"The latest from Parker is an inventive novella hybrid, a mix of prose and poetry, past and present, heartbreak and humor. At the core is Liliane Kaufmann, the wife and first cousin of the philandering Edgar Kaufmann, who commissioned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to create the audacious Fallingwater, a Pennsylvania house built over a waterfall. Rippling out from the couple is a cast of characters spanning centuries. Without introduction or background, a different voice narrates each chapter as the iconic home itself becomes a central character. Interspersing fiction with fact (although fact outweighs fiction in this well-researched story), Parker reveals the tragic life of strong, intelligent Liliane, who is slowly eroded by a complicated marriage gone toxic. Adding dimension to her portrayal are three other women, all at different points of self-discovery, all potentially bound for a similar fate as Liliane. Not unlike Fallingwater’s structure, which masterfully balances the man-made with the natural, Parker sculpts and controls myriad, nearly unwieldy elements to construct a driven plot that illuminates the perched house and those who live within it."
Monologue topics: mail, my long creative struggle, creativity identity, showing your work.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, raves
Jarrar's sparkling debut about an audacious Muslim girl growing up in Kuwait, Egypt and Texas is intimate, perceptive and very, very funny. Nidali Ammar is born in Boston to a Greek-Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father, and moves to Kuwait at a very young age, staying there until she's 13, when Iraq invades. A younger brother is born in Kuwait, rounding out a family of complex citizenships. During the occupation, the family flees to Alexandria in a wacky caravan, bribing soldiers along the way with whiskey and silk ties. But they don't stay long in Egypt, and after the war, Nidali's father finds work in Texas. At first, Nidali is disappointed to learn that feeling rootless doesn't make her an outsider in the States, and soon it turns out the precocious and endearing Arab chick isn't very different from other American girls, a reality that only her father may find difficult to accept. Jarrar explores familiar adolescent ground—stifling parental expectations, precarious friendships, sensuality and first love—but her exhilarating voice and flawless timing make this a standout.
Monologue topics: being in a rush, technology, my brain, teaching my daughter about music, Freddy Mercury, Billy Idol.
Spencer Madsen is the guest. He is the founder of Sorry House, an independent press based in Brooklyn, and his new book of poetry, You Can Make Anything Sad, is due out from Publishing Genius Press in April.
Dennis Cooper raves
"When I read Spencer Madsen’s poetry, I not only feel awe because he’s so good, one of the best, but I also think about how everything in the world is happening at the same time, and how the world we get to know is so heavily edited down. It’s the hugest, weirdest feeling. I wish Spencer Madsen could be everywhere at once. I really love You Can Make Anything Sad.”
Monologue topics: Mira Gonzalez, mail, misophonia, change of location.
Antonya Nelson says
“What I love about this collection of stories is its wit and warmth. McConigley’s characters are “the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming,” and their struggles as exoticized and denigrated community members could be, in a less interesting writer’s hands, yet another scolding tract on America’s guilty conscience. Instead, this book celebrates human pluck and humor, a new sensibility for a new time, when everyone is both at home and utterly alien in the contemporary American west. A terrific read.”
And Eleanor Henderson raves
“Nina McConigley crafts out of the Wyoming landscape a West few readers have known before–a place where, when you don’t look like everyone else, there aren’t many places to hide. And yet anyone who has ever felt a complicated kind of love for home, country, and family will find pleasure and wisdom in these stunning stories.”
Monologue topics: Valentine's Day, hatred of holidays, Presidents Day, love.
Matt Bell says
"In Why We Never Talk About Sugar, Aubrey Hirsch posits an uncertain world, offering us her characters at their most confused, frightened, obsessed. As protection against their troubles, these men and women cling often to science, and also to story and if these two ways of seeing cannot always save them, then still they might provide some comfort, some necessary and sustaining faith, the mechanisms of what greatest mysteries might await us all, when all else is stripped away."
And Roxane Gay says
"Aubrey Hirsch is a bright shining star of a writer and the stories in her flawless debut collection, Why We Never Talk About Sugar, are a little disturbing and a little strange and a little sweet but always a lot to hold on to. Hirsch shows us the charm of her imagination and how carefully she will break your heart. This is a book you will keep coming back to, the one you won t be able to stop talking about because it's that damn good."
Monologue topics: mail, congratulating myself, Elizabeth Ellen, Fast Machine
The New York Observer says
"Mr. Parris-Lamb has managed over the past year to sell a tall stack of books by first-time authors, some of them for money that would please even the most seasoned veterans."
Also on this episode: A segment of my conversation with Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men (Algonquin Books), the official February selection of The TNB Book Club. To hear the full hour with Gina, simply click here and sign up for Other People Premium.
Monologue topics: insomnia, TED Talks, anger, disgust, tweets.
“In this bravura performance, a quantum creative leap...Frangello astutely dissects the quandaries of female sexuality, adoption, terminal illness, and compound heartbreak in a torrent of tough-minded observations, audacious candor, and storytelling moxie.”
And Emily Rapp says
“Gina Frangello’s luminous novel is deeply human, darkly funny, seriously sexy; it brims with artistry and intelligence and heart...Frangello illuminates the ways in which life itself is an illusion, but a grand and beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliant one.”
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Publishers Weekly raves
"Similar to a great magic trick, the 13 stories in Minor's latest lure reader investment with strong visuals while simultaneously pulling the rug out from underfoot with clever, literary sleights-of-hand. Though not necessarily linked in the traditional sense, there is a sequential order to the collection--ideas, locations, incidents, and characters echo as the volume chugs forward--and the result is an often dazzling, emotional, funny, captivating puzzle."
And Kirkus, in a starred review, says
“An award-winning short fiction author offers twelve stories so ripe with realism as to suggest a roman à clef. . . . This brilliant collection unfolds around a fractured narrative of faith and friends and family, loved and lost.”
Monologue topics: mail, co-branding, the inevitability of co-branding, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the virtue of unskillful co-branding.
Heidi Julavits says
"Reading Bill Cotter's The Parallel Apartments is like taking some kind of word drug, but a new one, synthesized in a desert lab from molecules of Lipsyte, Dickens, Pynchon, Williams, Chabon, DeWitt, and Joyce, and then spun together with Cotter's own unique particles to yield a book that produces an actual high when read. There's micro-attention paid to sweatpants material and the feel of artificial cheese powder on fingertips and the bouillon smell of nether regions. There is sadness. There is loneliness. There are riffs that make me wish an actor were there to read to me aloud, so I could cry from laughter without needing to clearly see the page. This book is an experience—it is a never-read-anything-like-it-before work of brainy, heartfelt joy."
And Texas Monthly calls it
"Funny and profane and more than slightly unhinged."
Monologue topics: Super Bowl, barbarism, 1970s sitcoms, audio gags, the app.