Mona Simpson says
"Joan Didion prophesied this novel. In an essay called 'Los Angeles Days,' published in 1992 in After Henry, she wrote that 'Californians until recently spoke of the United States beyond Colorado as 'back east'. If they went to New York, they went 'back' to New York, a way of speaking that carried with it the suggestion of living on a distant frontier. Calfiornians of my daughter's generation speak of going 'Out' to New York, a meaningful shift in the perception of one's place in the world.' Specktor's American Dream Machine may be first literature I've read in which Los Angeles is assumed as London is assumed by Dickens and Paris by Proust and New York by a host of twentieth century American writers. There is nothing ironic, ambivalent, or apologetic about Specktor's relationship to Los Angeles—as it is and was, as myth and as a thriving capitol city. Los Angeles provides an animate pulse under the lives of these men and boys, a source of permanence that lends their struggles gravity and monument."
And David Shields raves
"American Dream Machine is the definitive new Hollywood novel. The tone, the pace, the details—everything is just amazingly right. The whole book is charged with the kind of necessity I almost never see in novels anymore. Thrilling."
Monologue topics: being boring, doing things, my neighborhood, my neighbors, Jamon, listener voicemail.
Michael J. Seidlinger is the guest. He is the book reviews editor for Electric Literature and the founder of an independent press called Civil Coping Mechanisms. His latest novel is The Laughter of Strangers, and it is available now from Lazy Fascist Press.
The Los Angeles Times says
"The Laughter of Strangers delivers a combination of psychological horror and strangeness that would not be out of place in a David Lynch film. Seidlinger's weird new fight fiction suggests that perhaps the best place for boxing contests isn't in the ring but between the pages of a book."
And Flavorwire raves
"Michael J. Seidlinger has given us the boxing novel of the year. The Laughter of Strangers is a tough and gritty book that will challenge you page after page, but it is oh so worth it."
Monologue topics: psychological paralysis after reading, chaos, illusion, confusion.
Rachel Cantor is the guest. Her debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, Or, A Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World.
Library Journal says
"Cantor’s novel will be a great hit for fans of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. There’s a lot going on here, and all of it is amusing."
And Jim Crace says
“It’s as if Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino collaborated to write a comic book sci-fi adventure and persuaded Chagall to do the drawings. One of the freshest and mostly lively novels I have encountered for quite a while.”
Monologue topics: Paris, The Lost Generation, having A Moment, getting huge, Bob Dylan, hindsight, ego.
Junot Díaz raves
"I read Als not only because he is utterly extraordinary, which he is, but for the reason one is often drawn to the best writers—because one has a sense that one’s life might depend on them. White Girls is a book, a dream, an enemy, a friend, and, yes, the read of the year."
And John Jeremiah Sullivan says
"Hilton Als’s White Girls...is a leap forward not merely for Als as a writer but for the peculiar American genre of culture-crit-as-autobiography. Its bravery lies in a set refusal to allow itself all sorts of illusions—about race, about sex, about American art—and the subtlety of its thinking is wedded maypole-fashion to a real confessional lyricism [...] Als taught me that I have a lot of white girl in me, too, and so does he. And so do you, is where it gets interesting. If you think that sounds like another blurb-job or post-postmodern twaddle, I defy you to read this book and come away with a mind unchanged."
Monologue topics: drought, fire, climate change, the (likely) dystopian future, Finland.
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Dexter Filkins, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, calls it
“...a tale so extraordinary that at times it seems conjured from a dream; as it unfolds it’s not just Caleb Daniels that comes into focus, but America, too. Jennifer Percy has orchestrated a great narrative about redemption, loss and hope.”
And Esquire magazine calls it
“A powerful debut and a haunting portrait of PTSD, and the effects of war on the psyches of the soldiers who fight and the extreme lengths they'll go to to find relief and heal."
Monologue topics: war, peace, humanity, pacifism, confusion.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, raves
“Beyond the well-crafted coming-of-age narrative, Miller gets every little detail about the South—from the way the sky greens before a storm to gas stations where Hank Williams Jr.’s 'Family Tradition' blares—just right. But it’s Jess’s earnest, searching voice, as she contemplates her parents, the trip, and their values, that lingers after Miller’s story has finished. In Jess, Miller has created a narrator worthy of comparison with those of contemporaries such as Karen Thompson Walker and of greats such as Carson McCullers.”
And Alexis Smith says
“The Last Days of California is the Sense and Sensibility of pre-Apocalypse America, and Jess and Elise may be my new favorite literary sisters: different as night and day, on a road trip to the Rapture with their Evangelical parents, they find they have nothing to lose but each other. Mary Miller is a ventriloquist of adolescent angst and a nervy surveyor of American culture.”
Monologue topics: photos, concretizing the experience for me, where you are, notecards, ventilating my anguish.
Teju Cole, writing for The New Yorker, says
"I found Elisa Gabbert’s The Self Unstable a wonderful surprise. It was the most intelligent and most intriguing thing I’ve read in a while, moving between lyric poetry, aphorism, and memoir, and with thoughts worth stealing on just about every page.”
And Make Magazine says
"Gabbert strikes a perfect balance between heart and head, between cleverness and earnestness, between language that demonstrates its own fallibility and language that is surprisingly, perfectly precise."
Monologue topics: the insufferably stupid anti-sunglasses stance of my early twenties, squinting.
Laura van den Berg raves
"Ravi Mangla's Understudies is a brilliant meditation on the private cost of celebrity, the longing to transcend the ordinary, and the seductive nature of performance. Darkly funny, sharply-observed, and terrifically moving, Understudies is an essential debut."
And Gary Lutz says
"Ravi Mangla's delightingly tight, micro-chaptered Understudies is an unassumingly beautiful and moving debut. It's elegantly and hilariously precise about everything it touches, and it touches almost everything human."
Monologue topics: repetition, rhyming, making beats, stuff, my annual purge.
Kirkus, in a starred review, says
“Scott is both compassionate moralist and master storyteller in this outstanding debut.”
And Tom Perrotta says
“The Kept starts out as a straightforward revenge narrative, then slowly deepens into something much more mysterious and compelling. James Scott has written a riveting and memorable debut novel.”
Monologue topics: New Year's, mail, iTunes reviews.