Laila Lalami is the guest. Her new novel, The Moor's Account, is available now from Pantheon.
Salman Rushdie says
"Laila Lalami has fashioned an absorbing story of one of the first encounters between Spanish conquistadores and Native Americans, a frightening, brutal, and much-falsified history that here, in her brilliantly imagined fiction, is rewritten to give us something that feels very like the truth."
And Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it
"Assured, lyrical . . . Certainly the most extensive telling of the tale from ‘the Moor’s’ point of view . . . Adding a new spin to a familiar story, Lalami offers an utterly believable, entertainingly told alternative to the historical record. A delight."
Monologue topics: mail, Jim Morrison, my friend pain.
Eric Obenauf is the guest. He is the co-founder and editorial director of Two Dollar Radio, an independent press based in Columbus, Ohio.
Full Stop says
"[Two Dollar Radio books] are ambitious, far-reaching, and even visionary."
And the Virginia Quarterly Review says
"Two Dollar Radio, a relatively new indie making a big splash, made an even bigger splash when it announced the launch of Two Dollar Radio Moving Pictures, a 'micro-budget film division.' These aren’t book trailers; they aren’t done just to promote their titles, or even their brand. These are creative, exciting works of art in their own right; each one gives you the sense that the people behind it are incredibly creative people who love books, but who also love movies, and love making things, making things happen, trying something new. It sounds so simple, but it really was a paradigm shift for Two Dollar Radio to even think this was a possibility."
Monologue topics: mail, reactions to Episode 312, how to download episodes of this show online.
Wendy C. Ortiz is the guest. Her memoir, Excavation, is now available from Future Tense Books. It is the official September selection of the TNB Book Club. (Photo: Francine Orr/ LA Times) Lidia Yuknavitch says
The time has finally arrived when women are telling the truth--the hard truths, the messy, glorious, loud, tender, screeching corporeal truths--about their lives as they live them and not lived as we are asked to live them. Wendy C. Ortiz's writing will rearrange your DNA. Permanently, beautifully...
And Emily Rapp says
Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz will change your life. Readers will find everything here: a gripping and necessary story, luminous writing and an utterly compelling heroine who is both generous and fierce. You will emerge changed, dazzled, energized, disbelieving and yet a believer. Most of all, read this book because, like all great literature, and especially the best memoirs, it will make you feel more alive.
Monologue topics: mail, the word "retarded," podcast criticism, narcissism, too much me.
Patrick Hoffman is the guest. His debut novel The White Van is now available from Grove/Atlantic.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"A heist propels Hoffman’s outstanding first novel. Sophia, a Russian émigré, plans to rob a San Francisco branch of US Bank with some inside assistance from its manager, Rada Harkov, and the help of two people recruited (decidedly against their wills) for the job: “the Russian,” another émigré and a black-market trader who owes Sophia money; and Emily, a young woman coerced into helping with drugs and threats (“She had been made into a slave”). The robbery nets some $880,000, a powerful temptation for another major character, Elias, an officer with the SFPD Gang Task Force. An alcoholic, Elias is plagued by money worries. Beyond the engaging plot, the book focuses on people’s behavior in the face of impossible choices. Hoffman, who spent nine years working as a PI in San Francisco, writes with great authority about the city’s seamy side and the grim realities of life for its down-on-their-luck denizens."
Monologue topics: Apple, technology fetishization, camping outside of stores, Ray Rice, public outrage.
Amy Lawless is the guest. Her latest poetry collection, My Dead, is available now from Octopus Books.
Janae Green says
"Lawless writes poetry that itches; you have to bury your fingernails into your skin and bleed a little to remind yourself not to scratch it."
And Interview magazine says
"My Dead delves into the process of mourning loved ones with Lawless' calm, characteristically non-melodramatic poise. She cites videos of elephant mourning rituals seen on the Internet as a main source of inspiration. While humor might have been used to subvert heavier topics in the past, she chooses control and intimate dissection this time around."
Monologue topics: unlived lives, mediocrity, fate, bifurcation, Joan Rivers.
David Connerley Nahm is the guest. His debut novel, Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky, is available now from Two Dollar Radio.
Library Journal calls it
"A powerful first novel, the kind that makes you want to stop people in the street to tell them about it."
And NPR says
"Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky is far from a conventional novel...The pacing is perfect -- while this isn't a thriller, at least in any traditional sense of the word, it's deeply suspenseful...it's impossible to stop reading until you've gone through each beautiful line, a beauty that infuses the whole novel, even in its darkest moments."
Monologue topics: dinosaurs, weirdness, weather, vacation, lethargy, rest, impatience.
Michael Earl Craig is the guest. His latest book, Talkativeness, is available now from Wave Books.
Publishers Weekly says
"Craig renders unsettling dreams and quotidian clutter with sparse language and a quiet, distant voice to conjure poems brimming with the bizarre. His knack for the disturbing materializes in images from Dick Cheney being wheeled in á la Dr. Strangelove to President Obama's inauguration, to a husband and wife witnessing 'dark turkeys' encroaching on their property, to a speaker declaring his penchant for vocational talent: 'I have just very carefully cut/ my best friend's wife's bangs.' Even the lighter elements of the book seem a bit foul, such as the quick cameo of Death from Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal. This is the work of a writer who lives 'in an experimental town' where the 17 on-duty cops can only say, 'That's the way the cookie crumbles.' If it's the qualities of the macabre that lure the reader in, then it's our inability to look away from the grotesque that drive us to continue reading. That inability to turn back, much like the advice Craig offers about catching horses, is what remains at the end of this read: 'you can't fake looking away, horses/ know when you are doing this./ You have to really look away./ Some horsemen never come out of this.'"
Monologue topics: re-reading, Hunter S. Thompson, The Razor's Edge, my bad memory, melatonin, nightmares, fear, superstition.
The Los Angeles Times calls it
"[A] masterpiece of desperation, delusion and misdeeds.... Ruland...brilliantly taps the fundamental irony of casinos.... A satisfying read."
And Jerry Stahl says
"...[Forest of Fortune] captures the soul and voice of hard-luck, hard-living Americans in a way that conjures up earlier masters like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. Jim Ruland has an uncanny ability to get inside his characters...."
Monologue topics: National Geographic, Going Deep, David Rees, Otherppl Premium, dive bars, disillusionment, fetishizing filth.
Joshua Wolf Shenk is the guest. His new book, Powers of Two, is now available from Eamon Dolan Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Andrew Solomon says
"In this surprising, compelling, deeply felt book, Joshua Wolf Shenk banishes the idea of solitary genius by demonstrating that our richest art and science come from collaboration: we need one another not only for love, but also for thinking and imagining and growing and being."
And Susan Orlean says
"This is a book about magic; about the Beatles; about the chemistry between people; about neuroscience; and about the buddy system; it examines love and hate, harmony and dissonance, and everything in between. The result is wise, funny, surprising, and completely engrossing."
Monologue: solitude, individualism, hubris, needing people.
Chris Kraus says
"The sometime-narrator of Kill Manual anastasiasteele3577 haunts chat rooms and BDSM dating sites in search of oblivion. But oblivion hardly needs to be searched for: It’s already there. This disturbing and radical book reveals, among other things, the half-life left in the wake of ubiquitous, data-mined, robotically fabricated internet content. The world ends in exhaustion. Troyan’s piercingly felt, sampled text probes the immateriality of language. Her work is brilliant and brave."
And Megan Milks says
"This book beats with a steady intensity that is equal parts hot and terrifying; its words are sticky emissions, or fists in the flesh of the eyeball. With a voice both chillingly disembodied and viscerally corporeal, cut with mordant wit, Kill Manual moans, snarls, and laughs, harshly. Riveted by shame, refusing any boundary between pleasure and disgust, with these poems Cassandra Troyan orchestrates a fever march towards negation: 'You are not allowed to call this radical.'"
Monologue topics: sleeplessness, My Little Pony, lying, unicorns.
Austin Kleon is the guest. He is the bestselling author of the books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!. Both are available from Workman Publishing.
“Some people are natural self-promoters. For others, it’s painfully difficult to put their work out there. In this creatively designed pocket-sized book, Kleon offers the latter group effective strategies that allow them to share their work without leaving their comfort zone…. Kleon’s advice is sassy and spot-on.”
And The Atlantic says
"Austin Kleon is positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet... Kleon makes an articulate and compelling case for combinatorial creativity and the role of remix in the idea economy."
Monologue topics: creativity, block, doing the work, privilege, fun.
Tim O'Connell is the guest. He is an editor at Vintage, Anchor, Knopf, and Pantheon.
Monologue topics: death, the old man who died, DMT, Tao Lin, Terence McKenna, psychedelic crocodiles who want to rape me, machine elves, fear.
Publishers Weekly calls it
"Powerful… Almond is drawing on his own experiences as a fan to illustrate how difficult the problem, which provides the book with an engaging personal angle that will lure readers who are mature enough to hear him out whether they agree with his conclusions… An important read, even if as Almond concedes, it offers more questions than answers."
And Kirkus Reviews says
“A provocative, thoughtful examination of an ’astonishingly brutal’ sport… Comic, compassionate and thought-provoking.”
Monologue topics: football, fandom, non-fans, football as a lens through which to view the wider culture.
"Jones demonstrates a tightrope-like eye for finagling between Pynchon-esque quasi-science-fictional feels and the books' physics, allowing almost anything to happen at any time, wrapped in a Wallace-like grip of childlike awe. The result is a novel that, paragraph to paragraph, is alive with imagination. Crystal Eaters is the rarest of kinds of objects, one that replenishes its readers' crystal counts by simply being read."
And The Millions says
"Crystal Eaters is splattered with Technicolor crystal vomit and eye goo, with bodies leaking red, yellow, and blue; the sun wants to swallow the earth; and the indestructible city encroaches on the country like kudzu. This crystal mining country is Jones’s own Yoknapatawpha County, a town with its own peculiar inhabitants and notions and schemes (such as a prison break in reverse). These fantastical trappings give way to deeper questions — about death, the nature of life, of what it takes to be remembered after you die."
Monologue topics: mail, emotionally satisfying mail.
Aimee Bender is the guest. She is the bestselling author of several books, including The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and The Color Master.
The LA Times says
"Bender’s work has never been the stuff of manic pixie dream-girl lit. Her fairy tales are dark and wicked, not hipster-precious and faux old-timey. Her sorcery altogether avoids the saccharine, and the thrills and chills of this sometimes sexual, often horror-drenched collection are completely adult. At a time when realism reigns supreme over the literary landscape, one can argue it is absolutely imperative that Aimee Bender be spotlighted for what she is: a vital MVP of modern letters, period…In our world of flash-and-trash insta-Internet-oddities and stranger-than-fiction social-media-bloopers, she will have surpassed the simple feat of inventiveness to own a most dazzlingly urgent relevancy."
And The Wall Street Journal says
“The fairy-tale elements in her writing, far from seeming outlandish, highlight the everyday nature of her characters’ flaws and struggles. In Ms. Bender’s stories and novels, relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities.”
Monologue topics: Episode 300, thank you.
Dan Chaon is the guest. He is the acclaimed author of several books, including the story collection Among the Missing, a finalist for the National Book Award, Stay Awake, and You Remind Me of Me.
The Boston Globe calls him
"The modern day John Cheever."
And the New York Times Book Review calls his work
Monologue topics: complaining, Twitter, robots, simplicity, second-guessing.
Stuart Dybek is the guest. He is the award-winning author of several books of fiction and poetry, including Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, Streets in Their Own Ink, and I Sailed With Magellan.
George Saunders says
"[Stuart Dybek] somehow manages to conjure up beautiful, detailed imitations of real America, and then infuse them with so much surreal truth that they read like myths or fairy tales. Like the Chicago he often writes about, his work is full of genuine sentiment, and edge, and beauty. One of the most soulful writers in America, and a national treasure."
And the Chicago Tribune calls him
"A magician comparable to Eudora Welty and Joy Williams."
Monologue topics: Episode 300, wondering if it means anything, writing in coffee shops, guilt.
Edwidge Danticat raves
“Reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby, you can’t help but feel that one day this book will be considered a staple of our literature, a classic. Lush, deep, momentous, much like the people and landscape it describes, Ruby enchants not just with its powerful tale of lifelong quests and unrelenting love, but also with its exquisite language. It is a treasure of a book, one you won’t soon forget.”
And the Dallas Morning News says
"In Ruby, Bond has created a heroine worthy of the great female protagonists of Toni Morrison…and Zora Neale Hurston… Bond’s style of writing is as magical as an East Texas sunrise, with phrases so deftly carved, the reader is often distracted from the brutality described by the sheer beauty of the language.”
Monologue topics: mail, war, peace, duality, mocking myself.
Jesse Ball says
"To Jemc the world is a place where each person, every human cypher, must devour another. What then can we do, if we are devoured, if we are overcome with our own devouring? Her escape plan is inspired and ancient -- to become protean, to dwell in costume after costume, parcelling away the truth that can be found in each. But where is it hid? Ask her, though she may not say."
And Lindsay Hunter says
"Jac Jemc is an artisan. A Different Bed Every Time stays with you long after you've finished reading. Every story is painstakingly crafted with words and imagery that are honed and placed just so, creating a mosaic you feel grateful, exhilarated, thrilled to experience."
Monologue topics: awards shows, the word "lil," humanity, world peace, fuckedness.
Kirkus Reviews says
"Trent’s years as a poet serve her well in this heavily atmospheric novel, which deftly conjures up both evil and the small town’s complicit reluctance to face its past."
And Kyle Minor says
"Echo Lake is more than just a good debut novel. It is the coming-out party for Letitia Trent, the new poet-queen of neo-noir."
Monologue topics: awards shows, celebrities, awkwardness, The Dude, Jeff Bridges.
Leesa Cross-Smith is the guest. Her debut story collection Every Kiss a War is now available from Mojave River Press. It was a finalist for the Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award and the Iowa Short Fiction Award.
Roxane Gay says
“Leesa Cross-Smith is a consummate storyteller who uses her formidable talents to tell the oft-overlooked stories of people living in that great swath of place between the left and right coasts. She offers thrilling turns of phrase like, 'His mouth tasted like thousand-page Russian novels I’d never read,' or 'let your smeary mouth be his question mark.' Where she is most stunning is in the endings of each of the 27 stories in Every Kiss a War, creating crisp, evocative moments that will linger long after you’ve read this book’s very last word.”
Monologue topics: mail, friends, IRL communities, fostering connectivity, being social.
Melissa Broder says
“In this hilarious novel, Morissette meditates on finding and making meaning in a time when distractions coalesce to form the new and glossy void. The deconstruction of regrets, an email with feelings and the screaming universe cement Morissette as both a master of the absurd and a seer of the real. I lol’d.”
And Dazed and Confused calls him
"Canada's Alt Lit poster boy."
Monologue topics: being late, rushing, being unprepared, Alt Lit initiation, Frank Hinton's genitals.
The Millions says
"When a group of thirty-something parents gather at a ramshackle beach house called Eden, no serpent is required for the sins, carnal and otherwise, to pile up. Fierro, founder of Brooklyn's Sackett Street Writers' Workshop, argued in The Millions last year that writers need to put the steam--and the human sentiment--back into sex scenes in literary novels. You may want to keep Fierro's debut novel on a high shelf, away from children and prudish literary snobs."
And Megan Abbott says
"Julia Fierro’s Cutting Teeth offers immense rewards to readers far beyond those who will identify with the frantic, conflicted, yearning parents who fill the novel (though many will). It’s for any reader seeking a tale rich in character, strong in voice and filled with both incisive social critique and a luminous generosity of spirit, a rare combination indeed."
Monologue topics: mail, Labor Day, childbirth.
Kirkus Reviews calls it
“An impressive collection, cleareyed and penetrating.”
And Booklistcalls it
"Intensely readable, and enormously entertaining.”
Monologue topics: vacation, relaxation, terrifying hippies, chickens, dancing white women, Coldplay.
Ron Charles of The Washington Post calls it
“The best book I’ve read so far this year...Henderson choreographs these parts so masterfully that the novel is never less than wholly engaging… All week I was looking for opportunities to slip back into these pages and follow the trials of this rural social worker.”
And The New York Times says
“First novels don’t come much more confidently written or fully imagined than this.”
Monologue topics: travel, family travel, parental aspirations, travel hell.