Celeste Ng is the guest. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, is now available from Penguin.
The New York Times Book Review says
"If we know this story, we haven’t seen it yet in American fiction, not until now… Ng has set two tasks in this novel’s doubled heart—to be exciting, and to tell a story bigger than whatever is behind the crime. She does both by turning the nest of familial resentments into at least four smaller, prickly mysteries full of secrets the family members won’t share… What emerges is a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle. This is, in the end, a novel about the burden of being the first of your kind—a burden you do not always survive."
And the LA Times calls it
"[A]n accomplished debut... It's also heart-wrenching. Ng deftly pulls together the strands of this complex, multigenerational novel. Everything I Never Told You is an engaging work that casts a powerful light on the secrets that have kept an American family together — and that finally end up tearing it apart."
Monologue topics: Halloween, costume parties, ebola, comedy, missed opportunities.
Mira Jacob is the guest. Her debut novel, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, is now available from Random House.
Kirkus, in a starred review, says
"Comparisons of Jacob to Jhumpa Lahiri are inevitable; Lahiri may be more overtly profound, Jacob more willing to go for comedy, but both write with naked honesty about the uneasy generational divide among Indians in America and about family in all its permutations.”
And the Boston Globe calls it
“Beautifully wrought, frequently funny, gently heartbreaking . . . Moving forward and back in time, Jacob balances comedy and romance with indelible sorrow, and she is remarkably adept at tonal shifts. When her plot springs surprises, she lets them happen just as they do in life: blindsidingly right in the middle of things.”
Monologue topics: mail, scripts, the emotional demands this podcast places on me, outtakes, ebola, The Fear, end times, zombie apocalypse.
Tod Goldberg is the guest. His new novel Gangsterland is now available from Counterpoint Press.
Kirkus, in a starred review, says
“Clearly influenced by the great Elmore Leonard, Goldberg puts his own dry comic spin on the material…Clever plotting, a colorful cast of characters, and priceless situations make this comedic crime novel an instant classic.”
And Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"Goldberg injects Talmudic wisdom and a hint of Springsteen into the workings of organized crime and FBI investigative techniques and makes it all work splendidly."
Monologue topics: bothersome phrases, I wish there was something I could do.
Steph Cha is the guest. Her new novel, Beware Beware, is available now from Minotaur Books.
The Los Angeles Times says
“Before this cautionary tale is over, secrets will be revealed, lies within lies told, more people injured or killed and Song's core values compromised in ways that will have psychological reverberations for years, and books, to come. Nathanael West and Raymond Chandler would be proud.”
And Publishers Weekly says
“Engaging… Song soon becomes caught in a complex plot involving deception, betrayal, and revenge. Cha follows noir conventions, with Daphne as femme fatale and Song forced into morally ambiguous choices, but she also offers a plucky heroine, warm secondary characters, and a vivid portrait of L.A.’s Koreatown.”
Monologue topics: mail, the monologue to Episode 318.
Merritt Tierce is the guest. Her debut novel Love Me Back is now available from Doubleday.
The Oxford American says
“What’s so compelling about this compulsively readable yet highly literary novel is not the 'unflinching' depiction of Marie’s behavior—though it’s crafted so carefully that readers want to consume each detail—but instead the beautifully plain and unsentimental access Tierce gives us to her protagonist’s interior…How rare it is to find a writer who can encapsulate a character’s sweeping motivation in a page or paragraph or single sentence…Tierce’s magnetic portrayal of a woman whose behavior is conventionally allowed only of men announces Tierce as a writer we’ve been waiting for for much too long."
And Carrie Brownstein says
“Tierce's prose possesses the force, bluntness and surprise of a sucker punch. Love Me Back is an unflinching and galvanic novel full of heart and heartache; one of my favorite books of the last few years.”
Monologue topics: the darkness of the past week, literary media, Ed Champion, Stephen Tully Dierks, Tao Lin, Emily Gould, Porochista Khakpour, Twitter, ambivalence, flailing.
Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton are the guests. They are the editors of the bestselling book Women in Clothes, which features the work of more than 600 authors, including notables like Cindy Sherman, Lena Dunham, Kim Gordon, and Molly Ringwald.
Kirkus Reviews says
“Poems, interviews, pieces that read like diary or journal entries—all these responses help the editors fulfill their aims: to liberate readers from the idea that women have to fit a certain image or ideal, to show the connection between dress and ‘habits of mind,’ and to offer readers ‘a new way of interpreting their outsides.’ ‘What are my values?’ one woman asks. ‘What do I want to express?’ Those questions inform the multitude of eclectic responses gathered in this delightfully idiosyncratic book.”
And Publishers Weekly says
“Thoughtfully crafted and visually entertaining, this collection, edited by Heti, Julavits, and Shapton, uses personal reflections from 642 contributors to examine women’s relationship with clothes in a deceptively lighthearted and irreverent tone….it also inspires meaningful questions…the prose is spliced with striking visuals…[a] provocative time capsule of contemporary womanhood.”
Monologue topics: nerves, confusion, technology, not talking about literary scandal.
Sarah McCarry is the guest. She is the author of several books, and her next novel, About a Girl, is due out from St. Martin's Griffin in the summer of 2015.
Bennett Madison says
"Sarah McCarry's strange and gorgeous punk fairytales make magic accessible and imbue the everyday with the weight of myth."
And Erica Lorraine Scheidt says
"Sarah McCarry is the patron saint of girls on the edge."
Monologue topics: Derek Jeter, envy, confusion, Clay Shirky, Amazon, Big 5 publishers, not knowing what I think about anything, mail.
Courtney Moreno is the guest. Her debut novel, In Case of Emergency, is available now from McSweeney's.
Kirkus Reviews says
"In this emotionally moving, well-written, engaging novel, Moreno strikes a profound balance between the clinical logic of trauma and the personal irrationality of a young woman dealing with her demons."
And The Huffington Post says
"Reminiscent of Leslie Jamison's essay on medical acting in her collection The Empathy Exams, Courtney Moreno's book uses the coping mechanisms she learned while working as an EMT to color her narrator's painful past. Moreno confronts both physical and psychological trauma, expertly blurring the lines between the two."
Monologue topics: bad news, not voting, bad attitude, mail, leotarded.
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.