tv Book Discussion on Bad Days in History CSPAN August 10, 2015 1:30am-2:01am EDT
chronicle of misfortune, mayhem and misery for every day of the year. it carefully curated calendar of humankind most entertaining catastrophes. if the signature tongue-in-cheek humor farquhar leads were -- leads readers on history's worst happenings gleaned from recent and distant eras events while mom and obscure locations near and far and people famous infamous and forgotten. farquhar explains in his introduction there are literally doing it to miserable episodes throughout human history from which to choose. here he has collected the most amazing examples that will offer even in the most miserable readers excellent company. after the reading there will be
time for questions. afterwards the book signing. when that time comes we would like everyone to form a line going up that way now ladies and gentlemen please give a warm welcome for author michael farquhar. [applause] >> i don't create a bad day but it's farquhar. thank you all for being here. that was a nice introduction ended as deeply and cap slate with this book is all about. created 65 of the more miserable and unpleasant days in history, one for every day of the year but one of the things that was important to us is that we did not do uber miserable. we are not covering national disasters. we are trying to focus more on the quirky disturbing but not
hideous aspects of human nature so you won't be reading about the holocaust or anything like that although i will save there is a bad day for nazi propagandists. goebbels would be wrote in his diary about his sore feet and everybody thinks he is and he has no friends so boo-hoo to him and that's as far as we get. so the other thing that's important that i want to talk about in this book is that we are trying not to focus on the obvious. when the titanic sunk -- sunk for example that was an obviously bad day but the worst day for the manager of the titanic was having been rescued and landing back on safe ground and becoming a notorious coward by the press for having survived or when lincoln was shot the bad day came several days later for several ex-presidents who failed to show enough morning and were attacked by mobs.
world war i is a tragic event in human history but is often associated with kaiser wilhelm's prussia but for kaiser wilhelm there was probably a worse day for him when he was at a party and there were rumors swirling around that he was part of a underground which in 1908 prussia was not cool and not okay. the problem was his friend who is dancing in a tutu drop dead so they have a lot of problems. rigor mortis trying to get the guy had a tutu and the police were on the way. as i said we were trying to get miserable days in unexpected ways. one of my favorites which i will read to you has to do with one of the great works of literature
this happened on march 6, 1835 a friendship tested by fire. the english philosopher jon stewart mill faced six or shooting task on the evening of march 6, 1835. he had devastating news to deliver to a friend an admission of her small faults so grievous that only the most magnanimous of men might, just might able to forgive it. clutching the charred remains of a burned manuscript the only copy of the magisterial history of the french revolution thomas carlisle had entrusted to him he arrived at the historian's london home looking as carlisle either wrote pale as hector's ghost. trembling and in despair mel explained that the manuscript had accidentally burned as kindling by a made. while the loss represented countless hours of agonizing labor for carlisle it was left
to him to comfort his friend long into the night. mill poor fellow was terribly cut up carlisle said to his wife after the shameful loss of her finally left. we must endeavor to hide from him how very serious this business is for us. sure enough the next big carlisle sent bill and most gracious note. he left me last night with a look which i shall not soon forget he wrote. if there's anything i can do or say to alleviate you i feel that your sorrow must be far sharper than mine. courage my friend. a note to on mel offering generous compensation for the lost labor. though the historian gratefully accepted still remains the unimaginable task of rewriting. the author was convinced he couldn't do it. i remember and can still remember less of it than anything i wrote for such toil he wrote.
it's gone and so were his notes which we had already destroyed. nevertheless he forged through. surely the most discouraging all but intolerable task i ever had to do cumulative to his brother. an inspiration and eventually came direct from the heart. thomas carlisle completed one of the greatest works in english literature. as might be inspected john stuart mill david lowing review. today is july 15 and i'm wondering if anybody has any important dates, birthdays this week, anniversaries? because there is a bad day or whatever day you may choose. i will say this, if you are having a bad day and i hope
nobody is there is something that will be far worse in this collection. so we are covering history, we are covering politics, science, every aspect of human endeavor from ancient times up to 2014 actually. entertainment. one of my favorite from eight entertainment stories is about oprah, the mighty oprah. i don't know whether your member she she came up with the movie several years ago called beloved which bombs and she had made such a production of this movie. this was an adaptation from a toni morrison model and she made it all about oprah she sometimes wants to do. she is on a television program the day of the movie's release. she is speaking to an audience and among them is rosa parks the
civil rights icon rosa parks. this beloved is for you she said to rosa parks and i'm sure she needed that extra boost from oprah. the bad news is oprah gets, the love gifts release has beaten handily that they buy the movie bride of chucky. opera related later in a good-natured way the sheet 83 pounds a ronnie and cheese to get over the shame and horror of it but that's the stretch of topics that are covered. every day is a different year so we could go from june 5, 1383 to june 4 or 6th, 1998. it's all topics and is again as again as i said nothing too heavy. hopefully entertaining and i
really don't want to stand up and bore you all and make you turn into a bad day. it is to open this up to discussion. if anybody has any thoughts or questions about the book or about the process i'd be happy to entertain them. there's a lady in a blue and white striped dress. >> how would you begin researching a book like this? >> the book -- the question is how would i go about researching a book like this? is to get ways to start. you create the calendar and you try to vary from what's obvious. i spoke earlier about the lincoln assassination or the sinking of the titanic or world war i. there's always something else going on either associated with matter that person by kaiser wilhelm who is famous for one thing but has a bad day based on another thing. biographies.
somebody was interested in and i'm reading i've are free of him trying to find out the significance of his participation in world war i and i'd go across the tutu story. everybody knows about world war i but nobody knows that story. that is what is trying to establish, a lesser-known miserable story. the material you are looking up one thing in are 100 other things that pop up. the challenge was when i went down to printed 65. anybody else? the lady in black. >> in your research which of the story shock to the most which you were so stunned by?
>> wow that's a very good question. there are so many of them. there is one that stands out. it's a great question. most of these in some way because i'm a history freak so one eye and cover something that's fascinating they all shot me or entertain me. hopefully all of the best ones are in the collection. there's one story about a guy who was on a business trip to hear shema in 1945 and boom the bomb is dropped. he survives the burn any makes his way home and be sitting in his office, the office of his boss telling them what happened and her shema and another bomb goes off and he's back at home and nagasaki and he survives that too. he is either the worlds luckiest guy or an luckiest guy depending on how you view the world and despite the radiation poisoning he lived to be 90.
>> i was wondering when he came up with the stories did you have stories that came up on certain parts of the calendar and then did you adapt in other parts of the calendar? >> that is a very good question. i had a number of instances where he cheated. this is one bad day of history except for five days where there were 30 things that happened. i created one day in march i believe a day of intolerance for every other year something really bad is happening on that one day. i included -- and i did part two and i did it several days but
yes there were a lot of a lot of occasions were too many things were happening on one day and you are in a scramble for their days but ultimately you can do a little cheating and make something that would overlap one day and apply it to another situation. >> what was the best of the worst days or the day that is the hardest for you to find a bad thing that happened? >> okay first of all it's always easy to find something bad.
on this day in history the happiest, you know. >> was there a harder day to find a bad thing? >> the hardest thing was when you had, i mean there could be 25 volumes on the holocaust alone so as i said earlier when you're trying to avoid the most hideous and another example and genocide there's the rwanda genocide. nobody wants that, too ugly. everybody knows about it but what i found amusing was the state department spokesman trying to skate around the word genocide because the u.s. government wasn't prepared to use that word yet and what was happening in rwanda. there's this whole dialogue but
this spokeswoman and reporter. she was referring to what was happening in rwanda as acts of genocide. the reporters not letting her head away with it. how many acts of genocide does it make to -- take to make a genocide? she tries to wiggle her way out of this because she cannot get off the message and cap this continuous acts of genocide in the sky was calling her out. she became infamous. i forget her name at the moment but it's in here. that was the struggle. if there was something that was really bad in history to find the lighter side of things that were bad. another one was joan of arc. she held this great buddy that was her comrade in arms and he fought either side and then retired from the military and
went on to become a child murderer. that was probably one of the darker episodes in the book and yet it was -- it amused me in a 6 cents. the other thing about joan of arc was she got reprieve and found not guilty to 30 years after she was reduced to ashes. it was a little bit late for her on that. but again it's just a matter of knowing a little bit about history. yes, there are some good days in history. this gentleman over your heads house and had a chance to ask a question. >> you mentioned nagasaki and
hiroshima and i was wondering if there were other bad days that had a silver lining may be? >> again those are bright spots. [laughter] >> yes of course there were a few. the only one that is coming to mind right now is the instance of joan of arc being ultimately found not guilty so her legal reputation, the silver lining survived the flames but she didn't. there are a few and again i wasn't necessarily looking for a silver lining to each of the stories but the complexity of history is there a size going to be nuanced. i think as you read through these you will find several.
there's a bright spot in grba having a bad day. what's better than a sadsack nazi? that's a silver lining. there was another question over here. >> are most of the people who are featured in this famous? >> most of them are. there are a few that were maybe famous in their day that are well-known now. there was a scientist in russia who was infamous at the time who was trying to create a new species called the human c via breeding a chimpanzee and human. the russian government was behind it or the soviet government was behind it and he had achieved a lot of notoriety at the time. i can't remember his name but he is in there for this noble
experiment. there is a lot of stories of science, scientists at days gone by that aren't necessarily remembered and the ones that are well-known are the struggles that they had like "the new york times" does a rating goddard for his concept how naïve and foolish she was and 50 or 60 years later the new york times printed a retraction apology. another silver lining. most of the people or the offense have i am sure if you are even a superficial student of history some residents but there are some people in here. yes. >> are there any countries that had more bad days and other
countries? >> that's a really good question. i think it really oils down to my knowledge. we tried to cover every country or at least every continent but in reviewing it there are a lot of americans bad days and a lot of europeans. there's a fair amount of russians and chinese and japanese so no i can't sit here and say there's one country that has endured over history terrible suffering. the india would be a candidate particularly indian women. indian and a nepalese women when women appreciate it they really weren't appreciated over there. their duty for centuries was to when their husbands either their spouse dies was to jump on the funeral pyre of the husband and a malik themselves along with the husband.
there's one particular story about a nepalese queen who will did all sorts of power until the husband died three forced into this ritual. india, there's another indian emperor who was old and fell in love. this was the same guy that of the taj mahal and he took this early form of with life changing results for india. he ended up not being able to go to the bathroom because of this perpetual state that he was then and his son took advantage of that and started a war and they destroyed each other. the results of this war millions of indians died and the poor guy ended up in prison with a few of the taj mahal in front of him until he was able to join his beloved.
so those are the kinds of tales. and it was interesting there is also, you are introducing jimmy carter coming next week traded great guy, great humanitarian but the poor guy had a snake bit presidency in terms of embarrassments. this is completely apolitical but one of the worst was when he was in poland and he had this really bad translator. he is trying to say to paul and i'm glad to be here and to translator, the way he said it to the people was i to sires the polls carnally. the guy did not deserve it but it was just one thing after another for poor carter. the killer rabbit, all those things. the cover at one point another
probably every u.s. president has a story in here. kings and queens, european kings and queens, scientists, explorers, entertainers, every aspect of life. >> back to the human c story. how did they select the look he human involved in that experiment? >> it starts off in french guinea. the lucky human and unlucky ape. add that in so that where the apes names and they tried to inseminate the lady apes in french beginning but that didn't work so they go back to russia and there is this russian woman who writes them a letter and says i have nothing to live for it. in the interest of science i would like to be the eighth mother of this new species and she volunteered.
mercifully it didn't take so it didn't take either way. yes sir. >> you have the trojan horse on the cover of your book and you talk about oprah but reaching back what's the most ancient bad day in the book? >> it's very hard to go deep into the b.c. years because a lot of the offense don't have a specific day. fortunately because the roman empire was so well-documented, there is a lot on the roman emperor and the crazy roman emperors. everything is documented day by day. the trojan horse was a brilliant illustrator who did a lot of the illustrations inside of this book.
there is no story. it's probably a man but there is no specific day where they go come on in to the horse. so that was a little bit of the liberty we took the roman emperor, empire is about as early as we could get. there are a few stories about the chinese emperor that our prehistory that we have updates for. the one that was trying to live forever on mercury. it's actually the same member that has the terra-cotta warriors. he is buried near the terra-cotta warriors and nobody will do an archaeological digging around his tomb because apparently there's a mercury river flowing through it. there was some kind of idea that mercury was the it's celebration
so without the severe danger of mercury poisoning they cannot dig him up and find his actual tombs of the terra-cotta warriors which we are for me with are all being uncovered, no mercury there. anyone else? yes. the lady in black again. >> when you are not researching bad days in history do you have another day job that you enjoyed? >> no. [laughter] i live in complete darkness. i write looks for a living. i used to work at the "washington post" tonight created a niche there is a history reporter worth something was happening it was a current event i gave a historical perspective on it so when clinton was being in huge for example i've wrote about johnson , andrew johnson.
i wrote stories for mother's day history's meanest mothers. i guess i am kind of dark. [laughter] with the sikh old for father's day on history's bad dads and through that you developed a little bit as the a niche and up he just three. you never learned in history class. i like to describe it that way. it's what i'd love to read about as a kid and firstly i don't think it's taught very much. the stories behind the stories and if you think back to your own history classes i would imagine a number of you were turned off or the early by the emphasis on dates and not telling who these people were. we tend to enshrine the founding fathers for example and yet these were a bunch of guys that couldn't stand each other
squabbling and yet look what they accomplished. can you imagine that room, the bo alone, the bad nerves. these things that we don't think about. they are all marbleized and monuments. they're not people so i like to write about that kind of history , did any of the founding fathers for example have annoying spouses or how much did they hate each other and they really did hate each other a lot of them. so that became my career writing these kinds of books. my first book was about european royalty, the dark side or the less known crazy american scandals. i did the lives of the czars of russia. i like to read about the history that we never learned that history class.
[inaudible] >> i guess that about wraps it up if there are no more questions. i do appreciate everybody coming out and i think if you are having a bad day ever, pick this book up and turned to the bad day you are trying to plow through my guarantee you you will feel a little bit that her. you will feel a little bit better. thank you all very much. i appreciate it. [applause]