Category Archives: Books

See Jane Win & Strange Harvests. Two Important Books On Our World, Now

 

                       

Every so often, you can visualize a guest’s emotions as they recount their story over the airwaves to Norman B. You’ll definitely be aware of the huge smile on Caitlin Moscatello’s face as she recounts the wondrous parts of her new book, See Jane Win: The Inspiring Story Of The Women Changing American Politics. And, you’ll also catch a glimpse, albeit audible only, of the sadness, the deflation, the shock felt by so many women across the USA after the outcome of the last presidential election

After November 8, 2016, first came the sadness; then came the rage, the activism, and the protests; and, finally, for thousands of women, the next step was to run for office – many of them for the first time. More women campaigned for local or national office in the 2018 election cycle than at any other time in US history, challenging accepted notions about who seeks power and who gets it. Journalist Caitlin Moscatello reported on this wave of female candidates, closely following four candidates throughout the entire process, from the decision to run through Election Day, See Jane Win takes readers inside their exciting, winning campaigns and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes brutal realities of running for office while female. What she discovers is that the candidates who triumphed in 2018 emphasized authenticity and passion instead of conforming to the stereotype of what a candidate should look or sound like, a formula that will be more relevant than ever as we approach the 2020 presidential election. Caitlin’s exuberance for her story and the women involved is engaging and we urge you not to miss this edition of Life Elsewhere.

Fascinating! Intriguing! Extraordinary! Excuse us if we cannot help but repeat these words over and over when talking about Edward Posnett’s fascinating, intriguing and extraordinary new book, Strange Harvest – The Hidden Histories Of Seven Natural Objects. On reading the title, the first question you feel obliged to ask is why? Then, what? What in the world made this seemingly sensible young man go off to Borneo to find out why eating bird’s nests are considered a delicacy. And, what pursued him to unravel the horrors of plucking feathers from live Eider ducks? Thankfully, Mr. Posnett explains why he journeyed to some of the most far-flung locales on the planet to bring us seven wonders of the natural world–eiderdown, vicuña fiber, sea silk, vegetable ivory, civet coffee, guano, and edible birds’ nest. He wanted to tell human stories against our changing economic and ecological landscape and discover what do they tell us about capitalism, global market forces, and overharvesting? How do local microeconomies survive in a hyperconnected world? Is it possible for us to live together with different species? Strange Harvests makes us see the world with wonder, curiosity, and new concerns. Blending history, travel writing, and interviews, Edward has compiled a fascinating, intriguing and extraordinary book and you need to hear our interview.

Show #339

 

Dispelling The Myths Of Thomas Cromwell – Redux

After a decade of researching the Royal Archives, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with the most thoroughly researched and complete biography of Thomas Crowell – a polarizing political figure most know for his unwavering service to volatile King Henry VIII, the demise of Anne Boleyn, and his hand in the Reformation. Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life sheds light onto a fascinating part of history, one that helped shape the course of English politics and the future of the Protestant religion. Since Crowell’s life met its end on the scaffold in 1540, history has not been kind to this self-made commoner who rose from obscurity to become the architect of England’s split with Rome. However, MacCulloch unveils a more sympathetic figure. Was Cromwell the villain of history or the victim of its creation? A masterful storyteller, not afraid to interject a healthy portion of English wit, MacCulloch dispels popular myths. Despite being unable to control the violent humor of his King, Cromwell made his mark on England, setting her on a path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world. Norman B’s conversation with Diarmaid MacCulloch is certainly not for history buffs alone, as illustrated by the author’s deadpan reference to the current US President’s possible resemblance to the one-time narcissistic, volatile ruler of England.

Show #338 V1

Another Conversation With Nathaniel Popkin

After Nathaniel Popkin first appeared on Life Elsewhere in 2018 to talk about his novel, Everything Is Borrowed we didn’t hesitate to invite the Philadelphia-based author back. Then, in response to the American political crisis, the movement, Writers Resist proved a renewed interest amongst writers in political discourse and prompted Stephanie Feldman and Popkin to co-edit, Who Will Speak For America? The eloquent and intellectually curios Nathaniel Popkin returned to our show to discuss the anthology. Now Nathaniel is back to talk about his latest work of fiction – set against the backdrop of 1976 Philadelphia, The Year Of The Return follows the path of two families, the Jewish Silks and African American Johnsons, as they are first united by marriage and then by grief, turmoil, and the difficult task of trying to live in an America failing to live up to its ideals. Both hyper-real and feverishly imagined, and told in the unfiltered voices of the characters themselves, Popkin summons the electric dimensions of racial conflict, sexual liberty, and economic collapse during America’s post-Vietnam urban meltdown. Paul Silk and Charlene Johnson are journalists whose love for each other and commitment to social justice were formed in the peace movements of the 1960s. But the idealism of that era leads to the urban deterioration of the 1970s. Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia is a place of crime, white flight, and class resentment that is inhospitable to their interracial marriage, forcing them to move away. But when Charlene dies of cancer, Paul returns. Unmoored and unable to let go of Charlene, he wades back into the lives of the two families, with the hope of helping Charlene’s younger brother Monte, once a prodigy and now a troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. Their explosive reunion leads to the baring of personal revelations and dangerous secrets. This is a vivid story of families trying to reconnect with and support each other through trauma and loss, and a meditation on the possibility of moving on to a better future. We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel Popkin back to Life Elsewhere.

Plus new music from Felicia Douglass and Eric Gundel out Brooklyn who perform under the moniker, Gemma. You’ll hear Love Trade from Feeling’s Not A Tempo, their latest album, which we highly recommend. Montreal-based, multi-talented singer-songwriter, Sarah Krier gives us Wrap from her new long-player, Avoidable Injuries. Digital Vagabond hail from Denver, Colorado, Patrick Boyle is the composer, producer, and knob-twiddler on The Tyndall Effect, featuring Carly Lynn Meador aka Spirah on vocals. 

And, Norman B voices an opinion on guns, he first aired on a talk radio show in the early ’80s.

Show #336

Portrait by Peter Woodall

Summer Rayne Oakes. J Ryan Stradal. Gafacci.

“Is taking care of plants the best way to take care of yourself?” This question posed by Summer Rayne Oakes is creatively answered in her new book, How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart. She explores ways to elevate the common potted plant from a decorative object that makes one’s space “look good” to a gateway to something deeper. “Taking care of other living things is a basic human need.” Says, Summer, “Without exercising care for others, we become stuck in own heads, anxious, lonely, and unreceptive to beauty. Becoming a good plant parent can radically open your mind. Watering plants, listening to their needs, and breathing in their scents can mold you into a more mindful and caring person.” The urban houseplant expert and environmental scientist wants to bring nature indoors, Summer has managed to grow 1,000 houseplants in her Brooklyn apartment (and they are thriving). Her secret? She approaches her relationships with plants as intentionally as if they were people.

J Ryan Stradal, the author of the best-selling, Kitchens Of The Great Midwest returns to Life Elsewhere to talk about his latest novel, The Lager Queen Of Minnesota. Edith Magnusson’s rhubarb pies are famous in the Twin Cities–they were named the third-best in the state of Minnesota and St. Anthony-Waterside Nursing Home has quickly become the hottest dinner ticket in town. Still, she lays awake wondering how her life might have been different if her father hadn’t left their family farm to her sister Helen, a decision that split their family in two. With the proceeds from the farm, her sister, Helen Blotz, built her husband Orval’s family soda business into the top-selling brewery in Minnesota. She singlehandedly created the light beer revolution and made their corporate motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots, it’s Blotz.” But Helen dismisses IPAs as a fad, and the Blotz fortune begins its inevitable decline. Soon, though, she finds a potential savior that’s surprisingly close to home. . .Diana Winter earns a shot at learning the beer business from the ground up just as the IPA revolution begins. The stakes couldn’t be higher: just as she’s launching her own brewpub, she’s due to deliver a baby girl. When the unthinkable happens, it’s up to Grandma Edith–and a delightfully surprising cadre of grandmother friends–to secure the next generation’s chances for a better future. Can Grandma Edith’s Rhubarb Pie In A Bottle Ale save Diana’s fledgling brewery, and change their hearts and fortunes forever?

Also in the show, we go to Accra, Ghana to hear new music from Gafacci. The beat-maker is known for his unique sounds and infusing afro rhythms into his electronic-based instrumentals.  This Ghanaian style is called aokpor directly influenced by his father, Sega Gafatche, a former band member of juju music legend, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. On Gafacci’s new four-track EP, Tash BNM, (meaning Tash bought new music) he collaborates with vocalists Tinuke, Lazee, and Amaarae. Listen, enjoy and dance!

Show #335

The Killer. The Auteur. The Relationship.

Maureen Callan

Most people have never heard of Israel Keyes, one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” Keyes was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country. Over the course of fourteen years, Keyes would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home to Alaska, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter. When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day. Norman B talks with Maureen about American Predator – The Hunt For The Most Meticulous Serial Killer Of The 21st Century. “The most horrific book I have ever read!” He tells Ms. Callahan, adding, “But, I loved every page!”

David J & Rose McGowan

David J of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets fame has released a digital-only single, The Auteur (Redux / The Starlet’s Cut) featuring actress and activist, Rose McGowan. This release serves as a taster for his forthcoming double album Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure, which is set for release on in the autumn. The track features a stellar line up of musicians, including Paul Wallfisch (Swans), Larry Mullins AKA Toby Dammit (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds), Sean Eden (Luna) and Emily Jane White (backing vocals). “The original version of The Auteur was released as part of an EP in 2002, an old song that tells a much older story but one which in light of the whole #metoo movement now has an addendum,” says David J. “The most vocal proponent of that righteous call for respect and culpability, Rose McGowan, makes a fitting and emotional appearance on this brand new version’s reprise”. David continues,Rose told me that she related to the lyrics on a very personal level and, because of this, she is also considering recording her own version of the song.”

Christopher Castellani

“I always think, less is more, when it comes to writing about sex.” Says Christopher Castellani, when the subject of physical intimacy comes up.  And, erotic descriptions of gay sex do come up, in Leading Men, Castellani’s sumptuous new novel. The author gently leads the reader through exquisitely realized scenarios that are full of passion; of lust; of yes – sex in a world of agreeable young gay men who appear to swan around languidly from one late night after another to nattering effortlessly as they lay photo-ready in the Mediterranean sun. Christopher paints his beautiful vistas of Portofino, or Rome or wherever he chooses so realistically, you have to remind yourself – often – that is a work of fiction. The clever title, Leading Men, perfectly announces the complexity and essence of this book – relationships. Christopher Castellani bases his gorgeous novel on the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, who were together from roughly 1947 to 1963, a stretch during which the playwright composed some of the American theater’s enduring classics, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and “The Rose Tattoo.” When they met, Tennessee Williams was already flush from the success of “A Streetcar Named Desire” From the first sentence, Castellani wows the reader with an almost unnoticed assertiveness, “Truman was throwing a party in Portofino, and Frank wanted to go.” No last name is given and just like his scenes of intimacy, Christopher allows us, the reader to fill in the unspoken words. It is this brilliant writing-gift that makes Leading Men so wonderful. Castellani conjures up a beautiful, haunting story. He introduces characters who are not only believable, you’ll be thumbing through John Lahr’s biography of Williams to find out how you could have missed them. In Leading Men, the author questions our idea, if not our ideal of what a relationship is – or could be. Make sure you don’t miss Christopher Castellani’s spirited conversation about his book in the next edition of Life Elsewhere.

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Show #331

 

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