Dmitry Samarov is the guest. His new memoir, Where To?, is now available from Curbside Splendor.
Rick Kogan calls it
"Funny, touching, observant, philosophical, sad, world-weary, artful and wonderful are the stories that pepper this book. There has never been a cab driver like Dmitry Samarov and, since he's given up for keeps late-night for-hire driving, there never will be."
And Wendy MacNaughton says
"With his gorgeous pen and ink drawings and funny, tragic, and all too true stories, Samarov's chronicle of his adventures as a Chicago taxi driver is by far the best ride you'll ever take in a cab."
Monologue topics: mail, recent episodes.
Dorothea Lasky is the guest. Her latest poetry collection, Rome, is available now from Liveright.
Maggie Nelson says
“Dorothea Lasky is one of the very best poets we've got. Her poems radiate weirdness and raw power; you can feel your mind grow new folds as you read them. They lay waste to milquetoast notions of poetic longing or melancholy, and instead go in for the vibrating, bloody facts of sadness, anger, desire, bare life, all returned to us more intensely, strangely, and sometimes comedically, by her words. The line is Lasky's measure, and she wields it like an axe she's been carrying through several lifetimes, that kind of wisdom. Her Rome is huge and intrepid and perfect, a total gift.”
And Fanny Howe says
“Rome is a trip with the wheels engaged to land at every line ending, then flipped up again. A wholly open-hearted book bringing me back to Bernadette Mayer, Maureen Owen and the suffragettes. True life.”
Monologue topics: holiday gift ideas, support the show, Dorothea reads a poem.
William Giraldi is the guest. His latest novel, Hold the Dark, is now available from Liveright Publishing.
The New York Times Book Review calls it
“[F]ierce, extraordinary…. Hold the Dark is an unnerving and intimate portrayal of nature gone awry. It’s all but bereft of levity, spectacularly violent and exquisitely written.”
And the Boston Globe says
“Maybe it all began with Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock in 1938, but there is a variety of modern thriller, created these days by Robert Stone and Denis Johnson at their best, that delivers narrative thrust and beautifully composed sentences by the pageful even as it peels away the thin membrane that separates entertainment from art, and nature from civilization. Here’s Boston writer William Giraldi adding to the slender ranks of such masterly fiction… [Hold the Dark] certainly stands out as one of the decade’s best books of its kind, and one that deserves, because of its stylish flaunting of some of our darkest fears, a future readership.”
Monologue topics: holiday gift ideas, the holidays, capitalist orgies, bad attitudes.
The New York Times calls it
“Perhaps the finest and most unsentimental love story of the new decade.”
And Joy Williams says
"So much of American fiction has become playful, cynical and evasive. Preparation for the Next Life is the strong antidote to such inconsequentialities. Powerfully realistic, with a solemn, muscular lyricism, this is a very, very good book."
Monologue topics: TNB Book Club, mail, transcribing this podcast, Dear Sugar, advice.
Meghan Daum is the guest. Her new essay collection, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, is available now from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
Hilton Als says
“I think it’s fair to say that I can’t tell you what Meghan Daum’s remarkable book means to me—the exceptional often denies verbalization. Her diverse subject matter aside—Mom, Joni Mitchell, the fetishization of food—it’s Daum’s galvanizing energy that one finds so attractive; nowhere in her work is there evidence of the ‘trance’ that Virginia Woolf said characterized so many women’s lives. Instead, Daum builds her various worlds out of great presence and imagination, and who wouldn’t want to live in her new city?”
And Geoff Dyer says
“The Unspeakable is a fantastic collection of essays: funny, clever, and moving (often at the same time), never more universal than in its most personal moments (in other words, throughout), and written with enviable subtlety, precision, and spring.”
Monologue topics: mail, dead animals, sleep, naps.
Hannah Pittard is the guest. Her new novel is called Reunion, and it is available now from Grand Central Publishing.
Emily St. John Mandel calls it
"A nuanced and intriguing study of family and love, money and debt, failure and success, starring one of the most likeable flawed narrators to come along in some time."
And Publishers Weekly calls it
"Emotionally astute...When this family of sorts gathers in Atlanta for the funeral, there is tension, pain, comedy, and finally, some healing and resolution. Kate is a winning narrator, whose insights into herself and her family keep the pages turning."
Monologue topics: wheat, internet holes, movies, Birdman, Gone Girl.
Bich Minh Nguyen is the guest. Her new novel, Pioneer Girl, is available now from Viking.
The San Francisco Chronicle calls it
"[A] sincere and moving novel... a surprising synthesis of the personal and the public, the intimate and the epic, the historical and the fictional. Nguyen takes two disparate strands of our national mythology and weaves them into a powerful and wholly original American saga."
And Kirkus Reviews says
"Nguyen has a perceptive understanding of the tension between mothers and daughters and the troubling insights to be gained from digging into the past. An unexpected pleasure, with a well-drawn and compelling narrator."
Monologue topics: Las Vegas, pot, gambling, losing, winning, ethics.
Frederick Barthelme is the guest. His latest novel, There Must Be Some Mistake, is available now from Little, Brown & Co.
David Shields says
"Very nearly alone among his peers, Frederick Barthelme has, over the last thirty-five years, written fiction about what it actually feels like to live in contemporary post-religious, hyper-mediated America. And—even more of a rarity—he works hard to find a way to somehow tolerate/celebrate, with enormous subtlety and without an ounce of sentimentality, our bare-bones existence. In There Must Be Some Mistake, Barthelme has distilled his brutal, crucial vision into useable essence."
And Publishers Weekly says
"Barthelme, a master of minimalist suburbia-set fiction, returns with a buoyantly offbeat murder tale that doubles as a meditation on everything from contemporary art to Google to mortality... Throughout the novel, his narration provides punchy, wry commentary on the banality of pop culture, but the tone is, ultimately, infectiously optimistic."
Monologue topics: mail, food, animal rights, Sarah Gerard, not voting, apathy, George Carlin.
Elizabeth McCracken is the guest. Her latest book is a story collection called Thunderstruck & Other Stories, and it is available now from The Dial Press.
The New York Times Book Review says
“Elizabeth McCracken knows how loss can melt reality, forever altering a person’s sense of time....In her new collection, McCracken gives brilliantly splintered life to just that kind of story....The fact that there is nothing depressing about the ubiquity of accident and disaster in Thunderstruck & Other Stories is a powerful testament to the scratchy humor and warm intelligence of McCracken’s writing....Her wisdom and wit have a moral dimension that deepens our sympathy for her straying souls.... [A] restorative, unforgettable collection.”
And Nick Hornby says
“Elizabeth McCracken is one of my favorite writers. Or, to put it another way: I’ve read everything she’s written...and there’s nothing I haven’t liked and admired enormously...She writes with acuity, soul, and a kind of easy grace that probably kills her, about characters she has created to love.... Thunderstruck showcases all the things this remarkable writer is so good at: the eccentric but illuminating metaphors, the deft characterization, the heart-lurching narrative development, the tenderness, the fantastic aphorisms....Anything new by her is an excuse for wild, drunken celebration.”
Monologue topics: mail, Christianity, Jesus, God, confusion.
Sarah Gerard is the guest. Her debut novel, Binary Star, is due out from Two Dollar Radio in January 2015.
Kate Zambreno says
"I felt a breathless intensity the whole time I read Sarah Gerard's brilliant Binary Star. I sped through it, dizzy, devastated, loving all of it."
And Jenny Offill calls it
"A bold, beautiful novel about wanting to disappear and almost succeeding. Sarah Gerard writes about love and loneliness in a new and brilliantly visceral way."
Monologue topics: Legoland, fear, masks, chaos, exhaustion, fire alarms, meth, cops, neighbors, pandemonium.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, calls it
"[A] masterfully told Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey...Set against a backdrop of beauty and danger, this is the moving story of a man coming to terms with his past. In its narrative simplicity and emotional directness, it is reminiscent of John Ford’s classic The Searchers."
And Library Journal, in a starred review, says
"Moving through the High Divide--'the rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers'--even as its characters move through important divides, or turning points, of their own, Enger's novel is told in beautifully exact, liquid language that wastes no time, just as one cannot afford to waste time when making a journey such as the Pope family's. Highly recommended."
Monologue topics: exhaustion, going to the doctor, Legoland, fear, loathing.
Diane Cook is the guest. Her debut story collection, Man V. Nature, is available now from Harper Books.
Tea Obreht says
"Man V. Nature is as close to experiencing a Picasso as literature can get: the worlds in Diane Cook’s impressive debut are bizarre, vertiginous, funny, pushed to the extreme-but just familiar enough in their nuances of the human condition to evoke an irresistible, around-the-corner reality.”
And the Boston Globe says
“Here’s a good rule: If Diane Cook wrote it, read it…Safety is tenuous, if not an illusion, in her thoughtful, unsettling, and darkly funny collection.”
Monologue topics: Kathleen Hale, Blythe Harris, don't feed trolls, Goodreads, stalking.
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.