Jeff Glor talks to David Forrest about "Slots: Praying to the God of Chance."
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
David Forrest: I have always been fascinated with popular culture, what large numbers of Americans are doing--hence my consultations to Star Trek, my appearance on Olbermann to discuss alien abduction beliefs, and my going to #1 movies whatever they are about. One of our kids was studying math at Brown in the 1990's and while traveling through Connecticut to visit him, we noticed the fairytale castle of Foxwoods rising from the Connecticut woods. We visited it and Mohegan Sun even before they had slots. Like most psychiatrists I am accused of not being able to do anything without studying it. Since I tried slot machines I began to talk with the other players and study the unique mental state they seemed to be in, which seemed unlike the raucous table games, and to resemble solitary meditation and prayer.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
DF: As the author or co-author of hundreds of academic articles and books I discovered writing a trade book was surprisingly more exacting. Every word counts, as in poetry, and one cannot fall back on concatenating phrases of psychiatric jargon. I went with Delphinium as my publisher to work with Editor-in-Chief Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. Yes, that's THE Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who wrote over 4,000 book reviews for the New York Times and almost all the reviews of books on gambling. Even though we had a great time together reworking every word, we still had to go through a proofreader and a lawyer (e.g. can a random number table be copyrighted? Should a clear scandal be described as a "dustup"?). Christopher and I were both print-oriented guys and had to get used to making track changes in the text on our computers. In the midst of this the entire contents of my home were moved into storage containers in the driveway because of a remodeling project, which I don't recommend for a writer with tons of files and clippings.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
DF: I have a day job as a full time practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons. I also like to draw and paint, and admire E.E. Cummings, who wrote until he got stuck and then painted until he got stuck, and then went back to writing, and so on. Two muses are better than one.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
DF: "The Better Angels of Our Nature" by Stephen Pinker, "What It Means to Go to War" by Karl Marlantes, the Journals "Science, Dynamic Psychiatry" and many others necessary to keep up professionally. I was the Founding Editor of SPRING: The Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society, which I of course still read, as well as Cummings' poetry, especially as spring is coming, as he is among other things a great poet of the seasons. I knew him and analyzed his dreams, given to me by his widow.
JG: What's next for you?
DF: I shall be continuing neuropsychiatric research on evaluating facial affect by computer programs in Parkinson's disease and psychiatric disorders. As a psychiatry professor I teach medical students, and as an expert on the expression of emotion, I am interested in helping them with the delicate and often painful process in young doctors in the making, of learning sufficient clinical detachment to function professionally yet preserving and developing further their humanity and empathy. I enjoy psychoanalytic anthropology of circumscribed worlds. Years ago my wife and I published a board game, "The Ballet Company," based on her experiences in the New York City Ballet, and I had published on child rearing and mythology of Vietnam based on my wartime research there. As a Trekker I realized the ultimate pleasure of becoming a technical consultant to that TV program's imaginary world. Delving more into urban anthropology, I am working on an interview project on the other lives of the fine arts models whom I sketch at The Society of Illustrators, Spring Studio and the Salmagundi Club, trying to understand narcissism better through the motivations of people who make their living in their birthday suits, whereas that is a common nightmare for most people.
MORE VIDEO:Jeff Glor talks to David Forrest about how much profit casinos make from slot machines.
For more on "Slots" visit the Delphinium Books website.