What inspired your novel?

Question: What inspired "Sons and Other Flammable Objects"?

Khakpour:    My novel was mostly inspired by my own background as a new Iranian-American growing up in sort of unique circumstances in a suburb of Los Angeles.  And then 9/11 was a major kick in the ass for me.  So that in a way . . . maybe it was the prime inspiration.  But I also often joke that poverty and desperation were also big inspirations in writing my novel.  I was given a fellowship after getting my Masters degree at Johns Hopkins, and I knew that I’ve always been struggling to survive.  And I had a seven month, eight month period to write a long work.  We’re sort of encouraged to do that – not required, but you know sort of encouraged.  And I thought, “Wow.  I might never again in my life be paid to write like this.”  And I was working with a wonderful writer, Alice McDermott, at Hopkins, and I know she always sensed that I was a novelist.  And so I thought, “Let me just try it because I don’t have any other options.”  What am I gonna do?  Go back to New York?  Be a freelance journalist again?  Barely scrape by?  Am I gonna move to California with my parents, which I had never really done after college?  What . . . what can I do?  And what do I have the steam to write about, you know?   And so Alice McDermott used to tell me, “Write what you know,” and I always thought that was so gauche, and outdated, you know and pedestrian.  And I tried it, and I assumed the manuscript would be tossed, and that my actual published novel would come sometime later.  But it just so happened that I became interested in it, and I became more interested in my experience of 9/11, and my experience growing up as a wrote the novel.  So it was a strange chicken and egg phenomenon with the inception of the novel, I think, in my case.

9/11 was a major kick in the ass, Khakpour says.

Beyond Meat announces plan to sell ‘ground beef’ in stores. Shares skyrocket.

Beyond Beef sizzles and marbleizes just like real beef, Beyond Meat says.

Culture & Religion
  • Shares of Beyond Meat opened at around $200 on Tuesday morning, falling to nearly $170 by the afternoon.
  • Wall Street analysts remain wary of the stock, which has been on a massive hot streak since its IPO in May.
  • Beyond Meat faces competition from Impossible Foods and, as of this week, Tyson.
Keep reading Show less

Thumbs up? Map shows Europe’s hitchhiking landscape

Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.

Image: Abel Suyok
Strange Maps
  • A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
  • However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
  • In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
Keep reading Show less

Can you guess which state has the most psychopaths?

A recent study used data from the Big Five personality to estimate psychopathy prevalence in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.

Surprising Science
  • The study estimated psychopathy prevalence by looking at the prevalence of certain traits in the Big Five model of personality.
  • The District of Columbia had the highest prevalence of psychopathy, compared to other areas.
  • The authors cautioned that their measurements were indirect, and that psychopathy in general is difficult to define precisely.
Keep reading Show less