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Andrew Sean Greer: Becoming a Successful Novelist
Andrew Sean Greer is an American novelist and short-story writer. The New York Times called his 2008 novel The Story of a Marriage “lyrical” and “inspired.” His first novel, 2001’s The Path of Minor Planets, was well received, and his second, 2004’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli, earned him comparisons to Proust and Nabokov from critic John Updike. His stories have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and other national publications. Born in Washington, D.C., Greer received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his master’s degree from the University of Montana. He currently resides in San Francisco. Greer was so well received as an undergrad that his classmates elected him the commencement speaker, for his own graduation.
Questoin: Can you talk about your next project?
Andrew Sean Greer: A little bit. I don’t want my editor to see this and get any inkling of what I’m doing. Yeah, I started it a while ago. It’s actually a book I abandoned a while ago and got really down about. I couldn’t figure out how to do it and when I was writing The Story of a Marriage I figured it out. I think you do that. You figure out the way into a book, which had a more comic tone and I will say it’s a time travel novel, which won’t describe it at all when you finally see it, but that’s the best I can do.
Question:Any downside to being a successful novelist?
Andrew Sean Greer: A downside to being a successful novelist. Wow, I can’t imagine one. Well, I think it would be bad to a truly successful celebrity person, because I know these novelists where people get a cult following and they have some strange personal attachment to them because it’s so personal to read a book. It’s one of those personal art forms, so you could become very strange about the author. I think I’ve done that about authors, but people don’t do that with me, you know, I’m not that level of author, so I’m in a good place. You know, people will e-mail me and say wonderful things or call me up because I’m still listed, but I don’t get any of the weird stuff and no one is mad at me. No one is blogging bad stuff about me.
Question: Is it more difficult to be a writer today than 20 years ago?
Andrew Sean Greer: For sure it is. I mean, it’s hard to say because it’s like saying strawberries don’t taste the way they used to, but I have no idea, but you hear people talk about writing. You hear Philip Roth talk about it and it’s clear, his first book came out, Portnoy’s Complaint, everyone in America talked about it, you know, not just people like you and me, but everyone. That doesn’t happen. It’s hard to remember because that could’ve been the center of the culture the way it is in Germany still. But on the other hand, you look at the lit blogs online and the book blogs and you see tens of thousands of people checking them out every day and you realize there is passion. You know, they’re getting angry about stuff. They’re getting delighted and enthusiastic about stuff, so the passion is still there.
Sean McManus: I’m curious, when John Updike rendered his compliment to your latest work did you call him and thank him? What was your response to that?
Question: How did you respond to praise from John Updike?
Andrew Sean Greer: Can you call and thank reviewers? I always wondered that. Does that make their job, you know, obsolete if authors are thanking them for things? I know when he reviewed my book Max Tivoli in the New Yorker I was at the New Yorker a month later and I wrote him a note and I said it was like having an older brother in high school who tells everyone that you’re cool and not to mess with you and that it made it so much easier for me and that was the best I could do. I think I might get a chance to interview him in the coming months and I’m definitely going to take him up on that.
Question: Is it different to write about gay relationships versus straight?
Andrew Sean Greer: It’s tough because my short story collection there’s a lot more gay relationships, but they’re sort of young and unformed because I was at the same time and in the latest novel there’s a gay tension. Hard to tell if it’s a relationship. It’s strange that I enjoy writing about different straight relationships a little more. I think it’s because for something like Max Tivoli it was already hard enough to write about a man aging backwards that I just couldn’t complicate too much, but I added a gay element to it too just because I’m curious. What makes me most curious, because I don’t write a lot of contemporary fiction, is to set all these characters in the past and see how the constraints of the time change it, so that becomes very obvious how a gay or straight relationship would be utterly different. But in contemporary times they wouldn’t be so different because I think now young people, everyone is mixed together. you know, it’s not like it was, in a good way.
Greer hints at his next project, his review from John Updike, and why it is so difficult to be a novelist today.
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>