lavin weekly | September 30, 2016

Lavin Weekly #56: Grossman, Francis, Nair, & Fox

This week’s highlights: an Arthurian fantasy, a heartwarming film, irate landlords and puzzling polls. Read on!


1. Lev Grossman’s Next Book? Arthurian Epic The Bright Sword


Lev Grossman, author of the bestselling Magicians trilogy (and now a hit SyFy show entering its second season) has announced his next novel. The Bright Sword will take place in Arthurian England, picking up after the death of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Galahad, and will focus on some of the “more minor figures from the margins of Arthurian mythology.” “It’s longer than any of the Magicians books,” says Grossman of The Bright Sword, “and unlike those books, it incorporates a huge amount of research, from late pre-Roman Iron Age British culture to the nitty-gritty of medieval longsword combat.” The celebrated fantasy author has spent the last year and a half writing The Bright Sword, and no release date has yet been set. We’ll keep you updated as further details emerge. In the meantime, check out some of Grossman’s incisive keynotes on literature, technology, and culture.


2. The Polls Don’t Matter: Diane Francis in the Financial Post


“Polling is a game,” Diane Francis says—the only poll that matters is the one on election day. In a new Financial Post article, she muses on the inaccuracy and variability of polls. For instance, a CBS/New York Times poll shows a two-point Clinton lead in a two-way matchup among “likely voters,” a Clinton-Trump tie when third-party votes are factored in, and a five-point Clinton lead “among the broader electorate of registered voters” (Sep 23). And the same day, a Fox News poll spat out three equally confusing and different results. So what should the average American make of such variance? Nothing, says Francis, because polls are remarkably easy to skew. To lean right, polling companies call on landlines, not cellphones, and target Friday and Saturday evenings when young people are often out. To lean left, they do the opposite. Don’t place your faith in the polls, she warns, because November may tell a whole different story. 


3. “Showcasing a community’s truth is more powerful than appropriating it”: Mira Nair for ESPNW


The rise of Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi is chronicled in Mira Nair’s new film Queen of Katwe, which will be released in theatres nationwide today (Sep 30), after limited screenings debuted one week ago. And Queen of Katwe is already turning heads—The New York Times named it a Critics’ Pick, stating, “If there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don’t think I want to meet that person.” This week, director Nair sat down with ESPNW to discuss the film, the growing impact of women of color in Hollywood, her commitment to authenticity in her work, and more. When asked what she wanted to impart to Queen of Katwe’s audience, she answered:


I want you to be transported into a world that might have been far away, but when you enter it and see her family and teacher, you understand that genius is everywhere; it just has to be nourished. I want to inspire. I want to make people believe that dreams are possible and can be achieved regardless of how little you have. And I want to bring a portrait of a specific place on the large continent called Africa, which we never see everyday life in or folks achieving extraordinary dreams in the way we see in Queen of Katwe. It's full of music, style, vibrancy and real fun. In many ways, I shaped the story like the human heart, like an accordion, which expands and then squeezes, because that is what life is like.  

Nair is the visionary director behind films like Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay, and Monsoon Wedding. For the full interview, jump over to ESPNW.


4. The New York Times Profiles Yale Fox’s Rentlogic


TED Fellow Yale Fox is the CEO of Rentlogic, an open data project that compiles information from New York City government databases to rate landlords, property managers, and buildings. Rentlogic “works like a typical listings site,” but also displays a letter grade from A to F, along with a summary of typical tenant grievances like bed bugs, mold, and safety violations. In short, it’s helping thousands of renters avoid landlord- and building-related disasters. Recently, Rentlogic secured a high-profile partnership to display listings from rental brokerage Citi Habitats, whose database lists nearly 18,500 units. But after only eight days, Citi Habitats nixed the deal, citing pressure from angry landlords. Fox remains resolute. “I genuinely believe that transparency and access to information is what levels playing fields,” he told the Times. “We want to get these ratings into everybody’s hands.” And though the deal with Citi Habitats would have vastly expanded Rentlogic’s reach, the promising startup will soldier on.


To book The Bright Sword author Lev Grossman, politics speaker Diane Francis, Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair, or Rentlogic CEO Yale Fox for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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