Phoebe Maltz was born at New York University, where she is currently a PhD student in French and French Studies. In between, she attended Stuyvesant High School and the University of Chicago. She blogs at What Would Phoebe Do.
Why do you blog? > Initially, because someone suggested I turn my column in the college paper into a blog. Now, because it's both an alternative to the academic writing I do the rest of the time and a way of keeping my writing skills sharp enough that churning out that dissertation won't be too daunting.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Meeting, sometimes even in person, interesting people I would never have met otherwise.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > To a novice female blogger, I'd suggest she prepare herself for unsolicited comments about her appearance, weight and romantic history, regardless of what she chooses to write about.
What are you reading at the moment? > Les eaux mêlées by Roger Ikor. This is a busman's-holiday break from my work-reading, which is on Jews and intermarriage in 19th century France, as opposed to 20th.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Dan Savage, Hadley Freeman, and the bakers at Le Boulanger des Invalides.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Tie between Au Bonheur des Dames and Portnoy's Complaint.
What is your favourite movie? > I've probably never liked any movie as much as I did Rushmore at 15.
Who is your favourite composer? > Rufus Wainwright.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to think of myself as somewhat libertarian, then realized I'm for universal health care.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Anti-modernity.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Ronald Schechter's Obstinate Hebrews. It is an example of how a book can be scholarly and entertainingly written, but it is also the work in my field that has most influenced how I think about major questions in it. Sander Gilman's Jewish Self-Hatred comes a close second.
Who are your political heroes? > Theodor Herzl and Émile Zola, not that that adds up.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > No more guns for civilians.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I'll have to answer this in the negative - I'd take anyone, even Palin, over Huckabee.
What would you do with the UN? > I suppose 'turn it into NYU grad student housing' is the wrong answer.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The continued global obsession with Israel being the source of all the world's problems strikes me as, if not the main threat, a big one.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I'd like to think it's past its worst.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > I think most everyone learns this with age, but perhaps that you are always more concerned with yourself, positively and negatively, than others are with you - basically not to worry so much what others think, because they're thinking of something else, in all likelihood themselves.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > The attitude among some self-defined intellectuals that intelligence and an interest in fashion or pop culture are mutually exclusive. And the belief that taking one's coffee 'just black' makes one a low-maintenance and all-around admirable person. So, pretentiousness, or taking oneself too seriously.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Sports fandom.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Tel Aviv.
What would your ideal holiday be? > British-English holiday: being in Paris without all these deadlines. American-English holiday: Festivus.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to drive a car.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Cheesemonger or garlic-scape farmer.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jennifer Saunders.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > A successful career, ideally as a professor, but at least in something for which my degree will not prove entirely irrelevant.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > First, I'd move out of the free dorm room I'm staying in in Paris and get an apartment with a mattress without so many protruding coils.
What animal would you most like to be? > A wallaby in Paris's Jardin des Plantes.
[A list of all the normblog profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]