scratching about for all these wonderful comparisons (Pynchon, Vonnegut, Rushdie and Dickens, for crying out loud!) it’s clear, boyfriend can write." [read on]

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 5, 2008

John Shors

From a Q & A with John Shors, author of Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea:

Was it hard to go from writing about the Taj Mahal in Beneath a Marble Sky to World War II in Beside a Burning Sea?

I think that transitioning from one book to another is a difficult process. After spending such a long time writing Beneath a Marble Sky, I became quite connected to its characters. And having to create a batch of new characters for Beside a Burning Sea felt somewhat like learning a new language. The voices in both novels are fairly unique, I believe, and giving life to such voices was a time-consuming process.

Your first novel took place in India, and your second novel occurred in the South Pacific. Why do you like to write novels set overseas?

I was lucky enough to grow up reading, and have consumed a couple of books a week for most of my life. I have always most enjoyed novels that took me to a new place, and that taught me something. Such novels prompted me to explore much of the world, in fact. And after visiting so many wonderful places, I decided that I wanted to share such locales with my readers.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Linda Robinson

From Brian Lamb's C-SPAN interview with Linda Robinson, author of Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq:

BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Linda Robinson, why did you want to write a book about David Petraeus?

LINDA ROBINSON, AUTHOR, ”TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS: GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS AND THE SEARCH FOR A WAY OUT OF IRAQ”: Well, I’d been spending, as you know, Brian, a lot of time in Iraq since the war began. And I’d met David Petraeus when he was writing the counterinsurgency manual – and in fact, even before that.

And retired General Barry McCaffrey said, ”This is an officer you need to take a good, hard look at.” He was very high on Barry McCaffrey, even though – I mean very high on David Petraeus – even though he was against the war.

So, I had numerous indications that Petraeus was one of the generals in the Army to take a good look at.

LAMB: Where did you get the title for your book, ”Tell Me How This Ends”?

ROBINSON: That, in fact, is his phrase. He said this to Rick Atkinson, who was an embedded journalist with him in the major combat phase at the outset of the war. And around about April, Petraeus turned to Rick and said, ”You tell me how this ends.”

And he began repeating that phrase to other journalists. It kind of showed his skepticism early on that this was going to be a quick war.

LAMB: Why did you compare General David Petraeus to General Matthew Ridgway?

ROBINSON: Well, there were two comparisons as we got started on this book project. One of them was the possibility that this war would go the way of Vietnam, and ”Abe” Abrams – Creighton Abrams – would be the general that Petraeus would most be compared to for having been a bright man with some good ideas, but coming along way too late to apply them successfully.

The other one, Ridgway, was, of course, one of Petraeus’ heroes, a fellow airborne soldier. But he was credited with getting the Korean War at least to a steady state, pushing the North Koreans back. And I think that was the closest historical parallel that some of the historians I talked to could find.
Read the complete interview transcript or watch the interview.

Learn more about Tell Me How This Ends : General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dave Zeltserman

Dave Zeltserman's latest novel is Small Crimes.

From his Q & A with novelist Allan Guthrie, for Pulp Pusher:

AG: You mentioned earlier that you’re a ‘crime writer from Boston,’ yet Small Crimes is a rural noir. What made you decide on the small-town setting and how important is location to this particular story?

DZ: A rural setting was a must. There were a lot of reasons for this; two big ones being the claustrophobic atmosphere of the book and the damage that Joe Denton ends up doing to the town. Plus the best scene in the book involves a dried-up quarry, so I needed that. Also, with the police and Sheriff’s office being as corrupt as I made them, I had to make the area fictional.

AG: Joe Denton, the protagonist, is a complex individual with an unusual – some might say, abnormal – personality. There’s the suggestion that there might even be a name for his condition – if indeed he has one. How did you go about creating such a convincing psychology?

DZ: You’re right, it is suggested, but it can really go either way, and it’s left up to the readers own interpretation. I have my own personal opinion which I’ll be coy about and keep to myself for the time being. I do research such things using the Internet, which is a great source for articles on all sorts of personality disorders. For Small Crimes I ended up reading a number of papers on the disorder you’re referring to. Also, for whatever reason, I have this talent of being able to get into the heads of sociopaths and other broken individuals. It’s a skill that makes my wife and parents proud.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Dave Zeltserman's website and his blog.

My Book, The Movie: Small Crimes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Alafair Burke

From the Q & A with Alafair Burke:

Name the best television series of all time.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Simultaneously funny, dark, and sweet, this series gave viewers seven seasons, each with an identifiable arc as carefully crafted and well layered as you'd find in any novel. Only Joss Whedon could create a character who credibly transitions from bouncy cheerleader to sacrificial savior to death-savoring self-abuser, all while turning in the requisite snark during the "slayage."

Make a question of your own, then answer it.

Q: What's the deal with your name?

A: I was named after my father's maternal grandmother. I spent my childhood hating my name and trying to get a nickname to stick (including "Farrah" in the early '70s). Then a drag queen to whom I sold clothes at this cheesy Kansas boutique called Cricket Alley used my name and won the Miss Gay Wichita pageant. I figured that if she could make it work in designer knockoffs, I could suffer through.
Read the complete Q & A.

Visit Alafair Burke's website, Facebook page, MySpace page, and blog.

A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair Burke now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School and lives in New York City. She is the author of the Samantha Kincaid series—which includes the novels Judgment Calls, Missing Justice, and Close Case—and Dead Connection, her first thriller featuring Ellie Hatcher, and Angel's Tip, the sequel.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

The Page 69 Test: Angel’s Tip.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paul A. Cohen

From a Q & A at China Beat with Paul A. Cohen, professor of history emeritus at Wellesley College and associate at the Harvard Fairbank Center and author of the forthcoming Speaking to History: The Story of King Goujian in Twentieth-Century China:

China Beat: I assume you've seen Orville Schell’s recent piece in Newsweek, in which he mentions your work on the power of the idea of “national humiliation” in Chinese historical memory. I was wondering if you had any thoughts to share about Schell’s essay—or about the longer version that appeared in the New York Review of Books?

Paul Cohen: I liked Schell’s piece (which I read in the NYRB version). His take on continuing Chinese sensitivity to “national humiliation” is well-articulated and persuasive. At the same time it must be said that this is a large and complicated topic, one that cannot easily be covered in a short article. Let me touch briefly on a few points that would need to be dealt with to create a fuller understanding of the issue:

(1) The views of different sectors of the population—urban/rural, highly educated/less well educated, young/middle-age/elderly—need to be disaggregated and analyzed carefully. It shouldn't be assumed that they’re all identical either in nature or origin.

(2) The mystery of the young, who are identified in the article as being among the most intense in their sense of victimization in spite of having been born in the post-Mao years, is a conspicuous example. There was a major effort beginning in the early 1990s to indoctrinate this part of the population with the importance of “not forgetting” (buwang) the suffering and humiliation of the imperialist interval in China's history—an interval they themselves hadn’t experienced. This was part of the broader phenomenon of resurgent nationalism that marked these years and was strongly pushed by the state, in part to supply a substitute form of legitimation for a Communist party whose original Marxist-Leninist-Maoist vision had lost much of its shine. It’s important to look at the content and approach of the modern Chinese history this sector of the population has been exposed to. Yuan Weishi got into trouble a few years back for pointing out how little it has to do with reality.

(3) The situational character of many nationalistic outbursts...[read on]
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue