Faro Fundamentals by Greg Chapman

When I hear from Greg Chapman that he’s working on a new book, my ears perk up like a rabbit hearing about a new cabbage patch. His first two books, Details of Deception and The Devil’s Staircase were advanced explorations of gambling style card material with methods that leave the audience in the dust. When I heard what Greg was up to this time, I was filled with joy in a completely different way. What he had in mind was a small book, 52 pages to be exact—a monograph, for the more precise among us—on the faro shuffle. And I’m happy to say that book has now come to fruition, Faro Fundamentals. (Full disclosure: I gladly did some proofreading on this as well as the earlier books.)

It was a brilliant idea. First, because Greg was the man to do it, and second, because it was such an obvious gap in the literature that it was startling that no one had thought about it before. Those starting the journey of learning the faro shuffle have always had to be like mosaic quilters taking patches from here and patches from there, piecing together the knowledge. Some of the sources were easily available and some of the sources were not. You didn’t know where it was going to turn up. The knowledge consisted of three categories: a) the mechanical information necessary to actually accomplish the shuffle, b) the properties of the shuffle that make it useful, and c) how to put those properties to work in magic effects. Although there are some wonderful chapters about the faro in Marlo, Elmsley, and Expert Card Technique, to my knowledge there was no one exclusive resource that covered all three aspects. Greg’s book can help in all three areas.

Let’s start off with just learning how to do the damn thing. I have to admit I am skeptical of those who claim to have learned the shuffle from the few sentences in a certain famous book about close-up card magic. If you did, my hat’s off to you, and you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. Let’s face it, for most,  there will be cursing and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the beginning without proper instruction. Fortunately, Greg’s book addresses several issues that beginners to the shuffle come up against. If listened to, Greg’s helpful advice can significantly cut down on the wrong approaches that only serve to frustrate. Greg has the knowledge and the chops to describe and to illustrate excellently what an approach to the faro could be. He isn’t dogmatic about how to approach it—he openly admits that if you’ve already got an approach that works for you, fine, then go with it; he isn’t trying to proselytize for one particular method. What he does do, though, is to lay out a path to achieve the faro. I especially enjoyed the line drawings made from photos to emphasize the key placements of the fingers of each hand. I also learned some very surprising properties of straddle faros.

As Jeremy Griffin says spot on in his foreword to the book, when it comes to the faro shuffle, people tend to overestimate its difficulty or underestimate its usefulness. In ancient Greece, at a certain point, students of Euclidean geometry advanced to a theorem known as the “Bridge of Asses.” The student had learned all the proofs of previous theorems, but now it was time to join the big boys: the crossing of that bridge signaled something special. It meant that if you could now prove that theorem you had enough tools under your belt to tackle the larger problems. So it is with the faro. I can’t say that I use the faro everyday, but the learning of the faro is what convinced me that I could actually progress further with card sleights. Once you have the faro under your belt, nothing seems too difficult to accomplish. I mean it’s absurd on the face of it: to perfectly split the cards in half and then to perfectly interlace them while no one suspects that that is what you are doing? And moreover, even if they do understand what you are doing, they don’t understand the implications of such an action? That’s powerful.

And that’s something that Greg has expressed to me as a prime motivation for writing the book: “If only I could get folks to climb this mountain with me, because from up here you can see what’s on the other side. Sometimes you can’t know what’s possible until you actually experience something.” Jeremy Griffin in the introduction puts it perfectly: there is the balance of learning something along with all its difficulty, but also balancing the knowledge of its potential on the other side.

And so Greg’s teaching of the faro has a not-so-hidden agenda: he wants to teach you the fundamentals because he wants to grab you and take you up the mountain so that you can see what he sees. And what’s up there? Well, of course, some wonderful effects like Paul Gertner’s Unshuffled (which he doesn’t teach here) and the two bonus routines Greg does teach from his two previous books. But also more than tricks; once you know the faro shuffle you have a very effective way of controlling cards to any position while doing a very fair shuffle, and when combined with a memdeck, it’s an especially powerful tool.

There are those who are skeptical of the audience acceptance of the faro shuffle, and feel like that’s why they wouldn’t want to spend time to learn it. But Greg definitely holds another view. He gives persuasive arguments and advice on how to condition the spectator to accept the shuffle’s fairness and naturalness. Yes, another magician will often recognize an in-the-hands faro—but even then, Greg suggests ways that can throw the wise guys off course. Of course, if one can master the table faro, then that objection disappears completely; and while not claiming to be the last word on the table faro, and acknowledging its difficulty, Greg also gives some tips for achieving it. I don’t pretend that I am willing to put in the time, or that reading Greg’s book will make me a master of the table faro, no book can do that, but I know that if ever one day I wanted to start that journey, this would be the first place I would look to begin my instruction.

The two effects that Greg includes from his previous two books are “Searchers Undone” which is an almost self–working (aside from the faro) version of Larry Jennings “Searchers” effect, where two black kings trap two known cards; and a real magician fooler, “One Card Missing”: a card is chosen, the deck shuffled, cut by the spec, and then shuffled, cut again by the spec, spread for an instant and the performer names the card. (Think about those spectator cuts, even if you’re familiar with the faro!) Greg also streamlines a Marlo location: a card is taken by a spec from the center of the deck, replaced, shuffled, one cut, and the card is on top. The strong parts here are that no breaks are held after the card is replaced, and the shuffle happens immediately afterwards. There’s nothing to see.

As I mentioned before, Greg’s hope is to open up a can of worms. He tantalizing gives you a glimpse of what in practice the ability to faro nonchalantly can mean for stack work. The positioning of cards as they are shuffled means that one can work not with just one kind of stack but different stacks throughout a set for different purposes. Imagine various effects depending on the deck being stacked first by color, then by suit, then by four of a kind. The faro becomes a powerful tool to cycle from one stack to another with relatively little effort.

Is there everything here about the faro? No; in this 52-page book there’s not going to be everything, nor is it meant to be encyclopedic, though there is a short bibliography of major works concerning the faro. Greg’s last two books were eagerly snatched up by aficionados, but they were clearly for a limited audience. But I predict that Faro Fundamentals will be one of those relatively rare perennial sellers in the magic literature. Because there can be no question now: if someone asks, “Where should I go to learn about the faro shuffle?” Greg’s book is it.

If you’ve been putting off learning the faro, or you’ve tried but just couldn’t get it, or if you can faro, but want to understand more about what the faro can achieve, I urge you to pick up a copy of Faro Fundamentals. It fills a huge gap in the magical literature and you will be glad to have this as your faro companion.

David And The Recruiter

I thought it would be fun to read an excerpt from my novel, The New World. It’s a tale set in New York City that follows the struggles and triumphs of four generations of strivers, lovers, and grabbers- of-life.

This excerpt focuses on 20 year-old David Walker who has just been discharged from the army in Iraq for trying to shoot up his sergeant. Fortunately for David, he was able to cash in some chips to get out from the brig and escape with only a dishonorable discharge. Now returned home to live with his mother, he wonders how he’ll survive, with his major skill being cheating at cards. And despite many attempts to track down the old love of his life, Jennifer, he cannot find her.

Click on the triangle or link above to hear the excerpt as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs

David Graeber died last month and it was a real loss. The radical anthropologist was probably best known as the author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, but my favorite book of his is the quirky Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Here’s my commentary on this important book as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Click on the triangle or the image above to listen.

Cosmos | Possible Worlds |: Ann Druyan

In 1980, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan created the wildly successful television series and book, Cosmos. Now, forty years later, Ann Druyan has come out with a third series of Cosmos and a companion book called Cosmos: Possible Worlds. I was happy to interview Ann Druyan about the new series.

To hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the image or the triangle above.

The Young Lords: A Radical History, Part 1

In her fascinating new book, The Young Lords, Professor Johanna Fernández makes a compelling case that the Young Lords were one of the most important revolutionary groups of the late 60s and early 70s. They won lasting victories by coupling street smarts, sophisticated organizing techniques, and intense political analyses. There’s much to be learned from their story, both successes and failures, which is cogently and lovingly told by the author.

Click on the triangle or image above to hear my interview with Johanna Fernández, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program, heard on WBAI NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.

You can find Part 2 here:

Diana Rigg, 1938-2020

Diana Rigg died this week. A fine actress, the clip above shows her in a few of her famous roles.

But my favorite thing that Diana Rigg ever did as an artist was to write a book called No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews. Stung by unkind reviews that she had received over the years, to cheer herself up, Rigg compiled a book of horrendous reviews that other celebrated actors had received over the years. If you can get a hold of a copy, it’s a fun read.

Thank you, Mrs. Peel.

Thanks to YouTuber Guardian News

Bully For You

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As children are getting ready to go back to school this month,–either online or in person–one thing has not changed: some students are still subject to bullying, both online and off. What can be done to prevent bullying and how should parents and teachers handle it? I recently spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology, whose research focuses on bullying. Her most recent book is titled 25 Myths of Bullying and Cyberbullying.

Click on the triangle or link above to hear my interview with Dr. Englander as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

The Bird Way

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Who has not looked up in the sky at birds and wished they could fly? Jennifer Ackerman has spent a good part of her adult life thinking about and writing about birds and the natural world.  She is the author of eight books including a favorite of mine, The Genius of Birds.  Her latest book is called The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. I was pleased to talk with her on Arts Express and learn some startling stories about birds .

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Ms. Ackerman, as broadcast today on radio station WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Charles Bukowski: “Don’t Try”

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It’s August and that’s the month poet Charles Bukowski was born in 1920. With over 5000 poems and six novels and hundreds of short stories to his name, he’s become a kind of cult figure over the last decades. While his writings have stamped him with the indelible persona of an alcoholic anti-social misanthropic and misogynistic git, yet there’s also a gentler humanness in Bukowski.

He died at the age of 74. On his gravestone the epitaph reads, “Don’t Try.”

Come with us now as we go out to our favorite virtual watering hole, knock down a couple of drinks, and listen to a performance of some of Bukowski’s poems as broadcast today on Arts Express radio on Pacifica stations across the nation.

Click on the grey triangle or mp3 link above to listen.

How To Drag A Body, And Other Safety Tips You Hope To Never Need

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Illustrations by Sharon Levy

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When your job entails strolling through mine fields, dodging snipers, reporting on seven civil wars, rogue militias, vigilantes, and drug cartels, you might become a bit picky about your personal security. Veteran Reuters correspondent and safety consultant Judith Matloff talks about how to keep safe through disasters, both natural and manmade, from tear gas and batons to tornadoes and hurricanes.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above in order to hear my interview with Judith Matloff, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

“I Owe So Much To Those I Don’t Love”: Wisława Szymborska

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This month we celebrate the birthday of Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, born July 2, 1923. Her experience of the German occupation of Poland during WWII was the backdrop to some of her most famous poems, but she was also a keen observer of everyday domestic life as well.

I recently had the pleasure of performing a selection of her poems along with Mary Murphy for the Arts Express radio program. All of the poems are from Szymborska’s recently published collection of works called MAP.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above in order to hear the poems as broadcast today on  Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Many thanks for permission to publicly broadcast the poems granted by the Wisława Symborkska Foundation and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, the publishers of MAP, excellently translated by Clare Cavanagh and Staislav Baranczak.

 

“Coming To You With A Sad Glass Of Soda And A Vague Sense That The World Was Coming To An End”: Peter Davis

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I first encountered Indiana poet/musician Peter Davis’s work only a few months ago, but his laconic slacker sensibility, quirky playful sense of humor and self-deprecation immediately appealed to me.

His poems start off ordinarily enough, and then often veer into strange territory, defying expectation. Underlying much of it, the poems are about self-justification and what we say to ourselves and others in order to get us out of the existential jam that we have no idea what we’re doing, even as we proceed with bluff assurance.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my reading of some of Peter Davis’s poems as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org, and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

You can catch up with Peter Davis’s work  at artisnecessary.com

STRIKE!

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Jeremy Brecher has just come out with a revised and updated  50th anniversary edition of his brilliantly readable book called STRIKE! about the history of strikes in the United States. It’s an eye-opening history in so many ways, but for now, I’d just like to excerpt from the book an editorial that was published in the Seattle Union Record concerning the general strike that had taken hold in Seattle in 1919. The general strike involved shipbuilders, dockworkers, laundry workers, restaurant workers, milk-wagon drivers, and many more trades who brought the city to a standstill. If this rings a bell for you today, it’s not a coincidence.

There will be many cheering, and there will be some who fear.
Both these emotions are useful, but not too much of either.

We are undertaking the most tremendous move ever made by LABOR 
in this country, a move which will lead—NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!

We do not need hysteria.

We need the iron march of labor.

LABOR WILL FEED THE PEOPLE.

Twelve great kitchens have been offered, and from them food 
will be distributed by the provision trades at low cost to all.

LABOR WILL CARE FOR THE BABIES AND THE SICK.

The milk-wagon drivers and the laundry drivers are arranging plans 
for supplying milk to babies, invalids and hospitals and taking care 
of the cleaning of linen for hospitals.

LABOR WILL PRESERVE ORDER.

The strike committee is arranging for guards and it is expected that 
the stopping of the cars will keep people at home..

A few hot-headed enthusiasts have complained that strikers-only 
should be fed, and the general public left to endure severe 
discomfort. Aside from the inhumanitarian character of such 
suggestions, let them get this straight—

NOT THE WITHDRAWAL OF LABOR POWER, 
BUT THE POWER OF THE STRIKERS TO MANAGE WILL WIN THIS STRIKE.

What does Mr. Piez of the Shipping Board care about the 
closing down of Seattle’s shipyards, or even of all of the 
industries of the northwest? Will it not merely strengthen the 
yards at Hog Island, in which he is more interested?

When the shipyard owners of Seattle were on the point of agreeing 
with the workers, It was Mr. Piez who wired them that, if they so 
agreed—

HE WOULD STILL NOT LET THEM HAVE STEEL.

Whether this is camouflage we have no means of knowing. 
But we do know that the great eastern combinations of capitalists 
COULD AFFORD to offer privately to Mr. Skinner, Mr. Ames and 
Mr. Duthie a few millions apiece in eastern shipyard stock.

RATHER THAN LET THE WORKERS WIN.

The closing down of Seattle’s industries, as a MERE SHUTDOWN, 
will not affect these eastern gentlemen much. They could let the 
whole northwest go to pieces, as far as money alone is concerned.

BUT, the closing down of the capitalistically controlled industries 
of Seattle, while the WORKERS ORGANIZE to feed the people, 
to care for the babies and the sick, to preserve order—
THIS will move them, for this looks too much like the taking over 
of the POWER of the workers.

Labor will not only SHUT DOWN the industries, 
but Labor will REOPEN, under the management of the appropriate trades, 
such activities as are needed to preserve public health 
and public peace. If the strike continues, Labor may feel led 
to avoid public suffering by reopening more and more activities.

UNDER ITS OWN MANAGEMENT

And that is why we say that we are starting on a road that leads—
NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!

					

Comrade: Jodi Dean, Part Two

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Last week I posted Part One of my interview with Jodi Dean, author of the new book, Comrade. In that part of the interview, she talked about the origin and unique importance of the word, “comrade,” and how it differs from other terms like friend or ally.

This week we continue with Part Two of that conversation as we talk about what happens when comrades and party part company, and what the opening for a real politics might be in the time of pandemic. As events occur at lightening speed, her point of view becomes more important than ever.

Click on the triangle or the mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

You can listen to Part One, here.

Comrade: Jodi Dean, Part One

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In Jodi Dean’s  provocative new book called Comrade, she argues that the word “comrade” is an indispensable one that describes a unique political relationship not captured by words like citizen, colleague, friend, brother/sister, or even ally. If the future of revolutionary change is through the vehicle of the revolutionary political party, she says, then the understanding of what “comrade” really means is vital.

I was happy to interview Jodi Dean on the Arts Express radio program. To hear Part One as broadcast today on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC and Pacifica radio affiliates across the country, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.

You can hear Part Two here

Stamped: The Remix

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In 2016 Ibram X. Kendi wrote an acclaimed book called Stamped from the Beginning, The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society. Now that book has been adapted by Kendi and Jason Reynolds in what they call a remix for young audiences.

You can listen to my interview with Ibram Kendi and Jason Reynolds as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and Pacifica stations across the country by clicking on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.

Bedlam: Part Two

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Last week , I posted Part One of an interview with Dr Ken Paul Rosenberg, the creator of the book and film documentary, Bedlam. He talked about the present crisis state of  mental health care in the US. This week we continue with the final part of that conversation as we talk about political considerations —-and Dr. Rosenberg’s personal stake in the story.

Click on the triangle above to hear the conversation as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Bedlam: Serious Mental Illness in America

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In his new documentary film and accompanying book, Bedlam, Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, presents a moving portrait of what it means to be a person living with mental illness in America today. And in his quest to find the truth about others, he had to confront difficult aspects of his own history, and America’s history, of dealing with people diagnosed with serious mental illness.

You can hear part one of my interview with the fascinating Dr. Rosenberg, as broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NYC and Pacifica Radio affiliates across the country, by clicking on the triangle above.

Part two is here: https://jackshalom.net/2020/04/14/bedlam-part-two/

BEDLAM will premiere on Independent Lens Monday, April 13 at 10pmET on PBS

“Queen Bee” Cavity: The Poetry of Camryn Bruno

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Our newest Arts Express contributor, KeShaun Luckie, put together this audio segment highlighting the wonderful poems of Camryn “Queen Bee” Bruno, performed by the author. It was a pleasure to have two such talented artists over here recording.

You can listen to Queen Bee’s reading, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC, by clicking on the triangle above.

The Book Nook, Magic Edition (4)

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Here’s an update on three magic books I’ve received recently, each of which I can recommend to aficionados.

First, The Top Change by Magic Christian. Christian, a seasoned performer and recognized expert on 19th century card magic history (he wrote the massive two volume work on his Viennese forerunner, J. N. Hofzinser: Non Plus Ultra) has written a monograph on the top change and its variants, illustrated with over 200 sharp black & white photographs, and includes an extensive bibliography from Denis Behr. It begins with a chapter on the history of the sleights, then gets down to basics teaching them.

The section describing the basic top change that Christian prefers is actually fairly brief—four pages of Christian’s general philosophy about the top change, and then about ten pages of photos and text  breaking down the move, step by step. Those familiar with the description of the move in Expert Card Technique or Giobbi’s Card College may be surprised by some of Christian’s recommendations. He prefers a subtle, subdued approach: he does not try to cover the move with wide sweeping arm movements, and he prefers not to move both hands.

The top change is one of those sleights which is extremely useful in card magic—Christian calls it “the most useful, the most regal sleight” in all of card magic. I have to admit that while technically it’s a much easier move than palming or doing a classic pass, I feel much more comfortable with the latter sleights than doing a top change. Like many, I am afraid of being caught out because of the boldness of the move. But I can say that with some study of the book and practice, I have been gaining in confidence, and my current efforts, as recorded on video, are not too awful. So thank you, Magic Christian.

Next up is David Regal’s new book, Interpreting Magic. It’s a big book, with the usual kind of Regal attention to close-up card and coin magic. Regal is a guy whose roots are in improv and scripting (no, not mutually exclusive at all!) and his focus is always on presenting an entertaining story and premise for his audience.  If you’ve seen any of Regal’s other books, you know he’s got literally scores of such workable effects. But curiously, my favorite part of the book was not the close-up magic, but rather the platform magic section. His imagination really lets loose with the larger effects.  He’s got very original, ingenious premises and presentations with props that are more unexpected and amusing than the usual card or coin routines. Also, scattered throughout the book, he has some great interviews and essays. There’s not a whole lot of organization to this huge book, so at 500+ pages it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, but I really like dipping into it at random. Definitely recommended.

And finally, there’s Thinking Of You, the latest annual offering from Andy of the magic website, The Jerx.  The previous book from The Jerx, Magic for Young Lovers, was one of my all-time favorite magic books. The current book is also quite good, though unsurprisingly, not in the same league as its predecessor.  MFYL set a high bar to reach and Andy seems to be aware of that. While the earlier book was conceived as a whole philosophy and approach to amateur magic—and largely succeeded—this one is much more modest in its aims. Thinking Of You is mainly concerned with the performance of mentalism in an amateur social context, and as such it’s more of a toolkit—okay, a bag of tricks—rather than some overarching vision, despite some valuable advice on how to approach social mentalism. That said, many of the individual ideas and effects are quite strong and without the comparison to the other book, it’s quite a respectable piece of work. The book is physically similar to the last two Jerx books, though there are no illustrated endpages as the previous books had. However, for those complaining about the high price of subscribing to the site and receiving the book, here’s a hot tip: some of the best ideas and effects in the book are already on the Jerx site for free, if you comb through the site. Either way, Andy has a ton of great advice for those performing in an amateur social context.

And upcoming: the gambling subset of magic fans has been eagerly awaiting Steve Forte’s new double volume opus on gambling sleights i.e. false deals, shuffles, switches, and so on. It’s Forte’s name that’s the draw here, as his status as a card worker is legendary, and his knowledge and invention of gambling sleights is second to none. In any reasoned list of the best living card workers, Forte’s name is probably going to be right at the top. Forte printed up a first run of 1000 copies, and by the time you read this, it probably will be all sold out, despite the fact that it won’t even be published for another few weeks. A special section on Erdnase’s Expert At The Card Table in the book promises to be a paradigm-breaking re-imagining of the old master. It will be interesting to see if Forte’s book, called Gambling Sleight of Hand, lives up to its high expectations.

All of the books are very good. Depending on your taste in magic, at least one of these books will make a worthwhile read for you.

“How I Became A Socialist”: Jack London

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This month we celebrate the birthday of author Jack London, born January 12, 1876. London wrote the great nature novels Call of the Wild and White Fang, but he was also a committed socialist who wrote two volumes of essays about socialism called The War of the Classes and Revolution and other essays.

I performed a reading of London’s “How I Became A Socialist” for the Arts Express radio program. Click on the triangle above to hear it as broadcast today on WBAI 99.5 FM radio and Pacifica affiliates cross the country.

 

War Is Kind

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

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Had enough of that old-time military jingoism? Stephen Crane’s your man. The Red Badge of Courage author penned a series of poems called War is Kind that taken together are devastating reading. You can listen to my performance of a selection of those poems as performed today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC.

Click on the triangle above to hear.

Permanent Record: Edward Snowden

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“My name is Edward Joseph Snowden, I used to work for the government but now I work for the public. It took me nearly three decades to recognize that there was a distinction, and when I did it got me into a bit of trouble at the office.”

That’s the opening to Edward Snowden’s thrilling new memoir. You can listen here to my commentary on the book, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC, by clicking on the triangle above.