Bud Smith is the guest. His new novel, F 250, is available now from Piscataway House.
I did a reading with Bud here in Los Angeles earlier this summer. He was kind enough to invite me. Ben Loory, Mira Gonzalez, and xTx also read. The next day Bud came over and we sat down and talked. What strikes me about him is that his path to writing is different from most everyone I know in literature. Different and the same, I guess. The word "refreshing" comes to mind. By day he works as a boilermaker. He writes his novels on his iPhone, typing with his thumbs, during his lunchbreaks and whanot. He doesn't get too neurotic about it. We discuss all of this in the interview, and more. Bud is a good one. He has the right attitude.
In today's monologue, I talk about the birth of my son, River, who arrived on July 21st, a few hours after I recorded my last episode. Hard to put it into words, especially since I'm so sleep-deprived, but I give it a shot. Let's just say it's been a great week for my family, and I want to thank those of you who wrote/tweeted/Facebooked your good wishes. Really appreciate it, you guys. Means a lot to me.
Jim Gavin is the guest. His story collection, Middle Men, is available now from Simon & Schuster.
Jim is another in a long line of Catholic (and recovering Catholic) authors who have appeared on this program, a completely accidental trend that was pointed out to me by listener Nick Ripatrazone, who wrote about it in an essay over at The Millions. Jim and I talk Catholicism—as a child he wanted to be a priest—and we get into other stuff as well, including how he managed to get one of his stories published in The New Yorker.
The monologue today is short and sweet. It looks like my wife is beginning to go into labor. I talk about it. That doesn't mean the baby is hours from being born—though this could be the case. It's up in the air. I might have over-shared. I'm not sure. It's debatable. Let me know.
Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez are the guests. Their new book, Selected Tweets, is available now from Short Flight / Long Drive. (Please note that Tao has written an addendum/clarification to the content of this episode; it is posted below.1 Also: listeners who would like to weigh in on this or any episode can email me here. I may feature your responses in a future episode.)
Selected Tweets, as its title suggests, is a collection of Tao and Mira's tweets. It's not all of their tweets; it's an edited selection, published in a little black bible-like volume. For those of you who might be doubting the literary value of the book, I would suggest considering it as a work of poetry, though it feels like more than a work of poetry. In the aggregate, I suppose it reads like a kind of memoir-poetry hybrid or something. Maybe it's its own thing. It's kind of a jokebook, too. Both Mira and Tao are funny writers.
In the monologue, I talk about Tao and Mira's arrival at my house and the shopping bag that Tao brought, and a conversation that he and I had about a tree in my backyard. I also talk about Twitter.
1 Statement from Tao Lin: During the interview, I think Brad Listi might have asked me if Ellen and I used to talk about rape in a joking kind of way, and I think I may have said "yes". I remember feeling myself cringe when I said that, knowing it wasn’t what I meant. What I wish I had said, and what is true, is: "No, we did not ever joke about rape. What we joked about had to do solely with the somewhat absurd and, in a black humor sort of way, comical fact that the meanings for 'statutory rape' and 'rape' which both abbreviate to 'rape' are extremely different—one is based on age and state/area and is always consensual, the other is based on violence and is internationally defined and is never consensual. Our jokes had something to do about this fact, which I think on some level we felt could/should be pointed out so that we and other people can be more aware of it and therefore reduce the amount of possible distortion it (and other random unideal usages of language in society today) can have on their realities. We didn’t joke about rape itself which we both, I think, did not view as something at all funny, but we did joke about the term/words 'statutory rape' and the word 'rape' and how it’s kind of unfortunate and misleading that these two similar terms reference two very different crimes. For an idea of how Ellen (now E.R.) and I used to communicate, the language and tone we used, I recommend reading hikikomori, a book of letters we wrote together and and to each other in 2007." I would also like to point out that the only kind of rape that could possibly not be "horrific rape", as Jezebel misreported in their headline before correcting it to "statutory rape", is statutory rape between two people in a long-term romantic relationship, which is the accusation they were writing about. Finally, here is a link to some of E.R. Kennedy’s tweets that were mentioned in the interview.
And, one other thing I would like to mention—as an example of how articles, written solely for hits and rushed to publication, can be misleading and, it seems to me, harmful and counterproductive for everyone involved—is New York Magazine's online article about this, which was probably, in my view, the most considered and earnest article about this from mainstream media, published just four days after Jezebel's article. In it, the writer misreported (by accepting what Jezebel had posted as fact) that I "threatened legal action" against E.R. Kennedy. I emailed the writer (we were acquaintances—she had talked to me before when reporting on this, for example) saying so and to thank her for her calm, (relatively) careful reporting, and she responded that she would see if she could add a clarification or soften the language of "threatened legal action". (It was changed to "considered legal action" which still isn't true—the idea of me suing E.R. seems ridiculous and completely undesirable to me, though suing Jezebel was something I considered.) She also responded that there was a version of her article that mentioned my support for consequential personal writing from women, including my own subjects and exes, and that it was "a shame" that that information didn’t make it to the final draft. She said the conversation had been "flattened and warped" and hoped it wouldn't discourage me in my future support of women. I think it could be useful to everyone involved, and anyone who cares about reducing prejudice and increasing equality, especially between women and men, in the world, to know that this is what happens with articles that you read online that have been rushed to publication and serve purposes other than truth. Editors and writers, even at New York Magazine and even when space is not an issue (the article was posted online), flatten and distort reality, thereby manipulating and deceiving their readers. Why do they do this? I think this is an interesting, crucial, and serious question to consider, and one whose answers could be helpful for everyone to keep in mind when reading articles. Flattening and distorting is less of an issue, I think, in books, which often incorporate years of calm consideration and research—something to keep in mind.
Had such a fun time talking with Lidia. It was one of those conversations that could've easily gone longer. She's just a great person to have a conversation with, especially when you're talking about things like books and art and life and death and writing, and so on. She's been through some stuff. She's written her way through some stuff. She's very generous in sharing what's on her mind and in her heart. I think you guys will really enjoy hearing from her. I always do.
In the monologue I talk about my daughter, a recent hike we took, and a question that she asked me out of the blue. It involves incarceration.
Chet Weise is the guest. He is the editor and co-founder of Third Man Books, based in Nashville, TN.
Third Man is a young indie press, and if you've listened to this podcast for any amount of time, you probably know that I'm a fan of the indies and feel like a lot of our best and most interesting literature is produced on the periphery. Third Man is unique, an offshoot of what started as a record label founded by a major rock star. What are these guys doing out in Nashville? I wanted to know. Chet was kind enough to talk with me.
The monologue involves listener mail and is, to a degree, an extension of the monologue from Episode 366. I read a letter from a listener named Keegan, who has a question involving David Foster Wallace, and then I read a letter from a listener named Clay, who survived a terrible car accident, was severely injured, almost died, and then had what he describes as "a flash of liberating brilliance."
David L. Ulin is the guest. He is the book critic for the Los Angeles Times, a Guggenheim fellow, and the author of Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, due out from the University of California Press in October. You can pre-order it now.
I've been reading David for years in the LA Times and had the pleasure of meeting him this past winter during a residency in Palm Desert. His new book deals with a subject we have in common: the city of Los Angeles, a city notoriously difficult to wrap one's head around. David, though, does it masterfully, shining a light on LA's strange beauty, little idiosyncrasies, and big contradictions.
In the monologue, I talk about my complete lack of imagination and tendency toward very thinly veiled autobiographical work, and I ponder my decision to read a sex scene in front of people at a local bookstore.
Maggie Shipstead is the guest. She is the author of the novels Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements, both of which are available from Vintage Contemporaries.
Maggie is one of those people who seems to be doing everything right. Harvard. Iowa Writers Workshop. Stegner Fellow. Her first novel was a critically acclaimed national bestseller. Her second novel, many say, is even better. We talk about all of this. I try to get answers out of her. How did she do it? How was she raised? Is it nature? Is it nurture? How does a person turn out to be so accomplished, and at such a young age?
In the monologue, I talk about an episode from last night at around 2 a.m. I woke up and my wife was doing some Lamaze breathing. She had some sort of abdominal contraction, some sort of cramping, and the pain was so bad it woke her up from a dead sleep. And so then there I am, in the dark, trying to process this, trying to decide whether or not I should call the gynecologist (or 911). Fun stuff. Late stage pregnancy. We're getting down to the wire over here. (All is well, by the way. The cramping went away. No home births...yet...)