702 episodes

Interviews with Biographers about their New Books
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    • Society & Culture
    • 4.0 • 56 Ratings

Interviews with Biographers about their New Books
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    Anthropologist Wade Davis Discusses His Life and Work

    Anthropologist Wade Davis Discusses His Life and Work

    "… I am an axe; And my son a handle, soon; To be shaping again, model; And tool, craft of culture; How we go on."
    - Gary Snyder, Axe Handles (1983)
    "… wisdom comes to those who understand the student is more important than the teacher in the lineage of knowledge."
    - Wade Davis, New Books Network (2021)
    Of the three major influences on Wade Davis’ life and work one of the most important is the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder, and in this interview the professor shares how foundational that connection remains. This is just one highlight of many he shares about his thinking and writing as Wade indulges my interest in his ‘craft of culture’ on his path to becoming a renowned storyteller.
    This professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, former Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society, and award-winning author, Davis shares the interesting back stories of his best-selling first book, The Serpent and The Rainbow, about his research into Haitian ‘zombie poison’, how his hypothesis was publically challenged, and how the Hollywood movie version was just the kind of cultural distortion he was trying to overcome with his book.
    In the course of talking about this first book which helped launch his writing career he shares thoughts about academic writing more generally and in particular how his PhD thesis, Passage of Darkness, is really a sterile version of the richer and more textured narrative of the first book even though the latter is preferred by academics. For that matter, Wade has something to say about academic objectivity before we move on to talk about his influential One River, his CBC lectures-inspired The Wayfinders, and his award-winning Into The Silence. He also speaks at length about the influence of his Harvard mentors – the British anthropologist David May Ray Lewis, and the botanist and plant explorer Richard Evan Schultes, and how he and the late botanical explorer Tim Plowman made up the ‘coca project’ and the significance of ‘the divine leaf of immortality’.
    Keith Krueger teaching business and academic communication in the SILC Business School at Shanghai University - can be reached at: keith.krueger@uts.edu.au
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    Oksana Rosenblum et al., "Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul: Mykola (Nik) Bazhan’s Early Experimental Poetry" (Academic Studies Press, 2020)

    Oksana Rosenblum et al., "Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul: Mykola (Nik) Bazhan’s Early Experimental Poetry" (Academic Studies Press, 2020)

    Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul: Mykola (Nik) Bazhan’s Early Experimental Poetry (Academic Studies Press, 2020) presents a collection of early works by Mykola Bazhan, one of the most enigmatic figures in Ukrainian literature of the twentieth century. The volume was prepared and edited by Oksana Rosenblum, Lev Fridman, and Anzhelika Khyzhnia. The name of Mykola Bazhan is probably quite new to English-language readers. 
    Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul is an excellent introduction into both life and writing of the Ukrainian poet who participated in one of the most vibrant creative periods of Ukrainian literature—the 1920s—who survived the Stalinist regime, and who somehow managed to preserve the magic of his style and language while being a Soviet functionary. In this regard, the title is rather eloquent: Bazhan’s writing arises at the intersections of multiple inner struggles, compromises, and uncertainties. His language, which may appear cryptic, is some sort of manifestations of a soul that is tortured by doubts and that tries to win the war with itself. Bazhan’s language is hard to render: it gives freedom and, at the same time, it entraps readers and translators as it asks for minute dissections on the micro levels. From this perspective, the language is a tool of both survival and creativity. The poetry and prose pieces, which are included in this volume, are supplemented with critical essays and commentaries, which amplifies the accomplishments of the project. Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul provides further insights into both Ukrainian and Soviet literatures.
    Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures.
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    Domenico Losurdo, "Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel: Intellectual Biography and Critical Balance-Sheet" (Haymarket Books, 2021)

    Domenico Losurdo, "Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel: Intellectual Biography and Critical Balance-Sheet" (Haymarket Books, 2021)

    The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stands among the canon’s most-cited figures, with aphorisms dotting texts on a variety of topics, and his name evokes strong responses from almost anyone who has ever heard of him. His aphoristic and poetic writing style have made it difficult at times to understand what he meant, although the wealth of commentaries pulling him in a variety of different directions points to the fact that he did mean something. On the political right he has been credited as an influence among many reactionary political movements, but even on the left he is cited as an emancipatory figure, suspicious of the powers that be. Aside from these, his writings on art and psychology have remained influential for many. It would seem then that there are numerous Nietzsche’s one can pull from, and due to the loose nature of his writing, one would seem to be warranted in reading Nietzsche a bit more freely. However, that freedom and flexibility misses that there may in fact be a unifying thread to Nietzsche’s thought, and it may in fact be a much darker thread than many of his apologists have realized.
    This is the main argument of the book we’ll be discussing today, Domenico Losurdo’s Nietzsche, The Aristocratic Rebel: Intellectual Biography and Balance Sheet. Originally published about 20 years ago in Italian, it has recently been delivered to English audiences by Gregor Benton and with an introduction by Harrison Fluss as part of the Historical Materialism book series. Clocking in at just over 1000 pages, it is both a literal and figurative bombshell, delivering a rigorous and systematic account of Nietzsche’s thought. A major part of the books length comes from the fact that Losurdo refuses to treat Nietzsche in isolation, and instead spends a large amount of time recreating Nietzsche’s various contexts, 19th century Germany and Europe more broadly, as a way of making the political orientation of Nietzsche’s thought all the more explicit. Through his investigation, Losurdo reveals a Nietzsche who is committed to fighting against the democratic movements happening all around him and being an advocate for a superior elite at the expense of everyone else, whose main purpose in life is to serve them.
    Domenico Losurdo was an Italian Marxist historian and philosopher. 
    Harrison Fluss received his PhD in philosophy at Stony Brook University. He is a professor at Manhattan College, NYC and wrote the introduction to the English edition of The Aristocratic Rebel.
    Daniel Tutt studied at American University and the European Graduate School. He teaches in the philosophy department at George Washington University. He reviewed The Aristocratic Rebel for Historical Materialism.
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    Adam Hochschild, "Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020)

    Adam Hochschild, "Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020)

    In the political ferment of early twentieth century New York City, when socialists and reformers battled sweatshops, and writers and artists thought a new world was being born, an immigrant Jewish woman from Russia appeared in the Yiddish press, in Carnegie Hall, and at rallies. Her name was Rose Pastor Stokes, and she fought for socialism, contraception and workers’ rights.
    What set her apart was not just the strength of her speeches or the passion of her commitments, but her marriage to James Graham Phelps Stokes, the wealthy Episcopalian son of one of the oldest and most elite families in the United States. Over the course of their marriage they lived in an apartment on the Lower East Side, a private island in Long Island Sound, and a townhouse in Greenwich Village.
    The book Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes by Adam Hochschild (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020) explores her life, her unlikely marriage and the great hopes of the Progressive Era in New York City.
    Hochschild, a master of deeply researched narrative history, is the author of ten books—among them King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and Spain In Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War. He has won widespread recognition for his writing and received the Theodore Roosevelt—Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Historical Association.
    Robert W. Snyder, Manhattan Borough Historian and professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers University, is co-author of both All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York (Columbia) and Metropolitan lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York (Norton/Smithsonian).
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    • 51 min
    Brent D. Ziarnick, "To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of Strategic Air Command in the Cold War" (US Naval Institute Press, 2021)

    Brent D. Ziarnick, "To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of Strategic Air Command in the Cold War" (US Naval Institute Press, 2021)

    A sadist. A madman. A sociopath seduced by the terrible allure of nuclear weapons. These are but a few of the pejoratives commonly used to describe United States Air Force General Thomas S. Power, Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1957 to 1964. Power’s remit as CinCSAC was twofold: deter the Soviet Union from launching a nuclear first strike on the United States and plan to unleash Armageddon if they did. Neither was easily achieved. Effective deterrence hinged upon the actual possession of qualitatively superior weapons systems combined with the perception that the United States was willing to use them. Loosing the nuclear dogs of war, in turn, depended on the exacting coordination of those weapons systems under combat conditions. Further complicating matters was the incredible compression of time and space brought on by the advent of new delivery systems like the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). SAC's mission was truly a Gordian Knot—one Power was determined to cut. Power approached the problem with an alacrity that transformed SAC into a formidable nuclear instrument, but which simultaneously earned him a less than flattering reputation. Within the Kennedy administration and among many members of the media, Power was seen as fatally unhinged, obsessed with nuclear weapons, violently anti-communist, and liable to start a nuclear war with the Soviets of his own volition. Whether accurate or not, this view dominated popular and historiographical appraisals of Power for the better part of seven decades.
    In To Rule the Skies: General Thomas S. Power and the Rise of Strategic Air Command in the Cold War (US Naval Institute Press, 2021), historian Brent Ziarnick takes aim at this mainstream historiographic narrative. Telling in detail for the first time the story of Power’s personal and professional life, Ziarnick refocuses our attention away from the hyperbole and onto Power’s substantive contributions to the development of America’s strategic air and aerospace capability.
    Brent D. Ziarnick is an assistant professor at the Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He has been published in Wired, Politico, and The Hill. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies.
    Scott Lipkowitz holds a MA in History, with a concentration in military history, and a MLIS, with a concentration in information technology, from Queens College, City University of New York
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    • 1 hr 28 min
    Hari Ziyad, "Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir" (Little a, 2021)

    Hari Ziyad, "Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir" (Little a, 2021)

    One of nineteen children in a blended family, Hari Ziyad was raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father. Through reframing their own coming-of-age story, Ziyad takes readers on a powerful journey of growing up queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, and of navigating the equally complex path toward finding their true self in New York City. In Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir (Little a, 2021), Ziyad investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given and challenges the irreconcilable binaries that restrict them.
    Heartwarming and heart-wrenching, radical and reflective, Hari Ziyad's vital memoir is for the outcast, the unheard, the unborn, and the dead. It offers us a new way to think about survival and the necessary disruption of social norms. It looks back in tenderness as well as justified rage, forces us to address where we are now, and, born out of hope, illuminates the possibilities for the future.
    Dr. Christina Gessler is a historian of women, gender, and sexuality.
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    • 55 min

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