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Sandra Tsing Loh at the LA Times Book Festival

The  comedian, writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh speaks with Jenny Attiyeh at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books about If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now, her first novel. It tells the story of a frustrated couple, Bronwyn and Paul, who live in a shabby Los Angeles suburb, far from the Hollywood glamor they secretly long for. Dissatisfied with the fraying Bohemian chic that they used to admire, they seek status and — I’ll let Sandra take up the tale.

This interview is the first of three that took place at the Fourth Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 1999. The other interviews, to follow, are with KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt, the host of Bookworm, and with Arianna Huffington.

Posted on October 29, 2014 in Front Page, Literature, Public Media
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George W. Bush, Beforehand

I interviewed George W. Bush during his first New Hampshire Presidential Primary, when he was still a newcomer to the country at large, just the free and easy – and sober – Governor of Texas, the oldest son of the former President, George Bush Senior.
Here he is, buoyant, almost boyish, back in January 1999, before he was defeated in the United States’ earliest primary by John McCain on February 1st, 2000.

That was back when we too were innocent of what was to come… before this nation changed irrevocably. I asked “W” about our national interests, and when – if ever – the U.S. should intervene in foreign conflicts.
Let us know what you think of his perspective, and whether it evolved…

Posted on June 28, 2014 in Front Page, Politics
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The Mau Mau rebellion — a revisionist history

How does history get rewritten? How do victimizers become victims, and the valiant turn into villains? As Harvard history professor Caroline Elkins has learned, this process can be a hazardous one. The Pulitzer prize-winning author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya devoted many years to the study of the Mau Mau uprising in the early 1950s, and the British response,  a model of counter-insurgency technique — or so she thought.

The Mau Mau were a group of native Kenyans who turned to violence and terror to drive out their colonial British masters, but as Elkins discovered, they weren’t the only ones to use such tactics.  Now a court case will decide where the truth actually lies, as you will hear in this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and  Harvard Extension School.

Posted on November 1, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History
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Tom Perrotta on Flannery O’Connor — a literary affinity

Note: This interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, and also on KUT, in Austin, Texas!

Tom Perrotta, the author of Little Children, Election, The Abstinence Teacher and the upcoming novel The Leftovers, speaks with ThoughtCast about a writer who fascinates, irritates and inspires him: Flannery O’Connor.

Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor in her driveway in 1962 (photo credit: Joe McTyre)

His relationship with her borders on kinship, and he admires and admonishes her as he would a family member, with whom he shares a bond both genetic and cultural.
When asked to choose a specific piece of writing that’s had a significant impact on him, Tom chose O’Connor’s short story Good Country People, but then he threw in two others — Everything that Rises Must Converge and Revelation. As Tom explains, these three stories chart O’Connor’s careful trajectory, her unique vision, and her genius.
Click here (30 minutes) to listen!

This interview is the second in a new ThoughtCast series which examines a specific piece of writing — be it a poem, play, novel, short story, work of non-fiction or scrap of papyrus — that’s had a significant influence on the interviewee, that’s shaped and moved them.
Up next: Harvard Classicist Gregory Nagy on Homer’s Iliad, and the final, fatal battle between Hector and Achilles.

Posted on July 10, 2011 in Front Page, Literature
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Words @ Work: The Origins of “Rock”

Note: this piece was broadcast on NJN (New Jersey Public Radio), New Hampshire Public Radio and WMUB, an NPR station in Oxford, Ohio. It was also podcast on KXCI.org, in Tucson.

Why Not?
What does the word rock mean? Simple enough question. But how did the term originate? Where — and why? These questions are bit more difficult to answer!

Tune in for a quick romp through the origins of the word — with Berklee College of Music professor Ken Zambello.
Click here: to listen (3:30 minutes).
(And thanks to Pam Scrutton and Planning For Elders for the “Let’s Rock and Roll” illustration!)

Posted on April 9, 2011 in Front Page, Music, Words@Work
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Harvard Critic Helen Vendler on Emily Dickinson

Note: This interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, Prairie Public Radio, and on KUT in Austin, Texas.

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
When Helen Vendler was only 13, the future poetry critic and Harvard professor memorized several of Emily Dickinson’s more famous poems. They’ve stayed with her over the years, and today, she talks with ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh about one poem in particular that’s haunted her all this time.  It’s called I cannot live with You-
According to Vendler, whose authoritative Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries has recently been published, it’s a heartbreaking poem of an unresolvable dilemma, and ensuing despair.
Click here (18 minutes) to listen!

This interview is the first in a new ThoughtCast series which examines a specific piece of writing — be it a poem, play, novel, short story, work of non-fiction or scrap of papyrus — that’s had a significant influence on the interviewee, that’s shaped and moved them.

Up next – esteemed novelist and short story writer Tom Perrotta discusses Good Country People,  a short story by Flannery O’Connor that’s particularly meaningful to him.

Posted on February 3, 2011 in Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, Literature, Poetry
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