About New Books in East Asian Studies
This page is devoted to posting interviews with authors of recent books in East Asian Studies. Your host, Carla Nappi, is an assistant professor of History at the University of British Columbia. Carla is a historian of China, specializing in the study of translation, science, and medicine in early modernity. You can read more about her research and teaching interests here: http://carlanappi.com/
To suggest a book for an interview, please email her at email@example.com.
NBEAS FAQ (to be updated at the whimsy of the Host)
Q: How do you prepare for these interviews, Carla?
A: That’s an excellent question and thanks for asking, Carla. I read each book closely, underlining and making notes in the margins. Then, I go back through all of my notes and record them in a document organized by chapters. Then, I print out my notes (usually 6-7 single-spaced pages) and read them over, highlighting things I want to at least try to get to in the course of the interview. Most of this never makes it into the interview. One hour is not a lot of time!
Q: How do you find the time to do all of that?
A: I have no idea. Truly. I usually make something up when people ask me this.
Q: How are books chosen for NBEAS interviews?
A: It’s a combination of publisher catalogs, requests by authors, and suggestions from colleagues. I am always, always looking for thoughtful suggestions.
Q: So these are like book reviews, right?
A: Nope. The spirit of an interview for NBEAS is completely different from that of a book review. Rather than critiquing a work to ferret out its potential flaws or situating the book within a narrow scholarly subfield, I aim to read carefully enough to try to bring out some of the major elements of craft, the conceptual commitments, the nifty anecdotes, the goals of the author. The interview is meant to be a conversation, a kind of introduction, a little celebration.
In terms of style, I go into each interview intending for it to be a relatively informal conversation that’s shaped by the structure of the book that we’ve come together to discuss. The “informal” is key, here: though I have copious notes and I’ve done my homework, I explicitly avoid writing a script. I want each interview to feel like what it is: real people having a real conversation at a particular moment in time, with all of the tics and tocks and occasional meows or doorbells or Skypey “ding!”s or rustling papers in the background. We record the whole conversation and post it without editing, so frequent listeners will become familiar with my copious verbal tics: using “sort of” and “kind of” as verbal placeholders, “you know,” unseemly word repetition, etc., especially when I’m tired and/or really excited about something, or when my understanding of some aspect of the book is transforming while I’m in the midst of talking to the author. (You’ll hear a lot of “X Y sortof Y kindof Z A B C sortof D sortof…” in that case.) Why do I embrace this rather than trying to edit or stamp it out? It’s simple, and it’s at the heart of what this channel is all about. We tend to relegate discussions of academic books to fora that are defined by a very formal, sanitized, polished rhetoric: book reviews, essays, academic lectures, etc. It’s rare to have the opportunity to *informally* talk about our work and engage the material in our books with people who have read the book carefully. The language of informal life is supposed to be a bit raw and unpolished: this is the way we usually speak to one another. So that’s what you’ll find here. I think it makes it more alive, and more fun.
Q: You use “fantastic” and “fascinating” a lot. Do you really mean those things every time you say them?
A: Fantastic question! And, yes!
Q: What equipment do you use for the interviews?
A: Yeti Blue microphone, Audio Hijack Pro, Skype, and some kind of serious headphones (the make of which I can’t make out from here without my glasses on).