Tag Archives: books

Peter Bergen. Jordan Ellenberg. Tana French. Matilda Mann.

Peter Bergen Trump And His Generals

Journalist, author and CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen’s timely new book, Trump And His Generals reads like an outrageous fantasy thriller, set in Washington DC. The antics of the president and his cohorts as they proceed without customary norms to select generals for major posts in his administration could be sub-headed, “Truth Is Definitely Stranger Than Fiction!” Bergen, without unnecessary titillations, soberly lays out the course of events before Trump sets foot in the White House, until the present day. Peter’s almost deadpan narrative is occasionally interrupted by a slight chuckle when the dark humor of the story is alluded to by Life Elsewhere host, Norman B.

Jordan Ellenberg How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

“I believe you have Dyscalculia”, mathematics Professor, Jordan Ellenberg tells Norman B, who admits to having difficulty with numbers and being daunted by interviewing the author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. The professor’s book, now out in paperback is all about math, but not the math we learn in school which can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. Instead, Jordan Ellenberg explains to us how terribly limiting this view is. “Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it, the math.” the professor says.

Tana French Dublin Murders

All seven of Tana French’s books are set in Dublin, and six of them form the loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad series.  Instead of featuring a static cast of characters solving every case, the cast is a daisy chain, with each new book narrated by a supporting character from a previous volume. 2007’s In the Woods is narrated by one detective; in The Likeness, his former partner takes over; in Faithful Place, her former boss becomes the narrator; and on it goes. That evolving cast allows French to escape from one of the great problems of the detective story: namely, how to make the detective into someone who changes and evolves over time, while also preserving the status quo enough to allow them to continue building their lives around solving mysteries. French’s detectives are undone and remade by their cases. In every novel, they are taken apart and then put back together again by mysteries that are fiendishly designed to reveal their very worst tendencies. Now, Starz has adapted her first two books, In the Woods and The Likeness, into the new TV show Dublin Murders. Tana always a welcome guest on Life Elsewhere each time she releases a new book. So, for this edition, we have gone back into our archives for a conversation with the celebrated crime novelist.

Matilda Mann Loch Ness Monster; Nothing At All

Matilda Mann

Talented London-based, Arlo Parks is a good example of a singer-songwriter we spotted long before she had risen to major acclaim. With 2020 just ahead,  Arlo is already poised to become a serious headliner. So, it’s with great delight we bring you another name we rate highly,  19-year-old Matilda Mann from West London. From the small examples of her singer-songwriting abilities, we are suggesting Matilda could be another name to watch out for. You’ll hear two cuts, Loch Ness Monster and Nothing At All, both songs have depth, yet with enough pop sensibility for us to give serious approval and ask you to make sure we hear your feedback.

 

 

Show #353

 

 

Antisocial! Interlude! Kavanaugh!

                      

Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz

For several years, Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer, has been embedded in two worlds. The first is the world of social-media entrepreneurs, who, acting out of naïvete and reckless ambition, upended all traditional means of receiving and transmitting information. The second is the world of the people he calls “the gate crashers”–the conspiracists, white supremacists, and nihilist trolls who have become experts at using social media to advance their corrosive agenda. Antisocial ranges broadly–from the first mass-printed books to the trending hashtags of the present; from secret gatherings of neo-Fascists to the White House press briefing room–and traces how the unthinkable becomes thinkable, and then how it becomes reality. Antisocial reveals how the boundaries between technology, media, and politics have been erased, resulting in a deeply broken informational landscape–the landscape in which we all now live. Marantz shows how alienated young people are led down the rabbit hole of online radicalization, and how fringe ideas spread–from anonymous corners of social media to cable TV to the President’s Twitter feed.

Elizabeth Owens – Rabbits | Spartan Jet-Plex – Meant both available on Grimalkin Records

Nancy Kells has been featured a number of times on Life Elsewhere over the last couple of years. Not least of all because of talent and hard work at putting out uniquely different and uncompromising music. Nancy now owns and operates the Grimalkin label releasing recordings by those who share similar ideals. Their most recent press release says, As an LGBTQ centered label, it is extremely important to us to affirm the genders of the artists we represent. We understand that mistakes can be made, but do ask that you double-check to ensure you are using the correct pronouns in coverage. So included in this edition, Richmond, Virginia-based, Elizabeth Owens, they/them’s Still Coming Of Age record is the baby sister of Elizabeth Owens’ debut release, Coming Of Age. This 4 track EP includes unique, unplugged versions of songs from the original release and a new track, Rabbits. Spartan Jet-Plex is one of Nancy Kells’ musical monikers, from  Resurrected, they/them’s album of alternate versions, we selected, Meant.

The Education Of Brett Kavanaugh – An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin & Kate Kelly

In September 2018, the F.B.I. was given only a week to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. But even as Kavanaugh was sworn in to his lifetime position, many questions remained unanswered, leaving millions of Americans unsettled. During the Senate confirmation hearings that preceded the bureau’s brief probe, New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly broke critical stories about Kavanaugh’s past, including the “Renate Alumni” yearbook story. They were inundated with tips from former classmates, friends, and associates that couldn’t be fully investigated before the confirmation process closed. Now, their book fills in the blanks and explores the essential question: Who is Brett Kavanaugh? The Education of Brett Kavanaugh paints a picture of the prep-school and Ivy-League worlds that formed our newest Supreme Court Justice. By offering commentary from key players from his confirmation process who haven’t yet spoken publicly and pursuing lines of inquiry that were left hanging, it will be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand our political system and Kavanaugh’s unexpectedly emblematic role in it.

Show #345

The Girl To City Conversation With Amy Rigby

When I lived on East 4th Street, the staircase had been clogged twice a month with tenants waiting for the mailman to bring disability and welfare checks. My 14th Street neighbors were more of a mix of writers and musicians, the employed and the unemployable. Above and below and on either side of me, people were reading books, painting, making clothes. I also saw a lot of them hustling to the subway or bus in the morning dressed in business attire, off to do their day jobs. I won’t be like that, I thought. I’m only tempting until I’m successful at music. Then I won’t have to work another job.

Amy Rigby, Girl To City – A Memoir – Summer Of My Wasted Youth

In this short, brilliantly written example from Amy Rigby’s memoir, you cannot ignore her raw honesty. Even describing humdrum, day-to-day scenarios she doesn’t wander off into fanciful wordplay. Instead, Amy has a marvelous knack for not only conjuring up the scene but also her feelings at that moment. It’s a powerful skill, she modestly acknowledges. “I write better than I say it.” She announces with a slight giggle. Conversing with Amy is always a treat because you never know what tangent you’ll go in. Reading Girl To City is not unlike having a private conversation with the acclaimed singer-songwriter. She speaks directly to you, sometimes wistfully:

He wore a tank top in winter and summer.
But I loved him.
He gave me a crash course in art and film history.
He also gave me crabs, gonorrhea and herpes.
But I loved him.

Amy Rigby, Norman B & Eric Goulden, Hudson NY, 2016

And she always speaks with a wink in her eye. Never jaded, often knowing and occasionally with a tartness that catches the reader by surprise. Her memoir is packed full of information, details, names, cultural references, a history of rock and roll as seen through Amy’s almost always bright-eyed vision. There have been a lot of memoirs from the rock fraternity, Girl To City deserves its own unique category, as Lenny Kaye says, “Amy Rigby writes the way she performs and sings, laced with insight, humor, self-awareness, and above all, heart”.

During the conversation, Norman B asked Amy to select some music to play during the show. She decided on two cuts from A One Way Ticket To My Life, a companion album to her book, Girl To City, featuring unreleased tracks and demos. Plus she requested we play, the Summer Of My Wasted Youth from her 1998 album, Middlescence.

Life Elsewhere Music Vol 152

  

Angry, Yet Scathingly Funny

“If you have a President who comes from reality TV, why would anyone be surprised there would be a specious relationship with the truth?” Asks Jarett Kobek in our conversation about his latest novel, Only American Burn In Hell. Truth and reality versus lies and fantasy criss-cross in Mr. Kobek’s vision of the current state of our world. The present occupant of the White House is omnipresent in Jarett’s novel as his foul tentacles and clawing apologists clog the air of every landscape on every page. What if your country had elected as its leader a shameless millionaire who was stealing your money, your democracy, and your dignity? What if the media were owned by filthy-rich men who didn’t give two shits about any of it as long as it continued to make them filthy rich? Wouldn’t it be enough to send you certifiably insane? To make you write a novel about an immortal lesbian fairy that mimicked the conventions of movies like Wonder Woman but became an accidental allegory for #MeToo? To write a savage death wail of a satire about how the rich stole everything from us?

The delight of conversing with Jarett Kobek is the tangents you can go to, just like his writing. Does he commit rock ’n’ roll blasphemy by relating incredible details about the unrelated track, “Doing’ The Dookie” from Lou Reed’s Berlin sessions? His pastiche of Reed’s austere lyrics is masterful.

Show #342

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

 

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