[Note: I've decided to make this episode available without subscription so that people can listen to it and share it as easily as possible. -BL]
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the guest. Her new book is called Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. It is available now from Yale University Press.
Billy Collins says
“The title of this book is an imperative against the departure that is suicide, and its contents provide a learned, illuminating look at the history of what is perhaps the darkest secret in all of human behavior.”
And Newsweek says
"That it's not all a drag and you might as well get on with life's vagaries is the strikingly simple and convincing argument of Jennifer Michael Hecht's Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. . . . While not insensitive to people who use suicide as a way to end the suffering of terminal illness, Hecht brands suicide an immoral act that robs society — and the self-killer — of a life that is certainly more valuable than what it may seem in that dark moment. It solves nothing, complicates everything. . . . Her argument is that it — whatever dark truth that pronoun signifies — almost always gets better."
Monologue topics: Ned Vizzini, suicide, grief.
Kirkus calls it
"A blisteringly honest portrait of a young, fast and greatly misunderstood life. . . . An outspoken, gender-ambiguous author and activist reflects on her halcyon days as a wild child in San Francisco."
And The San Francisco Chronicle says
"It would be easy to describe The End of San Francisco as a Joycean 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Queer' (although the book's intense stream of consciousness is reminiscent of the later, more experimental, Joyce) . . . but this is misleading. This journey of a life that begins in the professional upper-middle class (both parents are therapists) and the Ivy League and moves to hustling, drugs, activism -- Sycamore was active in ACT UP and Queer Nation -- and queer bohemian grunge, is profoundly American. At heart, Sycamore is writing about the need to escape control through flight or obliteration."
Monologue topics: my awkwardness, the over-analysis of my awkwardness, preemptive crucifixion, Pontius Pilate-ing.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
“The tortured relationship between literary lions and their liquor illuminates the obscure terrain of psychology and art in this searching biographical medidation....Laing's astute analysis of the pervasive presence and meaning of drink in the writers' texts, and its reflection of the writers' struggle to shape—and escape—reality...A fine study of human frailty through the eyes of its most perceptive victims.”
And Hilary Mantel, the Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, says
“I’m sorry I’ve finished this wonderful book because I feel I’ve been talking to a wise friend. I’ve been trying to work out exactly how Olivia Laing drew me in, because I hardly drink myself and have no particular attachment to the group of writers whose trials she describes. I think the tone is beautifully modulated, knowledgeable yet intimate, and she can evoke a state of mind as gracefully as she evokes a landscape....I think this is a book for all writers or would-be writers, whether succeeding or failing, whether standing on their feet or flat on the pavement....It’s one of the best books I’ve read about the creative uses of adversity: frightening but perversely inspiring.”
Monologue topics: Twitter, HTML Giant, The Zambreno Doll controversy, Disney on Ice.
This is my conversation with Ned, which first aired on December 16, 2012. I wanted to make it available to those who love him and those who love his work. (Prior to today, it was only available via premium subscription, because it was in the deeper archives.)
My heart goes out to all who feel this loss, especially his family.
Joyelle McSweeney is the guest. Her books include the poetry collection The Red Bird, and the novels Nylund, the Sarcographer and Flet. Recently, her play entitled Dead Youth, or, The Leaks won the inaugural Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Playwrights. She is also a co-editor of Action Books and the quarterly online literary journal Action Yes.
Kate Bernheimer says
"If Vladimir Nabokov wanted to seduce Nancy Drew, he'd read her Nylund, The Sarcographer one dark afternoon over teacups of whiskey. Welcome to fiction's new femme fatale, Joyelle McSweeney."
And Michael Martone says
"You thought you knew your own language. This book hands it back to you on a platter and includes the instructional manual for its further use."
Monologue topics: Christmas, late capitalism, edginess, curmudgeonly behavior, my daughter.
Dave Eggers, writing for The New York Times Book Review, says
"I loved this book…the work of a fluid, confident, and profoundly talented writer…it’s a joyous book, a very funny book, and an unpredictable book, and that’s because everyone in it is allowed to be fully human.”
And Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, says
"In this powerful, blisteringly funny novel, Jonathan Miles makes a startling discovery: We are what we throw away. It’s in our castoff goods, edibles, chances and people that our authentic selves are revealed; or, as one of his many memorable characters puts it, 'garbage [is] the only truthful thing civilization produced.' Miles mines the depths of waste so artfully that by the end of this extraordinary novel, we’re left with the suspicion that redemption may well be no more, and no less, than an existential salvage operation."
Monologue topics: New York City, feeling overprotective, my best books of 2013
The New York Times Book Review says
"Just as Anya reinvents herself, Waclawiak's novel (her first) reinvents the immigration story...At its most illuminating, How to Get Into the Twin Palms movingly portrays a protagonist intent on both creating and destroying herself, on burning brightly even as she goes up in smoke."
And Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, calls it
"A taut debut... [that] strikes with the creeping suddenness of a brush fire."
Monologue topics: the dentist, cavities, flossing, contagions, demoralization, wheat, paranoia.
Noah Cicero is the guest. His new novel is called Go to Work and Do Your Job. Care for Your Children. Pay Your Bills. Obey the Law. Buy Products., and it is available now from Lazy Fascist Press.
Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, says
"I read Noah Cicero and remember that 'hysterical' can refer to something really funny and to a situation completely out of control. His work punches people in the face. Don't get in its way."
Monologue topics: receiving visitors, gentlemen callers, courting, taking a knee, listicles, bullshit.
Colum McCann is the guest. In 2009, he won the National Book Award for his novel Let the Great World Spin and this year published a new novel called Transatlantic. He is also the curator of a new anthology called The Book of Men, available now from Picador. The Book of Men is the official December selection of The TNB Book Club.
From the publisher:
To help launch the literary nonprofit Narrative 4, Esquire asked eighty of the world’s greatest writers to chip in with a story, all with the title, “How to Be a Man.”
The result is The Book of Men, an unflinching investigation into the essence of masculinity.
Monologue topics: the app, travel hell, TNB Book Club, kind mail, Narrative 4.
Nick Cave says
"Lolito is the funniest, most horrible book I've read in years. I was blown away."
And The Guardian says
"Both warm and uncompromising, Lolito will be as entertaining for young adults as it is educational for older readers. And if some aspects of the world Brooks inhabits seem alarming, I can't think of a writer I would rather have as my guide."
Monologue topics: coming through in the clutch, voicemail, prank calls, the word 'podcast' as a verb.