FiveBooks Newsletter 15

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Dear FiveBooks Readers,

Another fabulous week of interviews for you, including Patricia Meyer Spack
on  Jane Austen, Peter Snow on Military History and Tom de Waal on the
Caucasus. Happy Reading.

_[2]Paul Thagard on The Meaning of Life_
Monday, September 27th
The professor of philosophy argues that university students should study the
meaning of life. ‘Important works of literature can address issues about
meaning, and not just the most philosophical ones such as Dostoevsky,’ he
says. ‘Literature departments are more interested in French philosophers
than in talking about what novelists, or playwrights or poets were getting
at, which was often addressing key issues about life.’ Tipping more than is
expected, he adds, is a joyous experience for both tipper and tippee.

_[3]Thomas de Waal on the Conflict in the Caucasus_
Tuesday, September 28th
The acknowledged expert on the Caucasus describes a time when Azerbaijan had
three coups in a week. In Moscow in the early 1990s there was still a veneer
of civilised political discourse, but once you got out to the fringes you
realised that it was much more about the desperate scramble for the spoils
of the Soviet Union and bizarre battles, of which Azerbaijan had perhaps the
most bizarre of all.

_[4]Peter Snow on Military History_
Wednesday, September 29th
The veteran British journalist and broadcaster says Stalingrad was touch and
go. It was on the Volga river and the great question was could the Russians
hold on to the west side of the river or would they be driven back across
it,  opening up a huge opportunity for the Germans to strike deep into
central Russia? But as the Russians held on, other Russian troops moved
round to encircle the Germans. From then on the Germans were starved into

_[5]Larry Rohter on Brazil_
Thursday, September 30th
_New  York  Times _journalist Larry Rohter shows us a Brazil tinged with
sadness. Dispossessed tribes drunk by a roadside, betting on the ostrich in
the  numbers  game,  memoirs  of favela poverty and plays about sexual
perversion all feature in his book choices about the real Brazil.

_[6]Patricia Meyer Spacks on Jane Austen_
Friday, October 1st
The professor of English says that Austen had the skill of reporting the
most tedious possible speech and making you enjoy it. It’s not only Miss
Bates  nattering  on  and on in _Emma_, but the dinner-table scene where
Emma’s father and her sister are talking about their apothecaries. ‘It is
just the essence of boredom but she somehow manages to make it hilariously
funny. It’s pure genius.’

_[7]M C Beaton on Cozy Mysteries_
Saturday, October 2nd
The Scottish novelist thinks Eric Ambler is better than John le Carré,
violence and torture are off-putting, Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop is not very
fictitious and Sartre, Mauriac and Gide are terrible bores. Just because
it’s easy to read, she says, doesn’t mean it’s easy to write.

Coming up this week - Ian Buruma on Japan, Harry Sidebottom on Rome and
Madhur Jaffrey on cooking.

Have a wonderful week.
Anna Blundy
Editor, FiveBooks

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