The residents of the aptly named Sun City commandeer the main road for better uses, one day in 1963. Could sun-seeking Arizona seniors have provided the inspiration for Paris Plages? (photo: The Arizona Republic)
(Thank you to Stephen Curry, professor of structural biology at Imperial College, for providing the core of this ToREAD booklist - and to The Guardian for publishing it!)
1. All Art Is Propoganda, Critical Essays, George Orwell
Ok - this is a cheat. I've already read Orwell's essays and am now rereading them. But in a dangerous time when hypocrisy and humbug are the height of literary fashion, Orwell's fearless and direct analysis is a refreshing reminder of what writing in general and journalism in particular can be (when not engaged in apologizing for totalitarianism or tiptoeing around taboos). For a bracing French essay in this great tradition, I highly recommend Caroline Fourest's new book,In Praise of Blasphemy: Why Charlie Hebdo Is Not Islamophic, so far available in English translation only as an ebook.
2. The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker
A diehard Pinker fan, I will eagerly follow him wherever he goes, so if he moves from the brain to grammar, so will I. Pinker is one of those rare scientists who write with exceptional clarity about things I know nothing about. Always a pleasure.
3. The Only Woman in the Room, Eileen Pollack
Having witnessed an appalling case of sexism in the classroom this year, I'm curious to read Pollack's account of her own struggles. And maybe get some guidance on what to do today. After watching a science teacher blatantly discriminate against girls in his class, I'm ready to slap anyone who asks "Why aren't there more women in science?" as if it were a mystery.
4. Herding Hemingway’s Cats, Kat Arney
I'm a little afraid of a book on DNA but Dr Curry assures us that "Arney’s chirpy tour through the mysteries of modern genetics is engrossing and fun", so I'll give it a try. Anything to get a handle on the Build-A-Human start-ups that are bound to go public soon. Also, there's Hemingway in the title, so that's good.
This book comes with a warning from Dr Curry: "Don’t pick up Being Mortal if you aren’t prepared to hold your gaze on the face of death." Having been unable to prevent my mother from suffering a horribly long and painful death, I am very interested in anything that might spare others this experience. Or offer some kind of understanding.
7. The Vital Question, Nick Lane
Dr Curry calls this a "rip-roaring tale of the most fundamental problem in biology". Who can resist? Though, ahem, it's "not for fair-weather readers". But then, vital questions shouldn't be, should they?
8. Life’s Greatest Secret, Matthew Cobb Is it the advancing years that draw me to yet another book on DNA, this time from cybernetics and molecular biology angles? Dr Curry says this is "one of the year’s greatest science books". Definitely worth a try.
9. Serving the Reich, Philip Ball One of the great mysteries of the rise of Nazis was just how many scientists (and other intellectuals), when faced with a terrible dilemma, made the wrong moral choice. An ever topical subject.
10. You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson
As a practitioner of social media (ok - addict) I'm curious to discover the case histories of "shaming". Looking forward to some refreshing facts. And maybe some tips?
11. The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler This may look like a weird choice on a scientist's booklist but it's one I delight in. Is there anything more fun than Chandler? Philip Marlowe is "every bit as cynical, embittered and humane as Le Carré’s Leamas, but he is a sharper and more loquacious observer of human life. Wickedly joyous." :)
In November 2013, French terrorism expert Marc Trévidic, head examining magistrate in charge of France's anti-terrorism unit and author of numerous books about Islamists in France, spoke with Dominique Godrèche about the evolution of Islamist terrorism in France and the world, which he examines in his book Terrorists: The Seven Pillars of Unreason . The original interview was published in French. In light of the attacks on Paris this Friday, we republish excerpts from the Trévidic-Godrèche interview here in English.
Marc Trévidic, French terrorism expert, interview by Dominique Godreche
for Paris Writers News
Marc Trévidic is a French "juge d’instruction" or examining magistrate at the anti-terrorist unit of the Paris "Tribunal de Grande Instance". His book, "Terroristes, les 7 piliers de la déraison" (Terrorists: the seven pillars of unreason") describes the psychological profiles of Islamist terrorists. Blending essay, document, and novel, Trévidic draws a portrait of a disoriented youth, in search of a “righter ” ideology, drawn into a deadly system, and he decodes the mental processes underlying the terrorist’s path towards violence. After the publication of “Au Coeur de l’antiterrorisme” (In the Heart of Anti-terrorism) in 2010, Trévidic continues his description of “geo societal” complexities, and the consequences of the identity crisis, while analyzing the violence and the dangers of its propagation, in the Internet era.
The last time a French president declared "l'Etat d'urgence" it was because the banlieues were erupting in violence, with rioters burning public buildings and thousands of vehicles. That was in 2005, exactly ten years ago, under president Sarkozy.
The rioting had already gone on for nearly two weeks before the State of Emergency and curfew were declared. The specific intent at the time was to put a stop to the violence which was literally out of control.
Today we have a State of Emergency declared by President Hollande and signed by Prime Minister Valls, Interior Minister Cazeneuve, and Justice Minister Taubira. It's purpose? Someone should probably ask that question.
Paris bloggers, travel writers and authors, in the wake of the Paris Attacks, is it not time to revisit the tacit agreement not to say ALL we know about what's happening in France?
After the massacre at the Bataclan, the assault on restaurant goers and football fans, the beheading in the south, the executions of hostages at the Kosher grocery in Vincennes, the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris, the targeting and torturing to death of a Jewish telephone saleman, the extermination of little Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, the killing of young solders and much more, isn't it time we shook off the shackles of self-imposed censorship and just told Paris lovers and visitors what we actually see, and know and feel?
How does it help our readers who dream of Paris to conceal from them problems we know about in France?
A while back there was a discussion about not wanting to ruin people's dreams of Paris by telling them too much.
After the grief, the devastation, the mourning, is it not time for a new honesty among Paris writers?
For the benefit of readers - and writers - alike?
(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images/JTA "People place flowers and candles on the pavement near the scene of the November 13, 2015 Bataclan Theater terrorist attack, on November 14, 2015 in Paris, France. ")
Calvi's TV show, "C dans l'air" is probably the best discussion forum on French TV. Notice what is said about denial of reality (what's called "angélisme"). About recidivism (it is false that prison causes recividism: "prisons do not cause recidivism; recidivists eventually end up in prison"). About impunity (minors know that they risk nothing "je suis mineur, on ne peut rien contre moi"). About the billions wasted (according to the very official Cour de Comptes). About the drug trade. About the changing population. About increasing violence. And more...(in French). If you blog about France or teach students about France, this is a good video to watch and discuss.
Broadcast on October 28, 2015 - two weeks before the Paris Attacks, "Avoir 15 ans dans les banlieues" was watched on TV by 1.7 million people in France.
This November, news from Paris writers Peter Gumbel, Chantal Bizzini, Tom Parker, Samantha Chang, David Siefkin, David Downie, Kaaren Kitchell, Jane Augustine, Megan Fernandes, Michael Heller, Nina Zivancevic, Roger Goldsmith, Marilyn Kallet, Jeanette Winterson, Marilyne Hacker, Paris Lit Up, Moving Parts, Shakespeare and Company, Berkeley Books, the American Library in Paris, Culture Rapide, Spoken Word, WICE, the Irish Cultural Center, Maison de la Poésie, Dear Conjuctions, and more (update ongoing...)
Shakespeare's new cafe! (photo: Guardian)
Shakespeare and Company café opens! With tasty pastries and giant glass windows facing the Notre Dame Cathedral, this is the best new coffee place in Paris! And it's right next to the venerable bookstore - bravo!
Kaaren Kitchell: David, I loved this book. But then, I knew I would, since I share your passion for Paris. It is such a skillful interweaving of the last few centuries of Paris history, Romanticism, great stories about writers and artists, and the places where they lived. I just passed Baudelaire’s 1842-43 residence on the Quai de Bethune, and remembered your stories about him.