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Iran and the U.S.; Elizabeth Gilbert's New Novel; Mao and the Chinese Transformation; the Life of Jane Franklin

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

On today’s show: former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack talks about the significance of the more moderate rhetoric that we’ve been hearing from Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani—and whether the US can ever resolve the Iran nuclear question. Elizabeth Gilbert discusses The Signature of Things, her first novel in 13 years. We’ll look at the rise of Mao Zedong and the price that was paid in his attempts to transform the Chinese into “The New People” at whatever cost. Historian Jill Lepore introduces us to Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane, who was a gifted writer and a shrewd political commentator.

Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy

Kenneth Pollack, former CIA analyst with 25 years of experience working on the Middle East, discusses America’s intractable problem with Iran, Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, and the decades-long tensions that led us to this point. In Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy, he lays out key solutions to the Iran nuclear ques­tion, and suggests ways to renew our efforts and to combine negotiations and sanctions.

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Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her new novel, The Signature of All Things. Spanning much of the 18th and 19th centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the Whittaker family, led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who eventually becomes the richest man in Philadelphia. Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma, becomes a botanist, and as her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a painter who draws her into the realm of the spiritual and the magical.

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The Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

Frank Dikötter chronicles Mao Zedong’s ascension and his campaign to transform the Chinese into what the party called New People. Due to the secrecy surrounding the country’s records, little has been known before now about the eight years preceding the massive famine and Great Leap Forward. In The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957, Dikötter draws on hundreds of previously classified documents, secret police reports, unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches, eyewitness accounts of those who survived to reveal the horrific policies they implemented in the name of progress.

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Jill Lepore on the Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her 12 children. Historian Jill Lepore shows that Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister was, like her brother, a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only one woman but an entire world.

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Guest Picks: Jill Lepore

Historian Jill Lepore came to the Lopate Show studios on October 1, 2013, to talk about her new book, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, about Benjamin Franklin's sister, Jane. She shared her guest picks with us.

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Guest Picks: Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbertwas on the Leonard Lopate Show recently to talk about her latest novel, The Signature of All Things. She also told what she's been reading recently -- and giving up music for talk radio/podcasts. 

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