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Suzanne Lovell, the hot Chicago-based architectural interior designer, is out with a coffee-table book that would make an excellent Valentine’s gift — Artistic Interiors: Designing with Fine Art Collections (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, October 2011).

This book is a treasure for anyone interested in architecture, art and design — in the home.

 

The American Psychoanalytic Association is holding their 2012 National Meeting this week.

One of the books that continues to do well with psychotherapists is How to Talk to a Narcissist, by Joan Lachkar (Rouledge Taylor & Francis Group 2008).

This would be a good book for world leaders to get a hold of in preparation for future talks with American and Israeli officials.

Can a 15 year old Southern California prep-school girl trust Jean Paul Sartre to help her find enlightenment and herself all before the prom? That’s the idea behind “Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a graphic novel, written by filmmaker Keshni Kashyap and illustrated by pop-surrealist painter Mari Araki.

Young readers of this book may discover that to be enlightened is to be truly hip, but that requires some amount of seriousness, truthfulness and goodheartedness to be actualized.

Photograph (lower): Stephen Wise

LE ran into Malcolm Gladwell today in Times Square. The best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Outliers and Blink said he’s working on a new book about ‘power’ that will be out in 2013.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Fariba Nawa (right), an Afghan-American journalist, is out with a book called: Opium Nation Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Women’s Journey Through Afghanistan.

Julianne Moore, actress and author of Freckleface Strawberry, attended a benefit performance of Freckleface Strawberry The Musical today at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center in NYC.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Grant’s Final Victory, by Charles Bracelin Flood, published by Da Capo Press (2011) is recommended reading for anyone who cares about history, the United States, and human anthropology.

Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men — a withering critique of President Obama’s first two years in office, spoke at the Columbia Journalism School this evening.

With over 400 students enrolled at the J-school, it was troubling to see so few (<50 students) turn out for Mr. Suskind’s appearance.

Even more troubling though was hearing Howard Fineman, interviewer of Mr. Suskind, say that President Obama is “fundamentally a decent and honest guy.”

LE asked Mr. Suskind, who has the most influence on Obama? He said “Pete Rouse.” When asked what was driving Obama? Suskind said, “legacy.”

 Photograph: Stephen Wise

Nandini Deo presented: The Politics of Collective Advocacy in India (a book she co-wrote with Dunca McDuie-Ra) this evening at The Aicon Gallery in NYC.

The book arrives as the prominent Indian anti-corruption activist, Anna Hazare, enters the seventh day of a hunger strike — aimed at toughening a corruption bill before parliament there.

Ms. Deo said “we hope that the book inspires deeper inquiry into why people organize politically, what challenges they face, who is heard and who is marginalized.” She asked if hunger strikes were appropriate in a democracy? Perhaps the larger question is, how should civil society bring about change in a democracy that is absolutely corrupt, when elections don’t get the job done?

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation — How Indian Spirituality Changed the West”

Philip Goldberg, author of “American Veda,” talked about his book last night at Misha Nicole in NYC.

“The room seemed enveloped in mist. Then, all in a moment each object stood out painfully distinct, only forms and visages were distorted and voices piercing. He drew himself up, calm, grave, for the moment master of himself, but very drunk. He knew he was drunk, and was as guarded and alert, as keenly suspicious of himself as he would have been of a thief at his elbow.” Robert W. Chambers, The King In Yellow, 1895

The problem today is that people have stopped being suspicious of themselves.

Today’s fiction writers are often told to have 95% of their fiction be non-fiction — which is worth remembering when reading former Florida Senator, Bob Graham’s new novel, Keys to the Kingdom. As a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Graham knows something about geo-politics, and he has something he wants to say. But the U.S. government won’t allow him to say it as ‘non-fiction,’ so he’s doing it as fiction.

Senator Graham was one of the few in Washington who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

From Keys to the Kingdom — In a letter to the New York Times, a fictitious former Senator from Florida writes:

“Does Saudi Arabia have the bomb? One of America’s leading journalists on intelligence has estimated that Israel has up to two hundred nuclear devices. Iran continues to reject international efforts to halt its nuclear weapons program. Given Saudi Arabia’s hostile relations with both nations and its economic stake in  protecting oil production, it’s hard to imagine that the kingdom has not directed a portion of its newly acquired, vastly enlarged petro-wealth to becoming a nuclear state…Avoiding another such calamity (a la WWI) — this time with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons — should be the highest priority of American foreign policy. The United States should take prompt action to prevent this potential from becoming a reality.”

LE Analysis: The only way for a catastophe to be avoided is for the U.S. and Israel to unilaterally begin to dismantle their nuclear apparatus, and invite the rest of the world to join them.

While speaking with Senator Graham the other night, he mentioned that “if Hillary Clinton had opposed the war in Iraq, she would be president today.”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Joe McGinniss received the 2011 True Thriller Award, last night at ThrillerFest VI — seen here with his wife, Nancy Doherty.

The first book Joe McGinniss wrote was The Selling of the President (1968), which landed him on the New York Times bestseller list at age, 26.

During a session at ThrillerFest VI, McGinniss talked about covering ‘every day’ of the O.J. Simpson trial, and how in the end he felt that “the trial didn’t matter”  — the jury’s mind had been made up on Day 1, that O.J. was innocent. McGinniss was given an advance to write a book about the trial, but decided to give it back and not do the book.

After spending last Summer living next to Sarah Palin in Alaska, Joe & Nancy decided to keep the advance this time — and write a book on Sarah Palin, called: “The Rogue,” which will be out this Fall.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

We caught up with Thriller author Ken Follet today (seen here with R.L. Stine), and asked him if there were any new ‘bad guys’ planned for upcoming books. He said he favors Nazis in that role. When asked if any Americans qualify as ‘bad guys?’ He said: “Yes the CIA people in the rendition program.” But he wasn’t sure how well that would sell.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Two members of the CIA addressed a gathering of “Thriller” writers today on aspects of CIA “trade craft,” to help the authors create more realistic stories when they incorporate the CIA into their plots.

Marie Harf’s job description is Media Spokesperson for the CIA. “Chris” is an analyst and instructor of case officers.

Someone asked about the CIA’s poor performance over the last 50 years, in failing to correctly predict what was going to happen in various hot spots around the world. Chris responded, “If you expect us to predict what will happen, you will be disappointed — prediction is hard.” He went on to say that their work is more about “context to affect change.”

Ms. Harf said, the fact that the U.S. has not been hit since 9/11 “is not an accident.” Afterwards, I asked Chris about how the CIA balances the “data driven” mindset of society with the need for ‘human intelligence’ — beyond the data? He said there was “tension,” especially with analysts who are experts in certain areas. When I suggested that maybe the CIA could be a leader in showing society how to intregrate data collection and analysis with human wisdom, he said, “If you are looking for us to be a leader on that?…” And his voice trailed off, as he looked away.

Commentary: Progress in Information Technology is eclipsing human progress. In many areas humans are no longer the priority, but instead have become slaves to the things they created. And society is suffering because of it.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

ThrillerFest VI — including CraftFest and AgentFest — is being held this week in NYC for Thriller aficionados from around the world.

One of the sessions today, featured 100 literary agents in a ‘speed-dating’ format, listening to pitches from authors seeking book deals.

Various other sessions have included well known Thriller writers, like Ken Follet, sharing their insights on what makes “Thrillers that Thrill.”

The lunch speaker was Simon Lipskar, an agent with Writers House, who offered an overview of what he called an ‘existential moment’ for book publishing — from the standpoint of publishers, agents and authors. Someone asked Mr. Lipskar: “What is a good book?” His response was, “I don’t think there is an answer to that question.”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Eva Gabrielsson spent 32 years with Swedish journalist and author Stieg Larsson, before his death at age 50 in 2004.

She is in the U.S. to promote her book on their life together called: ” ‘There Are Things I Want You To Know’ About Stieg Larsson And Me” by Seven Stories Press.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Jane Fonda’s soon to be released book “Prime Time” has a section on starting a revolution — a “longevity revolution,” in which the enemy is ageism. She talked about her book at the recent BEA in NYC.

As with the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, Ms. Fonda’s revolution is wrapped in “human aspirations” — but at the same time is untruthful in various ways. In a chapter called The Changing Landscape of Sex, Fonda calls on people to get over any concerns they have about the “appropriateness of pleasuring yourself.” She says: “Think of masturbation as a medical necessity.”

Advocating for masturbation is misguided. It does not help people to be healthy and “ready for love” (as Jane says in the book), but rather enslaves them in narcissism. The consequences of narcissism make it hard to see and act for the “good.” LE asked Ms. Fonda why she hadn’t spoken out against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya? She said, “the wars are complicated.” We asked her where she gets her power from? She said, “I can’t answer that.”

The support of Western leaders for the recent revolutions (that have toppled sovereign governments) in the Arab world, is similar to the lawlessness and animal spirits that advocate for masturbation.

It’s worth noting what Vladimir Lenin thought about the Russian revolution at the end of his life. Robert Payne writes in The Life And Death Of Lenin — “He was mortally tired and his conscience troubled him. For the whole of the past year he had been aware of a sense of guilt before the workers of Russia. The state which he had built on so much blood, hoping to bring about a paradise for the working classes, had failed to live up to his expectations.” At a party congress Lenin declared: “Powerful forces have diverted the Soviet state from its proper road.”

Payne goes on to say about Lenin: “There were other problems which absorbed him while he lay on his sickbed. He feared that the country would fall into the hands of a more repacious and self-seeking dictator than he had ever been.” Which turned out to be Stalin.

Lawlessness does not produce wholeness for individuals or for society.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

James Patterson, considered the world’s best-selling author, signed books today at BookExpo America (BEA) in New York City.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The Coca Cola Company and Assouline have teamed up to mark Coke’s 125 years of “delivering happiness,” with a special edition coffee table book. According to Assouline, Coca Cola represents the zeitgeist of American history with iconic photographs, advertisement designs, and memories from film, social history and pop culture.”

Kelly Bensimon, of Real Housewives, was on hand for this evenings launch party. While commenting on Coke she said, “through the good, the bad, and the ugly in U.S. history — Coke has endured.”

Photographs: Stephen Wise

“Tiger Mother” Amy Chua (center), on a panel with Melinda Liu and Wendi Deng Murdoch, moderated by Charlie Rose, at the Women in the World summit in NYC.

Ms. Chua’s bestselling book Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, on strict parenting, is spreading around the world. But in China today, the panelists talked about a conundrum existing between demanding parenting and “dotting” parenting, with the “little emperor” child taking over the place.

The Chinese see education as the way out of poverty, and are trying to move past memorization to the Western model of independent thinking (fair to say the Western model is in need of tweeking).

Ms. Chua talked about her sister having Down’s Syndrome and how their ‘tiger mother’ was able to help the girl develop in spite of her disability. Today, she works for Wal-Mart and has a “great” relationship with her mother.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“May Your hair grow gray together” Chinese Proverb

Laura Lau is out with a book she co-wrote with her mother, Theodora Lau, called Wedding Feng Shui. In it she hopes to “inspire and provide practical advice for brides,” borrowing from Chinese tradition.

Ms. Lau believes that adhering to the Chinese lunar calendar can help people to live more in harmony with nature and each other — not replacing or competing with one’s religion but complementing it.

I asked Laura, at the book launch, if there was science to back up the lunar calendar and the techniques that are drawn from it? She believes there to be. Some decorators and farmers think so. When she and her husband Harsh (photo) were married, they relied on feng shui to determine the colors, date and time of their ceremony.

A quick perusal of some of the celebrities mentioned in the book reveals interesting characteristics that are related to their “animal signs.” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for instance, were both born in years of the Rabbit (’63 & ’75).

Last night’s book launch was hosted by the Indo-American Arts Council at Aicon Gallery in NYC. Special mention to The Cake Designer, Parul Patel, who provided delicious “eggless” cupcakes.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Arun Kumar is a management consultant and partner with KPMG. He is also a poet.

A recently published collection of his poems, composed over the last 15 years, is titled: Plain Truths.

Born in India, Mr. Kumar studied physics and later attended MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

The inspiration for the book’s title is a double entendre, including “plane” as in airplane, for all the time he has spent flying — which is also when and where he feels reflective and moved to write.

One of the poems from the book is called Believing In Bernoulli. It starts: “I think of you Monsieur Bernoulli, Every time I look out of the airplane window And see the wing tilt bravely into the air.”

The book includes four sections: 1. Familiar, Famous 2. Parties, Politics 3. Scholarship, Science 4. Places, Pilgrims.

The last verse in Concerned City is especially poignant: “Somalia, Serbia, Croatia, miseries Deeply Felt, compete for priority With children’s soccer and gourmet groceries, In Palo Alto, the concerned city.”

From Artist’s Bungalow, Alibag: “It is important, says the artist, To sustain the impulse. This house that she has built tells you: Impulses of grace, beauty, vision, peace Will sustain us all.”

With his background in physics and a poetic sensitivity, Mr. Kumar tries to bring a holistic perspective into his data driven world as a management consultant.

ThrillerFest V — a gathering of International Thriller Writers — honored Ken Follet, on Saturday in NYC.

Follett has written nearly 30 novels that include: childrens books, science fiction, spy thrillers, medical thrillers, and sweeping historical epics. Hit breakout hit, Eye of the Needle, in 1978 is noteworthy because it features a female protagonist.

Thriller writer, Tess Gerritsen wrote an essay on Needle for: Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, released during the festival. She writes: “Most of us will never be able to identify with James Bond or the other dashing supermen who populate most thriller novels. But in the character of Lucy Rose, we can recognize ourselves. Watching a mere housewife bring down a master spy gives every reader the chance to imagine being a hero. Eye of the Needle celebrates the courage of Everyman — and Everywoman.”

Tess Garritsen signs a Nook for a fan.

Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, was edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner. It examines works — from Beowulf to The Bourne Identity, Dracula to Deliverance, Heart of Darkness to the Hunt for Red October — deemed must-reads by the International Thriller Writers organization.

It was interesting to hear several of the “successful” writers on hand say that they are just “trying to please people” with their books.

Gina Centrello, President of Random House, addressed the group saying that “this would be a better world —  if everyone read.” That’s a comment heard often today, from pundits and educators, and yet one has to wonder what books they are talking about?

Are “Thriller” novels neutral in the impact they are having on readers, or are they effecting the “inner lives” of people? David Morrell, author of First Blood and creator of Rambo, has been described as the “mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions.”

The Thriller genre has historically offered a canvas for exploring the range of human possibilities, in there ambiguous, nuanced and extreme forms. Depending on where the author and reader are coming from, that can be a journey that leads to a good or bad place.

What happens in our mind and imagination effects who and what we are — as much as what we do with our bodies.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

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