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Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Today's guest is author Claire Messud. She’s the author of seven novels, including The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children. Messud has been awarded an Addison Metcalf award and the Straus Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among many other literary honors. The New Yorker calls her “adept at evoking complex psychological territory”, which is most definitely the case in her latest novel, The Burning Girl, about the tortuous course of a childhood friendship.

In this lively, thoughtful, timely conversation, Messud and Jason talk about childhood, growing up, and how cultures contain the things that scare them most. Also, how to give and receive good criticism on creative writing. 

And Claire responds to the following surprise clips from our video interview archives: Russell Simmons on the (then) presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, Alan Alda on communication and connection 

Claire Messud quote: I always have in mind from back in college, in Film Studies class studying film noir,  “The transgressive female must be contained.”  That was a sort of unconscious societal push:  “Contain that female!”  And there used to be places you could contain them.  “Send that hysterical woman away!”  But how now do we do that?  We do that instead with stories.  The stories we tell about people and the  Labels we put on people.  We contain them in other ways.  And I feel that film and television and fiction culture Is full of dead bodies of women.  And that one of the ways that we contain women  Who don’t fit an appropriate narrative  Is narratively kill them off. 

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.