Half a century ago, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released one of the greatest albums of the rock era, “Déjà vu.” The record would sell eight million copies, but the band, and the friendships, did not endure. “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason talks with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash about their shared history and the timeless music they produced, as “Déjà vu” gets a delayed 50th-anniversary expanded release.
Maggie O’Farrell’s “Hamnet,” one of last year’s most widely acclaimed novels, imagines the life of William Shakespeare, his wife, Anne (or Agnes) Hathaway, and the couple’s son Hamnet, who died at 11 years old in 1596.
On this week’s podcast, O’Farrell says she always planned for the novel to have the ensemble cast it does, but that her deepest inspiration was to capture a sense of the young boy at its center.
“The engine behind the book for me was always the fact that I think Hamnet has been overlooked and underwritten by history,” she says. “I think he’s been consigned to a literary footnote. And I believe, quite strongly, that without him — without his tragically short life — we wouldn’t have the play ‘Hamlet.’ We probably wouldn’t have ‘Twelfth Night.’ As an audience, we are enormously in debt to him.”
In 2018, Michael Lewis published “The Fifth Risk,” which argued, in short, that the federal government was underprepared for a variety of disaster scenarios. Guess what his new book is about? Lewis visits the podcast this week to discuss “The Premonition,” which recounts the initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It wasn’t just Trump,” Lewis says. “Trump made everything worse. But there had ben changes in the American government, and changes in particular at the C.D.C., that made them less and less capable of actually controlling disease and more and more like a fine academic institution that came in after the battle and tried to assess what had happened; but not equipped for actual battlefield command. The book doesn’t get to the pandemic until Page 160. The back story tells you how the story is going to play out.”
The historian Annette Gordon-Reed visits the podcast to talk about her new book, “On Juneteenth,” which combines history about slavery in Texas and Juneteenth with more personal, essayistic writing about her own family and childhood.
“This is a departure for me, but it is actually the kind of writing that I always thought that I would be doing when I was growing up, dreaming about being a writer,” Gordon-Reed says. “I’ve always been a great admirer of James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal’s essays I thought were wonderful, better than the novels, and that’s the kind of thing that I wanted to do. So it was sort of a dream come true for me to be able to take this form and talk about some things that were very important to me.”
Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history during this year of its 125th anniversary; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Parul Sehgal and John Williams talk about the latest in literary criticism. Pamela Paul is the host.
Here are the books discussed by the critics this week:
“The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel
“Jackpot” by Michael Mechanic
“Declaring something impossible leads to more things being possible,” writes the physicist Chiara Marletto. “Bizarre as it may seem, it is commonplace in quantum physics.”
Chiara Marletto is trying to build a master theory — a set of ideas so fundamental that all other theories would spring from it. Her first step: Invoke the impossible.
Constructor Theory is a new approach to formulating fundamental laws in physics. Instead of describing the world in terms of trajectories, initial conditions and dynamical laws, in constructor theory laws are about which physical transformations are possible and which are impossible, and why. This powerful switch has the potential to bring all sorts of interesting fields, currently regarded as inherently approximative, into fundamental physics. These include the theories of information, knowledge, thermodynamics, and life.
Read more about Marletto and David Deutsch’s constructor theory at Quanta Magazine: https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-to…
On a special LARB Book Club episode of the Radio Hour, Boris Dralyuk and Medaya Ocher are joined by George Saunders, author of four collections of virtuosic short stories and of the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.
His latest work is A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life. Examining individual works by Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev, and Nikolai Gogol from a variety of angles, Saunders teases out lessons for writers and readers alike. During the conversation, he discusses what fiction can teach us about ourselves and each other, shares his experiences teaching these stories over the past two decades, and reflects on the role of humor in his work.
Dr. Jennifer Doudna first made her name uncovering the basic structure and function of the first ribozyme, a type of catalytic ribonucleic acid (RNA) that helps catalyse chemical reactions. This work helped lay the foundation for her later helping to pioneer CRISPR-Cas 9, a tool that has provided the means to edit genes on an unprecedented scale and at minimal cost. In addition to her scientific contributions to CRISPR, Doudna is known for spearheading the public debate to consider the ethical implications of using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human embryos.
What can a travel writer learn from staying at home? Anne McElvoy asks the prolific travel author Paul Theroux about the virtues of being homebound during the pandemic.
The author of “Under the Wave at Waimea” reveals that his friend and one-time foe V.S. Naipaul inspired a character in his new book about big-wave surfing in Hawaii. Also, verbal fencing with his sons Louis and Marcel and his ultimate travel destination.
How Cade got access to the stories behind some of the biggest advancements in AI, and the dynamic playing out between leaders at companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.
Cade Metz is a New York Times reporter covering artificial intelligence, driverless cars, robotics, virtual reality, and other emerging areas. Previously, he was a senior staff writer with Wired magazine and the U.S. editor of The Register, one of Britain’s leading science and technology news sites. His first book, “Genius Makers”, tells the stories of the pioneers behind AI.
Topics discussed: 0:00 Sneak peek, intro 3:25 Who is “Genius Makers” for and about? 7:18 *Spoiler alert!* Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) 11:01 How the story continues after the book ends 17:31 Overinflated claims in AGI 23:12 Deep Mind, OpenAI, and AGI 29:02 Outsider perspectives 34:35 Early adopters of ML 38:34 Who gets credit for what? 42:45 Dealing with bias 46:38 Aligning technology with nee
Visionary biochemist Jennifer Doudna shared the Nobel Prize last year for the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which has the potential to cure diseases caused by genetic mutations. Correspondent David Pogue talks with Doudna about the promises and perils of CRISPR; and with Walter Isaacson, author of the new book “The Code Breaker,” about why the biotech revolution will dwarf the digital revolution in importance.