Thoughts on ‘(M)otherhood: On the choices of being a woman’ by Pragya Agarwal

The number of books I’ve read has stagnated over the last couple of years. I can blame the pandemic and very young kids, but those are no longer an excuse, or I don’t want them to be. This year I’ve kickstarted my reading with a couple of good books, one of which is (M)otherhood by Pragya Agarwal. She kindly sent over a copy for me via her publishers Canongate Books to read in late December, and it spoke to me on so many levels I knew I wanted to pen some thoughts down here.

First of all, this is a brave book, as Elif Shafak has also said on the cover. It is definitely a memoir, but it weaves facts, politics and history through each chapter in a way that you’re never completely sure what you’re reading. I think that’s a plus. My mind was forced to switch gears so many times I found myself paying a lot of attention to what could otherwise be very dry facts – and I say this as a feminist and someone who’s also spent a number of years quoting the state of women on social media. But taking myself out of my shoes, I think anyone interested in why women’s lives are the way it is, will find this a good read, activism notwithstanding.

Another reason I found this book interesting is that it’s written by a South Asian woman. The book is about becoming a mother, the mental anguish of abortion, and the trials of secondary infertility, IVF and surrogacy – which are all important issues that are rarely spoken about in the media by South Asian women. I know this, because as a South Asian woman I went through IVF myself – and for nearly a decade it dictated my life and impacted my mental wellbeing. During that time, I looked for books, articles, blog posts by women like me talking about the trials of infertility, and most often I came up with nothing. I found the odd blog or two and a few articles yes, but nothing that spoke to me the way this book has.

Pragya writes with no judgement, and with full acceptance of her lack of insight into, for example, the lived experience of trans parents. She is upfront about the lack of existing research for her to highlight the parenting experiences of trans people in the book in as much detail as she would have liked, but by the end of the book I found that she had in fact given me a lot of background and history to some of the problems they face with fertility as well.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in strong, human, personal and well-researched writing about all the issues I mentioned above. You won’t regret it.

Here are some of my favourite quotes and passages. I’m bookmarking them here for when I want to come back to them later:

We clutch on desperately to stories of those who tried something that worked. Lucky them. We don’t hear of those who tried acupuncture for months on end and it never did anything for them. We don’t hear of people who had kale juice and a specific diet but never saw the seeds grow. Perhaps we don’t want to hear of these stories because what we want most is hope. Hope that something will work, that there is a way around the biological reality, and that the body and mind can be twisted and turned and coaxed into pliability. Most of all we want to believe that it all really works out in the end.

It wasn’t as much the news or the way it was delivered but the utter disbelief that for someone, I wasn’t worthy of basic human consideration and sensitivity. Honesty is the best policy, but a cushion would have helped, a furry cocoon to engulf me while I was dealt this blow.

In ancient Greek medical vocabulary, as early as the fourth or fifth century BC, where we first start seeing a discussion of infertility, the two main terms were aphoros and atokos, both negative adjectives referring to the absence of a productive bearing; both applied only to women. Rebecca Flemming, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, in her 2013 paper discusses how even as land and trees can be aphoros – barren or non-fruit bearing – and money can be atokos – if it does not bring forth profit – men are neither. This gendering of reproductive vocabulary has continued: ‘infertile’ and ‘sterile’ can be used for both women and men, but ‘barren’ is never used for men.

Having grown up in a world where women are ‘the Second Sex’, still considered the ‘other’ with a man still being the default, I’ve become accustomed to assigning value to my success. Failure has not been a part of my vocabulary, because I did not have the luxury or the freedom to fail. Every failure, even the tiniest one, is hugely personal. This failure to conceive is something I cannot share with anyone, not even my own mother. I have pretended to be strong for so long, with that unwavering sense of reliability and solidity that others fall back on, that I cannot share my hopelessness and desperation, and my crushing sense of despair with anyone, not even those closest to me. Infertility is a social curse, to be pitied, and abhorred, rarely to be empathised with. In this journey, I am alone. Not even my husband understands my acute sense of failure, and he watches, hopelessly. Even though we were in this together, me and him, I have never felt lonelier. It is the grief that should bind us, but I don’t know if he is grieving. He does not say. I wish he would. (My note: She could have literally been describing me here. My feelings and experiences have never felt so validated.)

Somehow within the proclamations of progress made over the years, the needs of those who use this technology the most have been sidelined. Even as the test is touted as a feminist technology, empowering women, giving them choice, freedom and clarity, it remains ambiguous. There has not been as much research on home pregnancy tests as there has in technological apps for fertility. This is a classic case of ‘technological somnambulism’, a technology that society adopts without due consideration, much like while sleepwalking. Home pregnancy tests have changed so much of how we live and how we experience the pain, grief, loss and jubilation of being pregnant – or not. We, as a society, are still deciding what the criteria for a feminist technology would look like, and we don’t have very clear answers just yet. The way these tests are marketed, packaged, bought and used shows us that they are not feminist. Far from it. (My note: This chapter, on pregnancy and testing, was one of the most interesting for me. I’d experienced so much of it, but hadn’t really thought about all the points that Pragya made. It really is an unfeminist technology, for what it purports to be).

I love being a mother, most of the time. And I am okay with it. But I want to feel and believe that I can design my motherhood the way I want to. My motherhood does not have to prove anything to anyone. Not being a mother or being one does not shape my femininity or my value to society.

You can buy (M)otherhood: On the choices of being a woman from Bookshop here. The paperback was released this month, January 2022.

P.S: Can I also say how much I absolutely love the cover design!

Salman Rushdie and the sea of ideas


It was a pleasure listening to Salman Rushdie earlier this week in London, on his latest book Two years, eight months and twenty-eight days. Some things he said that I noted down (I am paraphrasing most of it):

On there being a lot of pop culture in the book: ‘I wanted to write a contemporary book. You then need to know what people are thinking about, and talking about, and what they like.’

On the advice he gives to students of writing: ‘One thing I tell students is to try and get into as many different kinds of rooms to hear as many different kinds of conversations as possible. Because otherwise how will you find things to put in your books?’

On New York: ‘One of the great things about the literature of New York is that it’s the literature of arrival. There aren’t a lot of people in New York who have been born and brought up there’ – the point being the richness of stories, and kinds of people, that such a landscape offers to the writer.

These are all beautiful points for anyone working on building a brand to think about: what matters to your audience in the here and now (not according to research done last year)? What kinds of new experiences can you give them – and how will you arrive at these ideas if you are chained to your desk most of the time? And finally, how are you catering to the variety of personalities you might want to talk to?

Think about it.

A review of ‘From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places’ by Elmira Bayrasli


I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time. A book that is about entrepreneurship but one that covers why people took the decision to set up shop in parts of the world where they knew that the economic, social and cultural environment would almost certainly add to their woes (unlike the US or Europe, where regulation and the rule of law are much less of a problem).

Elmira Bayrasli is a journalist and foreign affairs correspondent who has over the years written for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and is also an academic who lectures at New York University. In addition she is the co-founder of a platform for female journalists called Foreign Policy Interrupted (I am a regular reader of their newsletter). Earlier in her career, she worked for the State Department of the USA, where amongst many interesting experiences she once had a Bosnian citizen comment on what the country really needed: jobs, not aid. This set her off on a journey to dig up interesting stories on what it really is like for someone to start a business in developing economies – how different is it really to the US?

From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places is her answer. I am an avid follower of the startup ecosystem in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, and I started off reading this book (a very easy read, by the way, which makes it quickly digestable for a wide audience) slightly skeptical about whether the book would really be able to capture the complexity of the challenges that people face in these parts of the world. By the end of it I was forced to reconsider. Not only did it do this very skilfully, Ms. Bayrasli has been able to bring out the similarities (i.e challenges) of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of seven different countries even as she builds the characters of seven founders into interesting enough stories in their own individual rights, using her vast experience as a journalist and writer.

The first story is from Turkey (Ms. Bayrasli’s family belongs to the country), where we learn about Bulent Celebi, who in 2004 started AirTies, now a multi-million dollar enterprise trading with the likes of Swisscom. He built the company by focusing on maintaining a strong culture, something Turkish employees were largely unfamiliar with, especially in 2004. AirTies’ corporate values weren’t just ‘feel-good rhetoric’, as the author notes, it was about being focussed on ‘customers and excellence, not on problems’, because problems, according to Bulent Celebi, are ‘too easy and cheap to get caught up in, with no upside at the end’.

The second story is set in Nigeria, where Tayo Oviosu, founder of Paga Tech, is trying to build his mobile payments startup by actually contributing to building infrastructure in collaboration with the Nigerian government, specifically fiber optic cables and generators for backup during a power outage. Nigeria, as we know, is beset with problems (as almost all the economies covered in the book are): weak governance, corruption, and the Boko Haram insurgency are just some. Reading about what Paga Tech is valiantly trying to achieve – the ability to bank the unbanked in rural and urban Nigeria through mobile phones, and enable them to have consistent access to mobile networks and broadband, is very inspiring.

This is followed by the story of Monis Rahman in Pakistan, the founder of Naseeb Networks, which runs a matchmaking site as well as, a popular job search engine. Monis is doing this in a country where community spaces are typically looked upon with distrust (indeed, Sabeen Mahmud was gunned down by extremists in Karachi earlier this year for doing exactly that with her physical community space The Second Floor) so by trying to build virtual community spaces, he is also trying to ‘shift perspectives on Pakistan’, as the author notes. Again, the country’s political environment does not help, so it is an uphill climb.

In Mexico, Enrique Gomez Junco, the founder of Optima Energia, an energy-saving company, is building his business in another complicated environment. Traditionally, the utilities industries are controlled by strong monopolies backed by the government. Over the last decade, globalization and the growth of the startup ecosystem have galvanized even the government, however, as a result of which Mexico has taken trouble to create an environment that is investor-friendly. Yes, the country is still beset with poverty and drug problems amongst other issues, but many entrepreneurs are forging ahead, buoyed by an increasingly supportive startup ecosystem which has helped raise funds, educate potential entrepreneurs, build mentor networks and reform laws.

The story of Shaffi Mather in India really resonated with me because I am from the country and really sympathized with the tragic levels of corruption he faced in order to set up his emergency ambulance network Dial 1298. It mentions some of the country’s key figures over the last few decades, industrialists and policy people who have helped change the status quo for people like Shaffi. India’s problems are many but things are very much changing, and through Shaffi’s story you see how.

I was getting impatient to hear female voices in this book, and the sixth story met my expectations (I still wish there were a couple more female entrepreneurs featured). Yana Yakovleva was running her chemical trading business Sofex without much interference from the government till 2006, when she was arrested because her company had grown to the point that it had finally come to the attention of the higher-ups. I don’t know much at all about Russia, and it was fascinating to read about the environment there for entrepreneurs, who are probably the ‘social group that is persecuted most’, as Russia’s ombudsman for business rights says. Yana herself says that ‘the government considers business people in Russia criminals’. She eventually got out (many are not so lucky, dying in prison) after seven months, and set up Business Solidarity, an organisation that provides legal support to entrepreneurs falsely accused of crimes.

The last story is that of Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi, now one of the most well-known companies in the world, posing a serious challenge to the likes of Apple and Google in the East. How he grew the company from nothing to what it is now makes for compelling reading. I hear so much about startups in China today, but knew precious little about the funding environment there, which this story sheds light on. As Ms. Bayrasli says, ‘China’s leadership holds a firm hand over capital, monitoring its formation and allocation. It is part of a phenomenon that has come to be known as ‘state capitalism’, the antithesis of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’. Under state capitalism, the government is the market: wealth of, by and for the state.’ That’s just a small part of it – things are changing now of course, but it is still not easy for entrepreneurs, so to have built a company as successful as Xiaomi, which embraces open source, is admirable.

I have tried to summarise a couple of the core lessons I took away from this book, a hard job given the vast ground it covers. Elmira Bayrasli has taken the effort to paint a clear picture of the background against which each of these founders started, sometimes failed, then re-started and got to where they are now, and uses hard statistics to indicate progress or failure on the part of governments as the case may be, which not many authors take the trouble to do. It is the combination of research and narrative that will make this book worth your while. Perhaps the best argument for it is one of my favourite paragraphs from it:

“Entrepreneurs, by the very nature of what they do – disrupt and innovate – provide a necessary check and balance on government that no one else can – not businesspeople, not NGOs, not civil society organizations. They help remake the social order and help move progress forward, giving rise to new ideas, new industries, and new possibilities and forcing change. That is what has made them both heroes and villains that many in power feel the need to keep in check.”

It’s what I sense week after week, as I write the Other Valleys as well, and that paragraph describes why I do it so accurately.

Congratulations, Elmira – travelling round the world to tell the story of these seven people must have been both a challenge and a joy. A job beautifully executed!

A review of How to Thrive in the Next Economy


I had the chance to read an advance copy of ‘How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today’ by John Thackara over the last few days. The book releases in the UK this week, and the US in December.

I’ve been a reader of John Thackara’s Doors of Perception blog for many years, so I was keen to see what his latest book would be like. For anyone interested in the design, environment, energy and sustainability issues of today, and I’d argue all students studying these subjects in schools and universities, this should be a must-read.

It starts off slowly – and for anyone with a capitalist bent of mind it does feel like a very socialist read – but it has valuable facts and stories peppered throughout, which make a strong and important point by the end. ‘How to Thrive in the Next Economy’ is significant because it gives us proof that there are in fact people across the world making real progress towards building a better world in a sustainable way – a goal that in my opinion is the same as that of the best capitalism (think of Unilever’s Sustainability Project or Marks & Spencer’s Plan A for example). By the end of the book, you realise why the book matters: the narrative around complex systems and the interconnectivity of global systems that we are familiar doesn’t often mention local economies (‘edge’ habitats bordering two cultivable patches of land can provide forage plants in between seasons, for example, while simultaneously ensuring the renewal of soil), where human intervention through communities can make the biggest impact. Noah Raford’s work on phase transition and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan effect also come to mind, the former is even referenced: sometimes we are paying so much attention to large-scale processes that the smaller ones get to a critical state and before we know it, we are facing a ‘massive fluctuation and collapse’.

This topic comes up again later in the book, where the author references the writer Robert Neuwirth and the challenge posed by informal systems in developing economies:

‘….diverse, fragmented economies are more resilient than hyper-connected global ones. Economic power in the developing world rests on millions of small-scale businesses, family farms, local traditions and extended social and regional networks that resilience experts are advocating as novelties here in the North. They may or may not be part of the legally recognised economic structure, says Neuwirth, but ‘what happens among all the unregistered street markets and roadside kiosks of the world is not simply haphazard. It’s a product of intelligence, resilience, self-organisation, and group solidarity. It follows a number of well-worn though unwritten rules. It is, in that sense, a system.’

Thackara divides the book into natural themes: the impact of modern-day consumption on land, water, shelter, food, clothing, transport and health. These are bookended by lessons on behaviour change, the power of the commons (as opposed to the tragedy of it) and the need for conscious action. There are some fascinating examples of how people are making a difference within each of these: Zimbabwe’s Operation Hope which is looking to reverse desertification through holistic management, Andhra Pradesh’s Participatory Groundwater Management which pools local information on groundwater levels for common good, the Balinese ‘subak’ system of irrigation developed in the 9th century – still in use today and accredited by UNESCO, and World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms in the UK in the travel sphere.

It doesn’t all have to be about rural landscapes either. I learnt about Mumbai’s urban research group Crit, who have developed tools to measure what they call the ‘transactional capacity’ of a city and the UK’s Asset Transfer Unit who help communities legitimately take over under-used land or buildings (something I actually feel strongly about: this needs to be way more well-known than I suspect it is). It was also heartening to read that governments like Sri Lanka who benefit hugely from apparel trade with developed countries whilst being threatened on the pricing front by other countries in the region have ‘resolved to compete on the basis that its companies are ethical and sustainable, not just cheap’. Ergo: Garments Without Guilt, which is a harbinger of the activity I’m seeing on this front in the UK with startups like Provenance and Vital Footprint.

There’s lots of trivia as well: Eroom’s Law, for example (Moore’s Law spelt backwards, if you didn’t notice!). And there are many solutions provided, not least of which are the examples discussed.

The notion of land ‘stewardship’ was the most important lesson I took away (as opposed to ‘land use’ – language, as with anything to do with media, matters; Thackara refers to the UK government’s use of words like ‘war’, ‘fight’ and ‘victims’ with regard to dementia sufferers for example, which deepens the stigma and solves nothing). As a society, adopting the philosophy of ‘taking care’ of our resources for our next generations by acting like stewards, instead of depleting it altogether as if we own it all, will make a big difference. If more of us start thinking this way, we can also change the way growth and progress are measured. It is assumed that the bigger we grow, the better it is for humanity – why don’t we speak of success in terms of healthier and more resilient communities instead, as the book asks? I also had a thought about bioregions, which Thackara suggests as a way to reconnect communities with their resources: Special Economic Zones are set up in their numbers by governments in the developing countries as a solution to their economic woes, while hardly anyone considers setting up bioregions in this manner. Money talks, so if there is a way to prove its economic impact, perhaps this will one day become a viable solution (it’s easy to say that we should rise above that, but at a political level it is never that simple).

A return to physically engaging with our environment, a call for leaders to experience for themselves the impact of their high-level policy decisions, and for local culture and knowledge of living systems to take precedence over big data instead of the other way around: this is what the book advocates. Starting out, it did seem all too ambitious for us to achieve in this lifetime. Some of it may well be. But certainly not all of it – that much has been proven – and that’s where we start.

[If you’d like to read extracts of the chapters, they’re here.]

Throbs and thinking

This concept of a ‘throb’ by Nabokov, used by Martin Amis, is excellent. It describes what I feel very often these days when I read interesting things. I have a comment or a thought on that! Even if it’s a small one! But how on EARTH do I describe it eloquently enough for it to make sense, and contribute something useful to culture, to the world, to the vast body of writing and reading that already exists?

And so very often, a throb stays a throb, lost in the mire of one-day-becoming-the-next. Sigh.

The common conception of how novels get written seems to me to be an exact description of writer’s block. In the common view, the writer is at this stage so desperate that he’s sitting around with a list of characters, a list of themes, and a framework for his plot, and ostensibly trying to mesh the three elements. In fact, it’s never like that. What happens is what Nabokov described as a throb. A throb or a glimmer, an act of recognition on the writer’s part. At this stage the writer thinks, Here is something I can write a novel about. In the absence of that recognition I don’t know what one would do. It may be that nothing about this idea—or glimmer, or throb—appeals to you other than the fact that it’s your destiny, that it’s your next book. You may even be secretly appalled or awed or turned off by the idea, but it goes beyond that. You’re just reassured that there is another novel for you to write. The idea can be incredibly thin—a situation, a character in a certain place at a certain time. With Money, for example, I had an idea of a big fat guy in New York, trying to make a film. That was all. Sometimes a novel can come pretty consecutively and it’s rather like a journey in that you get going and the plot, such as it is, unfolds and you follow your nose. You have to decide between identical-seeming dirt roads, both of which look completely hopeless, but you nevertheless have to choose which one to follow.

The Paris Review: An interview with Martin Amis


Watch: The Dishonesty Project

This week I finally watched The Dishonesty Project, a feature film I funded on Kickstarter last year. It is co-produced by Dan Ariely, and features him along with a number of characters that make you really think about the human propensity to lie: a trader, a mother, a Dean of Admissions, a professional cyclist and more. A real study in behavioural economics and psychology. You can rent or buy it on Google Play, Vimeo and iTunes here.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman on the resurgence of fantasy

Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman. Illustration: Tim McDonagh. In the New Statesman
Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman. Illustration: Tim McDonagh. In the New Statesman

I’m not suggesting we’re necessarily being manipulated by some sinister government or anything; it’s just there in society. Parents will naturally discourage children once they get to a certain age from continuing with the fantasy element in their lives; schools will, too. It becomes taboo in the society at large.

Maybe the reason it’s been loosening up, and the stigma is going away to some extent in the last 25 years or so, is that the nature of our capitalist enterprise has changed. We’re no longer factory workers, white-collar workers, soldiers, and so on. And with the advent of blue-sky thinking, the new tech industries that have led the way in the last two decades seem to require some kind of imagination. Perhaps people are beginning to think there is some economic use in actually allowing us to indulge in what was once deemed childish fantasy. I sound like some sort of Seventies sociology professor, but I feel there’s something in this.

– Kazuo Ishiguro, in conversation with Neil Gaiman

So much to love about the whole thing, I feel excerpting just this bit is actually a bit unfair!

Brief thoughts after listening to @kevin_ashton speak about flying horses


I went to listen to Kevin Ashton speak about his new book ‘How To Fly A Horse‘ earlier this week. It sounds like an interesting book full of anecdotes of people building on the inventions of others to ultimately create something noteworthy. Some were flops; the ill-fated jump of Franz Reichelt from the Eiffel Tower in 1912 for example, in the belief that his birdsuit would be enough to help him fly, long before the success of the patient Wright Brothers (whose activities were inspiration for the title of the book, by the way).

Or Watson & Crick’s ultimate award of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA – which they only really got because Maurice Wilkins, co-awardee of the Nobel with Crick and Watson, passed on to them the work of his colleague Rosalind Franklin, the crystallographer whose diffraction images of DNA led to the actual discovery, without her knowledge.

But most intriguing was learning about the first instance of the word ‘creativity’ as a noun, that misused word of today, in 1926 by Alfred North Whitehead:

The reason for the temporal character of the actual world can now be given by reference to the creativity and the creatures.

‘The creativity’. We’re the creatures, what is our creativity? What is yours, or mine?

.@robinsloan, I totally enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore!

After many months of having it on my Amazon wishlist, I finally bought and read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore recently.

It is a tale of Traditional Knowledge and Old Knowledge, of printed books existing alongside Google and Wikipedia, of voracious readers and a mysterious cult. One thing ties it all together: the author’s love for the written word, which spills into his characters and speaks to you, as someone who loves books, just as much. Part Harry Potter-esque and partly reminiscent for me of Cory Doctorow’s Makers and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a modern tale that evokes nostalgia and has as much science as it does fiction. It all makes sense, and yet it doesn’t – or shouldn’t, being a figment of the imagination. And that’s what I love about it – somewhere along the line I felt myself wishing that store really existed so I could go and visit it.

I highlighted quite a few sentences and passages, but here are my favourites:

When every single piece of media you consume is time-shifted, does that mean it’s actually you that’s time-shifted?

With each new mega-project she describes, I feel myself shrink smaller and smaller. How can you stay interested in anything – or anyone – for long when the whole world is your canvas?

She says she has email to read, prototypes to review, wiki pages to edit. Did I really just lose out to a wiki on a Thursday night?

That’s all. This isn’t really a review, you know…

On Dunbar’s number, intentionality and @eleanorcatton’s The Luminaries

I went to see Professor Robin Dunbar (yes, he of Dunbar’s number fame) speak at the RSA last week.

He mentioned how humans use about 20% of our time in social interaction, which gets more difficult with increased levels of intentionality – a ‘reflexively hierarchical sequence of belief states.’ For example: Peter thinks about apples – first level of intentionality. Anne thinks about Peter thinking about apples – second level. Jen thinks of Anne thinking about Peter who is thinking about apples – third level, and so on. Dunbar’s theory, as he mentioned it last week, was that the better you are at juggling intentionality, the more friends you can have; typically the maximum for humans is the fifth level of intentionality because even getting to that point is very costly in information processing terms. Hence, he postulates, the maximum number of people we can have meaningful relationships with as primates is about 150 – Dunbar’s number.


(I found an old presentation of his that covered a lot of the same ground as last week – it’s here, if you’re interested).

Anyway, what Professor Dunbar was saying resonated particularly with me because I was in the process of reading Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Booker Prize-winning tome ‘The Luminaries’. I finished it just yesterday, and recalled what Professor Dunbar said about intentionality and story. He said that very few people can write a good story because it would need 5 or more levels of intentionality to be properly compelling – one of whom, in my humble opinion, is definitely Ms. Catton.

Writing a well-researched work of fiction is hard, and Catton wholly deserved the Booker not only because of its size and detail (it was incredibly long, at over 800 pages), but the way the story was structured. There were so many characters flipping back and forth, constantly replaying in their own minds the given sequence of events as they tried to figure the mystery out for themselves, that it forced me to make sure I had the facts down right myself as I read it. And it wasn’t easy.

As a side note, no wonder that I don’t have much patience for a friend of a friend of a friend who makes that Facebook or LinkedIn request. They get into more levels of intentionality than I care for.

The RSA has put up a podcast of last week’s talk if you’d like a listen: