Natalie Zemon Davis - Battle of the Elites - Agatha Christie

An Interview with Natalie Zemon Davis - Every now and then you meet someone who fills a room - or a radio studio - with the energizing tingle of pure oxygen. Natalie Zemon Davis is such a person. She has studied and written about almost every facet of history, concentrating on life in the 16th and 17th Centuries. She has written about marginalized women, religious riots, the impact of printing, the uses of proverbs and pardon seekers in 16th Century France. And she introduced the world to the great imposter Martin Guerre. Now at age 82, Professor Davis is the winner of the Holberg International Memorial Prize for her work in the humanities. And she has no intention of slowing down. Natalie Zemon Davis is our guest in our First Hour.

Read more about hour one here

Battle of the Elites - In our Middle Hour, four people will enter the caged ring in the Battle of the Elites. That is: What is elitism? Who are its members? Why does the whole idea make people sputteringly angry? That's an elite, but not elitist panel in Hour Two.

Read more about hour two here

Examining the Queen of Mystery - In our Third Hour, Colonel Mustard in the library with the rope. A reprise of our tribute to the Queen of mystery, Dame Agatha Christie. Something of a mystery herself, Agatha Christie she sold more books than anyone else in the world and continues to sell briskly 35 years after her death.

Read more about hour three here

Elsewhere in the program: Young people who write to each other using actual pen and paper, plus some thoughts on what to boycott in the coming 12 months. And of course the best music anywhere to jump start your brand New Year.



Hour 1

Michael's Weekly Essay

In this week's essay Michael tells us about the things that irk him and his reasons for boycotting them in this new year.

An Interview with Natalie Zemon Davis

It is a hugely talented and rare historian who herself makes history. Natalie Zemon Davis is...... and has.

In a career that has spanned half a century, she has happily upset academic conventions. She was a pioneer in women's history. She brought Martin Guerre to the world. And she has created new ways of knowing people who lived in the 16th and 17th century - impostors, peasants, performers and traders, people who barely had a voice when they were alive. In the words of another historian Margaret Macmillan, Natalie Davis has played a real part in expanding what we think of us as suitable subjects for history and what we use as evidence for understanding them.

And yet this woman - now 82 - who loves nothing more than the perfume of a rare book library, whose heart beats faster in a dusty archive - is very much in the 21st century. And this year she is the winner of the Holberg Prize of Norway. It recognized her unique contribution to the humanities, and came with a winnings purse of almost 800,000 dollars.

Natalie Zemon Davis taught at Berkeley, and for 18 years at Princeton. But she has come back to live in Toronto - where she taught in the 1970's - and is now at work on the story of the story of a slave family in colonial Suriname.

Mail Pack

A couple of Sundays ago we rebroadcast our tribute to Great Aunts, the indomitable and often unsung women in our lives. We received several emails in response, including one from Glenn Wadman in Halifax.


Hour 2

Mail Myself to You - Documentary

Walk by just about any coffee house. Look inside. People are drinking coffee - yes. But they're also texting, talking on their phones and tapping away at laptops. And this is what you see most nights at the Naco Café and Gallery in Toronto.

But on every other Monday night, it's a very different scene: a young urban hip crowd huddled around tables - writing letters. Yes, letters. The papery kind. It's the Post A Letter Social Activity Club - or PAL- SAC, for short.

The club is the creation of twenty-three old Angel Chen, who came to Canada from Taiwan when she was fourteen. She's a free-lance graphic artist and web-designer. She strolls the social media landscape with ease. E-mail, Facebook and Twitter are part of her daily life.

But for a long time, she has yearned to put together pens, paper and people for a communal experience of old fashioned letter writing.

Mail Myself to You was produced by Frank Faulk.

Battle of the Elites

There you have it in a nutshell. The vast left wing conspiracy.

According to the Sarah Palins and Don Cherrys and the John Bairds of the world, the lefty, bike-riding, book-reading, pointy headed intellectuals have been running things for far too long and it's high time we gave the power back to the people.

But who are "the people" and who are the elites? Could it be argued that most of us are members of some elite or another? Is it not just possible that elitism is not only necessary but a benefit to society.

What exactly is an elite? Who are its members? What is their power?

At the risk of being accused of having yet another elitist CBC discussion, we've asked four brave folk to engage some of these questions.

David Olive is an an author and business and current affairs columnist with the Toronto Star. Claire Hoy is an author, pundit and long-time columnist with the Sun group of newspapers, now mostly retired. They were with Michael in the Toronto studio.

Deborah Grey is a former Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative Party of Canada MP from Alberta. She was in Victoria for the show.

And Shadia Drury is Canada Research Chair in Social Justice, Director of the and Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Regina. And she was in our Regina studio.


Hour 3

An Hour of Agatha Christie

Next to the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie is the world's best-known and best-selling writer. A billion of her books have been sold in English, and a billion in another 45 languages.

Before Lecarre, before Follett, before Ludlum, before Grisham there was Christie. She is one of the giants of 20th century writing.

She is copied, envied, emulated ... and ridiculed. Her books are sometimes dismissed as "tea cozy novels", best saved for cottage reading down by the dock. But, say what you like, her detectives, the frumpy Miss Marple and the fastidious Hercule Poirot are beloved by readers and movie-goers everywhere.

Agatha Christie was astonishingly prolific. She wrote 66 detective novels including The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. She also penned short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. And, under the pen name Mary Westmacott, she wrote six romance novels.

In her 85 years, she married twice, produced one daughter and made front-page news when her car was found abandoned at a quarry. On Dec 24, 1926 she went missing for 11 days while police searched high and low for her.

It was a disppearance almost as exciting as a Jane Marple mystery.

Agatha Christie was famously shy about the media, and the intense scrutiny that followed was agonizing for her.

Over the years, she gave few interviews. And then, this fall, the discovery of a box of old tapes gave the world a new glimpse of the writer and her characters.

In this hour we'll explore the life of Dame Agatha Christie - the author, the woman.

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