Hanya Yanagihara is the guest. Her novel A Little Life was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award, and it is now available in trade paperback from Anchor Books.
I feel like A Little Life is having the kind of existence that pretty much all writers hope their books will have. It seems to provoke passionate responses. The people who love it really fucking love it and the people who hate it are incensed by it and there are way more people who love it than hate it. You can't ask for much more than that.
Hanya was only in town for a day and pretty solidly booked but she found an hour to come over and talk with me, and for that I'm grateful. I learned a lot from her. She knows her shit, and she really fought hard for her novel. She fought hard to see her vision of this book realized, and she's protective of it in a way that seems both smart and endearing. Also: it paid off huge. Few works of literary fiction strike a nerve the way this book has struck a nerve. Also: it's 700 pages long and she wrote it in 18 months. Also: she doesn't own a cell phone.
In today's monologue, I give a quick update on the health of my son and share news about some appearances I'll be making during AWP here in Los Angeles in April.
Years ago Alex was out in LA and we had a drink and he told me he was working on this novel. It's amazing to see it all come to fruition, to see him on Late Night with Seth Meyers, to see the book reviewed all over the place, to see everybody chattering about it online. Just happy for him. It was a long road from start to finish, but he got there, and we talk about that. We also talk about his late, beloved father, and what an incredible polymath he was, and what it was like to be a mixed race kid growing up in Portland, Maine. We talk about the Iowa Writers Workshop and AIDS activism and what it was like to be in the green room getting ready to appear before a national television audience. And of course we talk opera and historical fiction and The Queen of the Night.
In today's monologue I talk about 400 episodes and what, if anything, that means. I also give an update on the health of my son.
Jarett Kobek is the guest. His new novel is called I Hate the Internet, available now from We Heard You Like Books.
This one was fun. I didn't know what to expect. Or I guess I sort of knew what to expect: Jarett and I would talk about the internet and what it feels like to hate it. But I didn't know quite what to expect from Jarett himself. Jonathan Lethem called him "the American Houellebecq," so I guess I was imagining that he would be drunk and smoking cigarettes and difficult to talk to, and so on. I imagined him as preemptively hating me, thinking of me as "the media," annoyed that he had agreed to do the podcast. Then he showed up and it was easy. More than that, it was interesting. This is a guy who really thinks about the world that we live in and the information we consume and the products we buy and how the powers that be make these things come to pass. He thinks about a lot more than that, but those are some of his main preoccupations. He's a good conversationalist, a curious person, a skeptic, and, I think it's safe to say, a man who has a very well-developed problem with authority. The interview runs longer than normal. Hope that's okay. On this one, I just let the tape run.
In today's monologue, I talk about some scary health stuff that we're going through with our son, and how that has been all-consuming lately, and how unhealthy (but unavoidable) it is to start Googling when confronted with medical troubles.