"Luna creates an array of complex characters caught up in emotions, relationships and situations far from the ordinary as they examine their commitment to their merged family and explore their own ideals and expectations. Enlightening and marked by inventive subject matter, intense reflection and stark eloquence."
And Bust magazine raves
"The characters are superbly flawed, and Luna expertly leads us through their vastly different psyches and makes us understand them, even if we don't always sympathize. But just as much as it is a novel of characters, The Revolution of Every Day is the story of a city that's struggling with gentrification, as Cat puts it, 'All the way back to the Dutch and the Indians, yeah?'"
Monologue topics: J.D. Salinger, WWII, weird life sandwiches.
Don DeLillo says
"It's fine work in its manic pacing and its summoning of certain cultural emblems. Present tense with a vengeance. I hope the book finds the serious readers who are out there waiting for this kind of fiction to hit them in the face."
And Dennis Cooper says
"Jeff Jackson is one of the most extraordinarily gifted young writers I've read in a very long time. His strangely serene yet gripping, unsettling, and beautifully rendered novel Mira Corpora has within it all the earmarks of an important new literary voice."
Monologue topics: BuzzFeed, lists, sensationalism, Room 32, D.R. Haney
The Los Angeles Times raves
"Lethem is as ambitious as Mailer, as funny as Philip Roth and as stinging as Bob Dylan...Dissident Gardens shows Lethem in full possession of his powers as a novelist, as he smoothly segues between historical periods and internal worlds...Erudite, beautifully written, wise, compassionate, heartbreaking and pretty much devoid of nostalgia."
And Booklist, in a starred review, says
"Lethem extends his stylistically diverse, loosely aligned, deeply inquiring saga of New York City (Motherless Brooklyn, 1999; The Fortress of Solitude, 2003; Chronic City, 2009) with a richly saturated, multigenerational novel about a fractured family of dissidents headquartered in Queens...Lethem is breathtaking in this torrent of potent voices, searing ironies, pop-culture allusions, and tragicomic complexities. He shreds the folk scene, eviscerates quiz shows, pays bizarre tribute to Archie Bunker, and offers unusual perspectives on societal debates and tragic injustices. A righteous, stupendously involving novel about the personal toll of failed political movements and the perplexing obstacles to doing good."
Monologue topics: travel, the flu, walking, the homeless guy who asked me for my email address
“Claire of the Sea Light reads like the work of a writer eager to create another world . . . A sense of the possibilities is tangible, where Danticat delves into parenting, revenge, reconciliation and remorse. Claire Limyè Lanmè is the daughter of a widower who is mulling whether or not to let someone else raise his daughter. In this small town, other mothers and fathers are working through reconciling their feelings about parenthood while readers experience a day in her life. Simultaneously, Danticat masterfully weaves in necessary parts of the past.”
And Time Out New York calls it
Monologue topics: mail, corrections, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lucille Ball.
Curtis Sittenfeld is the guest. She is the bestselling author of the novels Prep and American Wife, and her new book, Sisterland, is now available in hardcover and ebook from Random House. The paperback edition is due out in Spring 2014.
The Boston Globe raves
“The power of [Sittenfeld’s] writing and the force of her vision challenge the notion that great fiction must be hard to read. She is a master of dramatic irony, creating fully realized social worlds before laying waste to her heroines’ understanding of them...Her prose [is] a rich delight.”
And The New York Times calls it
“Psychologically vivid...Sittenfeld’s gifts for portraying the inner lives of her heroines [bring Sisterland] closer, in terms of emotional chiaroscuro, to two classics about pairs of sisters, The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett and The Easter Parade by Richard Yates...Sisterland is a testament to the author’s growing depth and assurance as a writer.”
Monologue topics: excerpts of my old journal entries, letters, my twenties, How to Fail.
Tom Perrotta is the guest. He is the author of several acclaimed works of fiction, including Election, Little Children, The Abstinence Teacher, and The Leftovers. His new story collection, Nine Inches, is now available from St. Martin's.
Kirkus, in a starred review, says
"The acclaimed novelist displays perfect tonal pitch in this story collection, as nobody explores the darker sides of suburbia with a lighter touch."
And Publishers Weekly raves
"Told with wit and grace, Perrotta's story collection lays bare the shifting relationships we all suffer and seldom comprehend, presenting characters who are ambushed by the hidden intentions of people they thought they knew."
Monologue topics: mail, adderall, voicemail, sad and deranged listeners, Brad song, MFAs, student loans, the writing disease.
Jesmyn Ward says
"I know these characters well: Champ with his swagger and invincibility, doing all he can to protect his fiercely beating heart. Grace, held together with polish and a prayer, trying to make a way when there isn’t one. Both of them longing, for a better life, a clear path out of their predicaments. I know the language they speak: voices redolent of struggle and the South displaced to our country’s far northwestern corner: Portland, Oregon. A wrenchingly beautiful debut by a writer to be reckoned with, The Residue Years marks the beginning of a most promising career."
And Amy Hempel says
"In this raw heartwreck of a novel, every bit of personal wisdom is hard-won. Here is Grace, mother of Champ: 'Some people are latecomers to themselves, but who we are will soon enough surround us.' It's a searing claim and prophecy about lives severely tested. The author is entirely persuasive, such that Grace and her sons, given vivid voice, are one of the fictional families I have cared about most."
Monologue topics: my adderall experiment, writing, juicing, Dumbo's feather, mild paranoia.
Elizabeth Crane says
"Roy Kesey's stories in Any Deadly Thing are perfect, masterful portraits of an international cross-section of wise, broken souls—hopeful, brutal, funny as hell, and heart-crushing, every last one."
And San Diego City Beat raves
"Most short-story writers are like baseball pitchers. The really good ones have four or five different pitches, but most only have two or three that they've perfected and go to over and over again. Kesey is more like a five-tool outfielder: He can do it all. In Any Deadly Thing, he collects stories about lovable losers, tales of hardscrabble redemption, experimental fiction, Bosnian war stories and expat tales set in Beijing apartments and Peruvian jungles. There's no limit to the man's imagination."
Monologue topics: mail, focusing the podcast on writing, Molly Ringwald, digressions, fame, voicemail, rapping, blushing.
Cal Morgan is the guest. He is a senior vice president and executive editor at the Harper division of HarperCollins, where he is also the editorial director for Harper Perennial and Harper Paperbacks.
Monologue topics: voicemail, animal rights, vegetarianism, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Miley Cyrus, the cultural conversation, the show's format.
Kathleen Hanna raves
"This book is fucking great. There is a story in it called ‘PANDA AMBULANCE!!!’ How is Beth Lisick not as famous as David Sedaris?”
And Matthew Zapruder says
"These short pieces, which at first seem casually constructed and connected, are immediately funny, ironic, personable, embarrassing and oddly appealing. Yet quickly they accumulate into deep emotional resonance. Just a few pages in and I was totally involved with the struggles of this clearly talented, hilariously confused person to be better in her own weird antic backassward ways. Full of indelible phrases (Panda Ambulance!) and painfully irrefutable observations about art, crappy jobs, friendship, wealth, sex, hygiene, booze, motherhood, and so many other things, this book is basically the inverse of those sappy self-discovery memoirs that inevitably arc into hard earned wisdom and self-discovery. This writer has the courage to stay in difficult places, and therefore be truer to life. I laughed and cringed and cared more and more. Thank you, Beth Lisick, it was and continues to be worth all the struggles."
Monologue topics: voicemail, Felicity, funny books, Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner, beets, Gore Vidal.
“Not since Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers knocked New York society on its heels with its thinly fictionalized revelations of real players who had thought the author was their friend has a book so riled a city’s upper echelons.”
And The Financial Times says
“Like a modern-day Balzac to US capital power players….hilarious….perceptive.”
Monologue topics: mail, Max Millwood, voicemail, three-ways.
Tom Bissell says
“Peter Orner is a true writers’ writer, which is to say a writer writers complain to writers about readers not reading. His novel The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (a title, one senses, Orner had to fight hard to retain) ranks high among the best works of fiction about Africa ever written by an American, and his collection Esther Stories contains work to rival that of David Means and Tobias Wolff. Orner’s latest collection, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, is bundled into four sections and includes more than fifty pieces of fiction…Imagine Brief Interviews with Hideous Men written by Alice Munro.”
And Booklist says
"Orner is an undisputed master of the short short story."
Monologue topics: feedback, Max Millwood, Gregory Sherl, the show's format, my dullness and incompetence
Kirkus Reviews raves
“Don’t Kiss Me, Hunter’s second short story collection, is a bold, haunting, and beautiful observation of lives lived outside the scope of the mainstream . . . Hunter near-effortlessly captures the hopes, fears, realizations, regrets, and desires of the uglier, more taboo, and misunderstood side of humanity. Though their worlds may be sordid, Hunter manages to infuse her misfits with incredible amounts of empathy and humor. Instead of repulsed, we often find ourselves rooting from the sidelines. And it’s hard not to voraciously ingest all 26 stories in Don’t Kiss Me, given their breakneck pace, raw emotion, and Hunter’s own propensity for language that pops but never fizzles . . . [Don’t Kiss Me] is transgressive without being navel-gazing, confrontational without being aggressive. But above all, it contains a whole lot of Hunter’s bloody, beating heart.”
And Publishers Weekly says
“Overall these stories land with a wet slap—messy and confrontational. They demand your horrified attention, and they reward it with exaggerated and irresistible humanity.”
Monologue topics: voicemail, mail.
The Huffington Post raves
"The problem with post-confessionalism is that its most uninspired iterations have been sprinkled across America for the past quarter-century; that is, the problem with post-confessionalism isn't post-confessionalism, it's post-confessionalists. No longer: Gregory Sherl is the post-confessionalist we've been looking for, which is to say that there's nothing smarmy, self-important, or false about these poems or this poet. Sherl is that rare author who can speak earnestly about the vagaries, pleasures, and discouragements of living and still charm your pants off. You'll enjoy walking around his head a bit, I guarantee."
And Rain Taxi says
"...Sherl has written a book full of love and surprising emotional power."
Monologue topics: facial hair, signifiers, head scarves, hard-won truth, wisdom, messiah complexes, author photos.
The New York Times Book Review raves
"The collecting mania that Susan Orlean has so painstakingly described is, like the orchid, a small thing of grandeur, a passion with a pedigree...Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detailed and full of empathy for a person you might not have thought about empathetically...The Orchid Thief shows her gifts in full bloom."
And Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, says
"I adored [Rin Tin Tin]. It weaves history, war, show business, humanity, wit, and grace into an incredible story about America, the human-animal bond, and the countless ways we would be lost without dogs by our sides, on our screens, and in our books. This is the story Susan Orlean was born to tell—it's filled with amazing characters, reporting, and writing."
Monologue topics: Episode 200, spreading the word, thank you.
Kate Christensen raves
"With zingy, hilarious glee, Peter Mattei takes a sharp stick and pokes it at many deserving underbellies: the puffery of corporate America; hipsters, yoga dudes, and the general pretentiousness of north Brooklyn; and many more. The Deep Whatsis is a provocative, darkly subversive, deeply satisfying novel."
And Publishers Weekly calls it
"[A] morbidly satiric look at corporate culture at the crossroads of art and consumerism...Mattei serves up a rampant critique of haute New York society."
Monologue topics: screenwriting, when comedy is received as tragedy, film school, humiliation
The New York Times Book Review raves
"Megan Abbott has [written]...The Great American Cheerleading Novel, and—stop scowling—it's spectacular.... Subversive stuff... Heathers meets Fight Club good."
And Entertainment Weekly calls it
"A psychologically astute thriller...Abbott's latest is not only a page-turning mystery—it's also a close look at teen girls' ferocious rivalries and intense bonds."
Monologue topics: mail, feminism, Adelle Waldman, Episode 195.
Lauren Groff, bestselling author of Arcadia, raves
"When It Happens to You is absolutely lovely, a smart, emotionally sophisticated, intricately dovetailed novel of stories. World, I'm telling you now: Molly Ringwald is the real deal."
And Kirkus calls it
"A beautiful exploration of how the heart's irrational responses to love and betrayal can stand in the way of forgiveness... Ringwald deftly weaves together the threads of these stories, creating a tapestry that captures the emotional landscape of both young and well-worn relationships."
Monologue topics: over-thinking things, Sixteen Candles, Anthony Michael Hall, Farmer Ted, near disasters.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
“A teenager comes of age and grapples with the heavy burdens of family secrets against the backdrop of the 19th Century New England whaling industry in this beautifully written, playful and intricate debut novel. Clark creates evocative descriptions . . . making her images and encounters between people especially vivid.”
And The Millions says
"The Rathbones is the most sui generis debut you’re likely to encounter this year. Think Moby-Dick directed by David Lynch from a screenplay by Gabriel Garcia Marquez…with Charles Addams doing the set design and The Decembrists supplying the chanteys. Clark writes a beautiful prose line, and the story, like the ocean, gets deeper, richer, and stranger the farther out you go.”
Monologue topics: bikes, LA, tourist vans, celebrity sightings, mistakes.
Jess Walter calls it
“A smart, engaging 21st-century comedy of manners in which the debut novelist Adelle Waldman crawls convincingly around inside the head of one Nathaniel (Nate) Piven. [She shows] herself to be . . . a savvy observer of human nature . . . . terrific at describing the halting miscommunications of a relationship. Nate’s self-destructive moodiness and reverse-engineered justifications are especially well drawn; his shallow pick-a-fight thoughts may even be painfully familiar.”
And Katie Roiphe, writing for Slate, says
"We have lately heard ad infinitum the new sensitive literary man’s account of his life and times... what we haven’t yet heard enough of is the smart literary woman’s view of him. With Adelle Waldman’s funny, provocative satire, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., we have a valuable new anthropology of the type. In a debut novel told from his point of view, Waldman deftly skewers the new literary man... with his stylish torment, his self-seriousness, his dangerous admixture of grandiosity and insecurity, and old fashioned condescension toward women gussied up as sensitivity, his maddening irony, his very specific way of treating people badly while worrying about liberal politics.... [An] excellent funny novel."
Monologue topics: poem, Michael Earl Craig, Primitive Men.
Booklist, in a starred review, calls it
“A dramatic, thoroughgoing investigation of the complexities of sexuality and gender.... A warmly human coming-of-age story, thanks to the fact that Max is such an appealing character. And so his desperate search for identity is gripping, emotionally engaging, and genuinely unforgettable.”
And Emily St. John Mandel says
“Abigail Tarttelin is a fearless writer. In Golden Boy, she balances a harrowing coming of age with a deeply compassionate portrait of a family in crisis, and the result is sometimes brutal, often tender, and always compelling. This is a gripping and fully-realized novel.”Monologue topics: politics, media, money, Washington DC, power, This Town, dystopia, depression.
Nick Antosca is the guest. A staff writer on the upcoming NBC show Believe, helmed by J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón, he is also the author of several books, the most recent of which is a story collection called The Girlfriend Game, available now from Word Riot Press.
Peter Straub says
"These lovely stories float out to us from a long, dark alley-way where Franz Kafka and Bruno Schultz are mugging Ray Bradbury.... Nick Antosca has reached a level of blissful mastery."
And Publishers Weekly says
"Antosca's scalpel dissects love, family, and illusions of morality in this brutal and often uncomfortably sexual collection. Combining scathing horror and psychological realism, these 12 vivisections of the inhuman condition marry stinging social commentary with psychological horror... Horror's expected icons are replaced by neighbors and families, with relationships being the monsters... This literate, thoughtful horror will inspire long-lasting unease."
Monologue topics: addicition, moral ambiguity, the vastness of space, dark mystery.
Time magazine calls it
"A gutsy attempt by a young, female author to embody a wholly unsympathetic female narrator and probe the question of whether society lets women essentially get away with crimes for which men are excoriated."
And Salon says
"It may be the summer’s best beach read — that is, if you ditch the disconcertingly woolly black velour dust jacket, and make sure your kids aren’t peeking over your shoulder. ...Beyond mere titillation, Tampa gets at fundamental questions: What are the limits of reader empathy? If an individual we’d view as an unrepentant criminal explains her twisted thought process, are we complicit if we keep reading? And is an adult woman seducing a young male student — with its air of 'hot for teacher' fantasy — meaningfully different from male pedophilia?"
Monologue topics: listener feedback, closing thoughts on the 'lovely and talented' debate.
The New York Times Book Review raves
"You Are One of Them is a hugely absorbing first novel from a writer with a fluid, vivid style and a rare knack for balancing the pleasure of entertainment with the deeper gratification of insight. More, please.”
And Darin Strauss says
“Elliott Holt is not just a promising writer, but a great writer. She’s young, and she’s a master. I was going to write that You Are One of Them could’ve been written by an Alice Munro or a Susan Minot, but that would be wrong. Because this book could only have been written by Elliott Holt, whose powerful new voice is her own.”
Monologue topics: lovely and talented, sexism, feminism, TNB Book Club.
Patricia Geary says
“I’m a huge fan of Carswell’s fiction: he’s intelligent, hilarious, incisive, and his ear for dialogue is extraordinary. Nevertheless, I found Madhouse Fog to be a geometric progression of his talent—besides being compelling and wonderfully strange (I lost sleep over it; it’s a damn hard book to put down), it is the epitome of literary sophistication. I loved this novel!”
And Scott O'Connor says
“Sean Carswell is full of surprises. He’s funny, frightening, madcap, philosophical. His writing has a real warmth of spirit, and the kind of deft observation that changes the way you see things long after you leave the page.”
Monologue topics: Amazon, Apple, Big 5 publishers, the future of publishing, the business of publishing, paranoia.