1 February 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Just this morning, Kaitlin Solimine (whom I was lucky enough to meet in Lisbon this past summer), launched HIPPO Reads, an intriguing new project:

HIPPO Reads is a literary startup focused on curating and delivering high quality, previously published content with an academic bent.

Think of us as TED Talks for readers – short pithy pieces with educational appeal, a perpetual reading list for the most interesting classes out there. All pieces are accessible, but we don’t dumb it down. We select content with a level of depth that allows readers to sink their teeth into the subject at hand.

The first weekly reading list is all about the science and politics of interrogation:

In a poorly-lit room, a half naked man is being stuffed into a small plywood box. The interrogator, a disheveled PhD student, barks, “You lie to me, I hurt you.”

So begins the film Zero Dark Thirty, and with it, the debate about director Kathryn Bigelow’s jarring depictions of torture. But how did we get here?

In this inaugural edition of HIPPO Reads, we bring you four pieces, each a lens through which to examine “enhanced interrogation.” Taken together they paint a nuanced landscape against which the torture question is defined.

The first two pieces they recommend are “The Dark Art of Interrogation” by Mark Bowden and “Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?” by John Tierney. Both of which sound interesting, although the last two really caught my eye:

As additional reading, there’s another piece of the puzzle, a fascinating study on the ability of humans to determine whether others are lying. It turns out normal people can tell a lie roughly 53% of the time, a track record slightly better than a coin toss. For those formally trained in lie detection, accuracy actually declines while confidence in their abilities increases. That’s why, as Techniques and Controversies in the Interrogation of Suspects argues, when an interrogator begins with a presumption of guilt, he will often find evidence to back that up. Coupled with intensive interrogation, this can – and has – led to false confessions, even without the presence of torture.

The last selection to round out our week is a creative piece – translated from the Arabic, an excerpt from the book Biography of Ash by Khadija Marouazi, a human rights activist and professor of modern literature in Morocco. In her depictions of a man undergoing torture, what resonates is the impact his revelations have upon interrogators.

They also have a short list of “Further Reading” that includes Elias Khoury’s Yalo (which was on the BTBA shortlist in 2009) and Dorothea Dieckmann’s Guantanamo which won the inaugural BTBA award. (Thanks in part to Richard Nash getting all Soft Skull fans to game the system—something that I appreciate to this day. Go, Richard! Go, readers!)

Anyway, I’m interested to see how HIPPO Reads evolves over the next few months. It’s a cool idea—providing a sort of in-depth primer on a particular subject—and I’m really impressed by how international this first entry is. Congrats to Kaitlin!

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Sphinx
Sphinx by Anne Garréta
Reviewed by Monica Carter

Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .

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Morse, My Deaf Friend
Morse, My Deaf Friend by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .

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The Crimson Thread of Abandon
The Crimson Thread of Abandon by Terayama Shūji
Reviewed by Robert Anthony Siegel

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .

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Life Embitters
Life Embitters by Josep Pla
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .

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The Physics of Sorrow
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov
Reviewed by Izidora Angel

“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .

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Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

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The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

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