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In this episode: 

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

The writer Joyce Carol Oates grew up on a farm, tending chickens in what she describes as a very desolate part of upstate New York, and grew up to write around 90 (and counting) novels and collections of essays and short stories, many of them while teaching at Princeton University. She’s won many, many awards, including the National Book Award, the Pen/Malamud Award and the National Humanities Medal. Her powerful new novel, A Book of American Martyrs, begins with a terrible act of violence – and then deals with its complex aftermath.

Today's conversation starts there, weaving through the political and religious landscape of America, past and present. We also talk about whether writing, for Joyce, is as "effortless" as as critics have described the experience of reading her. Trump comes, up, inevitably but briefly, as do Jonathan Safran Foer, Lord Byron, and the problems early success can pose. 

Joyce Carol Oates Quote: I think isolationism is attractive to people who have sort of given up. They say, well, I can’t begin to understand what’s going on in Europe, or I don’t understand science, so I’ll just stay home and keep electing people who look and talk like me. But the future’s global. There’s really nothing we can do about it.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Gish Jen on Identity and Choice in the West, Nicole Mason on Poverty in America

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.