About The Freak Chronicles, bestselling author Lauren Groff says
"The Freak Chronicles is a miracle of a story collection: passionately political and a shout of ambivalence about political passion, intensely personal and furiously global. We readers are lucky to find Jennifer Spiegel, a writer who is self-satirizing and vulnerable and elegant as hell."
About Love Slave, Publishers Weekly says
"Spiegel's novel evokes the psychic angst of Manhattanites presumptuous enough to describe themselves as struggling artistes, yet entitled enough to melt down when they can't order breakfast in a diner after 11am...the writing is fresh and witty, and Sybil is a sympathetic character worthy of rooting for as she searches for something to believe in."
Monologue topics: the gym, stress, running, the woman with magazines, stopping, Lawn Day.
Karen Russell raves
“What a kinetic, joyful, gonzo ride—Double Feature made me laugh so loudly on a plane that I had to describe the plot of Sam's Spruce Moose of a debut film (it stars a satyr) to my seatmate by way of explanation. Booth and Sam are an unforgettable Oedipal duo. A book that delivers walloping pleasures to its lucky readers.”
And Larry McMurtry says
“Double Feature is a beautiful, wrenching beginning, and Owen King is a young writer of immense promise.”
Monologue topics: listener feedback, overdoing gender politics, Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
Jennifer Egan says
"In Schroder, Amity Gaige explores the rich, murky realm where parental devotion edges into mania, and logic crabwalks into crime. This offbeat, exquisitely written novel showcases a fresh, forceful young voice in American letters."
And Jonathan Franzen raves
"The measure of Gaige's great gifts as a storyteller is that she persuades you to believe in a situation that shouldn't be believable, and to love a narrator who shouldn’t be lovable. Seldom has such a daring concept for a novel been grounded in such an appealing character."
Monologue topics: Amazon, Goodreads, indepenent presses, small furry animals, extinction, predators, apathy, confusion.
Periel Aschenbrand is the guest. She is the author of two memoirs, the latest of which is called On My Knees. It is available now for pre-order and will be published by Harper Perennial on June 18, 2013.
Jonathan Ames raves
"Ribald, outrageous, gutter-mouthed, hilarious—a startling new voice in American letters. Watch out Portnoy, watch out Caulfield, watch out Bukowski, watch out E. L. James. Hell, everybody, real or imagined, just watch out! Because here comes Periel Aschenbrand!”
And The New York Times calls her
"Unsavorily compelling. . .in the manner of a female Howard Stern.”
Monologue topics: insomnia, nightmares, pool bars, sushi, low tide, sleep apnea, Buddhism, pity.
Giancarlo DiTrapano is the guest. He's the editor of NY Tyrant magazine and the publisher of Tyrant Books, an independent press based in New York City.
His authors include Brian Evensen, Blake Butler, Eugene Marten, and Michael Kimball. And later this year, in June, he'll be publishing Marie Calloway's debut novel, what purpose did i serve in your life.
Sheila Heti says
"I have never read a book like this before. It’s painful, shocking and brilliantly written, with a great sensitivity to which details should be revealed and which should stay concealed. It’s formally complex, completely unforgettable, highly contemporary and plainly great. A terrifying proposal: could this be the Great American Novel for the twilight of “Great” America?"
Monologue topics: nudity, Lena Dunham, streaking, sports, IMAX.
Marilynne Robinson raves
"With unflinching wit, Amber Dermont examines the harsh vicissitudes of life, and though the worlds she creates are often unsettling places, her sense of detail always makes for a pleasurable read. There is a vibrant lucidity to her language, a daring music."
And Kirkus says
"Dermont’s short story collection, which follows her debut novel (The Starboard Sea, 2012), demonstrates the author’s versatility and sardonic humor…[She] delivers strong prose and intriguing characters who frequently defy stereotypical ideals…the overall effect is a tight collection that takes the reader in unexpected, often disconcerting, directions. Full of irony and contradictions, this compilation of contemporary short stories is a worthwhile effort."
Monologue topics: walking, Los Angeles, headphones, David Lynch, suffocating rubber clown suit, fire, Ashley Greene.
Grace Krilanovich says
"There’s what people say, and then there’s what they do. The phrase will infect your consciousness, contorting and twisting itself around to take on more and more dimensions. What does it mean to act on our desires when one person’s wish fulfillment means another’s nightmare? What does it mean to be free, or to escape? At its core, This is What We Do gives us two people left with nothing, cutting close to the uncoolness of loving without fear."
And Gina Frangello says
"Hansen's debut novel covers even wilder, trickier ground than his memoir, American Junkie. Anti-hero James Nethery seems an ordinary, lonely man drinking Coke at the bar, until he meets "Lily," a Ukrainian prostitute, and what began as a quiet, atmospheric meditation on down-and-out expats in Paris explodes into a nonstop, genre-blending noir-crime-vigilante-political-sexy-nihilistic-almost surreal thrill ride, infused in equal measures with brutality and beauty."
Monologue topics: The Nervous Breakdown, TNB 5.0, sleeping at the mall, kid birthday parties, magicians, the end of tweets?
Ayana Mathis is today's guest. Her debut novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, was an official selection of Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and has since gone on to become a New York Times bestseller. It is available now from Knopf.
Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it
“Cutting, emotional…pure heartbreak…though Mathis has inherited some of Toni Morrison’s poetic intonation, her own prose is appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious…an excellent debut.”
And Marilynne Robinson raves
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a vibrant and compassionate portrait of a family hardened and scattered by circumstance and yet deeply a family. Its language is elegant in its purity and rigor. The characters are full of life, mingled thing that it is, and dignified by the writer’s judicious tenderness towards them. This first novel is a work of rare maturity."
Monologue topics: mail, dinner invitations, IRL.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls it
“Profound . . . with more to say on the human condition than most full books. . . . A remarkable collection, with pitch-perfect leaps of imagination.”
And HTML Giant says
“This is transformative prose at its best. . . . If you want an actual contemporary wordsmith who does not just tinker but thrives in the micro-worlds of Calvino and Borges, Walser and Perec, read Understories.”
Monologue topics: AWP, silent judgment, my thing, your thing, feeling peripheral.
Lenore Zion is the guest. She is the author of two books, the first of which, a humor collection called My Dead Pets Are Interesting, was published by TNB Books in 2011. And now her debut novel, Stupid Children, has just been published by Emergency Press.
Necessary Fiction raves
"Stupid Children is a bildungsroman of twisted proportions told with startling clarity through the filter of a smart, psychoanalytic perspective. No character is safe from Zion’s unapologetic examinations. She bestows her protagonist with an open mind, a sharp intellect, and a sweltering imagination—all of the requisite ingredients for a disturbing, fascinating novel."
And Jonathan Evison says
“Stupid Children surprises and dazzles at every turn. You will not forget this book.”
Stupid Children is the March selection of The TNB Book Club, the official book club of The Nervous Breakdown. For only $9.99 a month, you can get a brand new title delivered to your door every 30 days. And all book club authors are interviewed on this program.
Monologue topics: psycho-digital crises, dinner invitations, key parties, manners, overthinking it.
Ben Fountain raves
"Lipsyte expertly works the line between hilarity and pathos."
And Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
“In this second story collection, fierce satire mingles with warmth and pathos as Lipsyte (The Ask) showcases his knack for stylistic variety and tangles with the thorny human experiences of moving beyond one’s past or shedding one’s personal baggage . . . Lipsyte’s biting humor suffuses the collection, but it’s his ability to control the relative darkness of each moment that makes the stories so engrossing.”
Monologue topics: mountain rescue, urban heroism, mail, ménage-á-trois clarifications.
Booklist, in a starred review, calls it
"An ensnaring first novel that delves into the complex challenges and anguish of living with and in the shadow of celebrity. Sneed’s wit, curiosity, empathy, and ability to divine the perfect detail propel this psychologically exquisite, superbly realized novel of intriguing, caricature-transcending characters and predicaments…As Sneed illuminates each facet of her percussively choreographed plot via delectably slant disclosures—overheard conversations, snooping, tabloids, confessions under duress, and journal entries, among them—she spotlights ‘little known facts’ about the cost of fame, our erotic obsession with movie-star power, and where joy can be found."
Kenneth Goldsmith says
"This is a sad and powerful book of love poems. Stephanie Barber understands how things are supposed to work and recognizes that they are broken, and NIGHT MOVES is a screenshot for the help desk in the sky. It's a conceptual ode to Internet philosophy, solidifying the transient nature of online conversation."
Monologue topics: ménage-á-trois, third wheels, Darwinian processes, self-awareness.
Bernie Glassman is the guest. He is a pioneer in the American Zen Movement, an accomplished academic and businessman, and the founder of the Zen Peacemakers. His new book, co-authored by Jeff Bridges, is called The Dude and the Zenmaster. A New York Times bestseller, it is available now from Blue Rider Press.
Sheila Heti, writing for the Financial Times, says
“The Dude and the Zen Master [is] a wonderful book of conversations...about acting and Zen and the long, fond relationship between these men.”
And The Dudespaper calls it
“[A] good conversation between good friends...One of the unexpected treats of The Dude and the Zen Master is the insights into who Jeff Bridges is behind the Dude persona...touching remembrances of his parents, his reflections on life as a devoted family man, and his behind-the-scenes stories of movies he’s worked on [and] profound little Zen observations and insights sprinkled throughout the book.”
Monologue topics: Zen, meditation, discipline and lack thereof, losing my shit, my daughter, guilt, the Oscars.
Lesley Arfin is the guest. She was a staff writer on the first two seasons of the hit television show Girls, starring Lena Dunham, and she also writes on the MTV series Awkward. Her book, Dear Diary, is based on a column of the same name that originally appeared in Vice magazine. It was published by Vice Books/MTV Press in 2007.
Sarah Silverman says
“Here’s your chance to have all the benefits of a tortured adolescence without the shitty childhood. Congratulations!”
And Chloe Sevigny says
"What I love about Dear Diary is how strongly it resonates with all girls. We all went through a bitch phase that makes us cringe when we remember it. We tried being good; we tried being bad; we made other girls feel like shit before we knew what it felt like...It seems like the world is ending when you're 17 and in the middle of it, but looking back now I realize that's what adolescence is all about: making mistakes. And that's why I love Dear Diary."
Monologue topics: tweets, mail, alt-lit, Internet literature, Jordan Castro, Mira Gonzalez, Megan Boyle, Sam, women, vaginas, feminism.
Ben Brooks, author of Grow Up, says
“I read these poems three times in one night, then put the duvet over my head and held my knees for a while. It’s good when something makes sense. I really really liked these poems.”
And Chris Killen says
“If you are a person who doesn’t really know what they are doing and you would like to read about another person who doesn’t really know what they are doing either, I recommend reading this poetry book. I enjoyed reading these poems. Or something.”
Monologue topics: Episode 150, premium bonus content, Megan Boyle, Mira Gonzalez, Sam, Skype, festive moods.
Megan, Mira, and Sam were in Tao Lin's apartment in New York City. (Tao was not there; he was out of the country at the time.)
I was here in Los Angeles, in the home office.
Things got interesting.
Terry Tempest Williams is the guest. She is the author of several books, including the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. Her latest book is called When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice. It was published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux in 2012, and the paperback edition is due out from Picador on February 26, 2013.
Susan Salter Reynolds, writing for The Daily Beast, says
"Williams is the kind of writer who makes a reader feel that [her] voice might also, one day, be heard….She cancels out isolation: Connections are woven as you sit in your chair reading---between you and the place you live, between you and other readers, you and the writer. Without knowing how it happened, your sense of home is deepened."
And The San Francisco Chronicle raves
"Williams displays a Whitmanesque embrace of the world and its contradictions....As the pages accumulate, her voice grows in majesty and power until it become a full-fledged aria."
Monologue topics: media diet, news, minimum wage, operating, ambition, fear, power, nausea, juice, scams, beautiful crazy people.
Dwight Garner of the The New York Times says
"Mr. Robbins's heart is not lovely but beating a bit arrhythmically; not dark but lighted by a dangling disco ball; not deep but as shallow and alert as a tidal buoy facing down a tsunami. Yet it's a heart crammed full, like a goose's liver, with pagan grace. This man can write."
And Sasha Frere-Jones says
"You may notice the cultural references first -- Guns N' Roses, Eric B. & Rakim, Fleetwood Mac, M*A*S*H, Star Wars -- and be tempted to tie Robbins to these anchors. But there are as many contemporary references in Eliot and Pound and Horace as there are in Robbins: carbon-dating isn't what distinguishes these poems. Robbins works in traditional and nontraditional forms that pivot on the beat, which he turns around, seamlessly and ruthlessly. The thread here is a long-distance conversation crammed into the available enjambment, as charged as the pop songs that play beneath the words."
Monologue topics: Patrick Swayze, tweets, drones.
Joyce Johnson is the guest. She is the author of several books, the most recent of which is called The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, available now from Viking.
Kirkus calls it
“An exemplary biography of the Beat icon and his development as a writer…Johnson [turns] a laser-sharp focus on Kerouac’s evolving ideas about language, fiction vs. truth and the role of the writer in his time…there’s plenty of life in these pages to fascinate casual readers, and Johnson is a sensitive but admirably objective biographer. A triumph of scholarship.”
And Russell Banks says
"This is quite simply the best book about Kerouac and one of the best accounts of any writer's apprenticeship that I have read. And it should generate a serious reconsideration of Kerouac as a classical, because hyphenated, American writer, one struggling to synthesize a doubled language, culture, and class. It's also a terrific read, a windstorm of a story."
Also in this episode: Joshua Mohr, author of the novel Fight Song, now available from Soft Skull Press. Fight Song is the February selection of The TNB Book Club. Publishers Weekly calls it "an interesting mix of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins, with a cinematic heaping of the Coen brothers for good measure."
Monologue topics: doubt, doubting doubt, mental downward spirals, confusion.
James Lasdun is the guest. He is the author of two novels, four collections of poetry, and two collections of short stories, including the collection The Siege, the title story of which was made into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci (Besieged). With Jonathan Nossiter he co-wrote the films Sunday, which won Best Feature and Best Screenplay awards at Sundance, and Signs and Wonders, starring Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgaard. His new book, Give Me Everything You Have, is a memoir published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
J.M. Coetzee says
“Give Me Everything You Have is a reminder, as if any were needed, of how easily, since the arrival of the Internet, our peace can be troubled and our good name besmirched.”
And Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"Lasdun’s tale of being stalked is only part of the story—his disembodied, if mentally violent, encounters with 'Nasreen,' his stalker, lead him to reflect on topics as diverse as the seductive power of literature, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the writings of D.H. Lawrence, and his father’s work as an architect in Israel and the aggressively anti-Semitic response it provoked. The 'verbal terrorism' (Nasreen’s phrase) escalates as the book goes on, but it’s almost a red herring—it is indeed terrifying, and as the stalker becomes more sophisticated, she begins tormenting his friends and colleagues. But Lasdun is able to see past the surface-level effects of her attacks to the desperate and pitiable person behind them. This subtle, compassionate take on the subject is rife with insights into the current cyberculture’s cult of anonymity, as well as the power, failure, and magic of writing.”
Monologue topics: Julian Tepper, Philip Roth, bleakness, cynicism, writing, awfulness, the ability to change your fundamental nature.
Matthew Salesses is the guest. He is the author of two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics and We Will Take What We Can Get, and his new novel is called I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying, which is published by Civil Coping Mechanisms.
Matt Bell raves
“In Matt Salesses’s smart novel-in-shorts, a newly-minted father flees telling his own story by any means necessary—by sarcasm, by denial, by playful and precise wordplay—rarely allowing space for his emerging feelings to linger. But the truth of who we might be is not so easily escaped, and it is in the accumulation of many such moments that our narrator, like us, is revealed: both the people we have been, and the better people we might be lucky enough to one day hope to become.”
And Catherine Chung says
“Matthew Salesses has written an extraordinary and startlingly original novel that explores connection and disconnection, the claims and limitations of the self, and the shifting terrain of truth. Poetic, unforgettable, shot through with fury and yearning, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying captures in clear and chilling flashes our capacity for the cruelty and tenderness of love.”
Also in this episode: a conversation with Reality Hunger author David Shields. His new book, How Literature Saved My Life, is now availalble from Knopf. And later this year, in September, he will publish The Private War of J.D. Salinger, co-authored by Shane Salerno.
Monologue topics: mail, literary ambulance chasing, luck, cause and effect, beautiful people.
Andrea Seigel is the guest. She is the author of three novels: Like the Red Panda, To Feel Stuff, and The Kid Table. She's also an accomplished screenwriter.
Chuck Klosterman says
"If Helen Fielding had been born in 1979 and become a hyper-precocious Goth kid whose favorite book was Prozac Nation, she probably would have ended up writing exactly like Andrea Seigel.”
And Bret Easton Ellis says
"Andrea Seigel’s confidence— her intelligence and verve— lets her take risks that sweep the reader along.”
Monologue topics: capturing the cultural moment, chasing clicks, whorishness, the Super Bowl, grief essays, trending, feeling sickened.
Teddy Wayne is the guest. He is the author of the novel Kapitoil (Harper Perennial), for which he was the winner of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award. He has also been the recipient of a New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His second novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, is due out from Free Press on February 5, 2013.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, calls it
"Masterfully executed...the real accomplishment is the unforgettable voice of Jonny. If this impressive novel, both entertaining and tragically insightful, were a song, it would have a Michael Jackson beat with Morrissey lyrics."
And Ben Fountain raves
"The Love Song of Jonny Valentine takes us deep into the dark arts and even darker heart of mass-market celebrity, 21st-century version. In the near-pubescent hitmaker of the title, Teddy Wayne delivers a wild ride through the upper echelons of the entertainment machine as it ingests human beings at one end and spews out dollars at the other. Jonny's like all the rest of us, he wants to love and be loved, and as this brilliant novel shows, that’s a dangerous way to be when you’re inside the machine."
Monologue topics: surgery, Vicodin, hernias, tweets.
Blake Butler says
"Richard Chiem's You Private Person is a bustling prism of a thing, full of passages that actually lead somewhere off of the paper. His words have brains that have bodies that wake you up in the way waking can be the best thing, like into a warm room full of good calm remembered things that feel both like relics and new inside the day. Here rings a wise and bravely sculpted book packed full of stunning thankful color."
And Kate Zambreno says
"Richard Chiem writes of all the weirdness and ooziness and tenderness of young love, with such lucid specificity. Like some beautiful film from the 70s, but also distinctly now. Because I also love how in this book he documents the tremors of contemporary existence, of living and working in a city, measuring days not in coffee spoons but in cigarettes and Simpsons episodes."
Monologue topics: email, memes, Tony Danza.
The Paris Review raves
"It should come as no surprise that her provocative new work, Heroines, published by Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents imprint... challenges easy categorization, this time by poetically swerving in and out of memoir, diary, fiction, literary history, criticism, and theory. With equal parts unabashed pathos and exceptional intelligence, Heroines foregrounds female subjectivity to produce an impressive and original work that examines the suppression of various female modernists in relation to Zambreno's own complicated position as a writer and a wife."
And Bitch magazine calls it
"A brave, enlightening, and brutally honest historical inquiry that will leave readers with an urgent desire to tell their own stories."
Monologue topics: petroleum-based cows, Ron Currie Jr., TNB Book Club.