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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Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

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The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

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Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

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Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

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Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

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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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