Max Porter is the guest. His debut novel, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, is the official June pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club. Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize, it is available now from Graywolf Press.
Max and I spoke by telephone. He was at home in London. It was nighttime for him. I was here in Los Angeles, mid-morning. His publication story is a good one. He wrote a book that isn't easily classifiable. Usually such books have a hard road to publication. But Grief found a way, and thank goodness. It's short, poetic, and wonderfully surprising novel. There's a talking bird in it. It takes chances. Packs a punch. The fact that it has gone on to do so well is a testament to Max's vision and skill. Wise, witty, and very deeply felt. A real gift to the reader.
In today's monologue, I talk about compression in literature, compression of schedule, the podcast's logistical crossroads, Kickstarter, and my need to podcast in a cloistered environment.
Viet Thanh Nguyen is the guest. His debut novel, The Sympathizer, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016. It is available now from Grove Press.
I want to say that Viet is the first Pulitzer winner ever to appear on the program. I could be wrong. (Am I forgetting someone?) I read The Sympathizer earlier this year when I was a judge for the Tournament of Books at The Morning News. (You can read my judgment here.) This was before the Pulitzer. Fortunately I had the good sense to pick it as the winner and advance it to the next round; otherwise this conversation might never have happened. Kidding aside, Viet was great. He showed up ready to talk and was everything one might expect after reading the novel: sharp, funny, opinionated, and full of stories.
In today's monologue, I talk about moving. Again. I promise this will end soon.��
Stephen Elliott is the guest. He is the founding editor of The Rumpus, the author of seven books, and the director of three films. His latest film, After Adderall, will be premiering at the Rumpus Lo-Fi Los Angeles Film Festival on July 30th.
I can't believe it's taken me this long to meet Stephen Elliott. He just moved out to Los Angeles for the summer and he came over and we sat down and talked. I admire Stephen. He does things. He gets things done. He's able to mobilize people. Build communities. He takes risks. He makes stuff. He's a writer. He's the editor of an online literary magazine. And now he's making films. He just keeps going. Great to have had the chance to meet him in person and talk to him for an hour.
In today's monologue, I discuss my brief (very brief) history with adderall.
Claire Hoffman is the guest. Her new memoir, Greetings from Utopia Park, is available now from Harper Books.
Claire is a friend of mine here in Los Angeles. She grew up in Fairfield, Iowa in an intentional community founded by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi, for the uninitiated, was a spiritual guru and the progenitor of transcendental meditation, or TM. Claire's memoir deals in family history, her experiences growing up in Fairfield, and her struggle to come to terms with what it means to lead a spiritual life.
In today's monologue, I talk about my friendship with Claire, and about interruptions, and (again) about my impending move.
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is the guest. Her debut novel, The Nest, is available now from Ecco Books.
Cynthia is living the dream. Or at least one kind of dream. It's a common dream: write novel, sell novel for big advance, watch as novel becomes New York Times bestseller, do media tour for novel, feel somewhat weird and even at times guilty that novel is doing so well. And so on. Really good time talking with Cynthia. Very candid conversation. And one of the best conversations I've ever had about what it really takes to make a book a bestseller.
In today's monologue, I talk about moving, and customer service representatives, and spiritual depletion at the hands of customer service representatives. And also my dog's bleeding anus.