Dwight Garner of the The New York Times says
"Mr. Robbins's heart is not lovely but beating a bit arrhythmically; not dark but lighted by a dangling disco ball; not deep but as shallow and alert as a tidal buoy facing down a tsunami. Yet it's a heart crammed full, like a goose's liver, with pagan grace. This man can write."
And Sasha Frere-Jones says
"You may notice the cultural references first -- Guns N' Roses, Eric B. & Rakim, Fleetwood Mac, M*A*S*H, Star Wars -- and be tempted to tie Robbins to these anchors. But there are as many contemporary references in Eliot and Pound and Horace as there are in Robbins: carbon-dating isn't what distinguishes these poems. Robbins works in traditional and nontraditional forms that pivot on the beat, which he turns around, seamlessly and ruthlessly. The thread here is a long-distance conversation crammed into the available enjambment, as charged as the pop songs that play beneath the words."
Monologue topics: Patrick Swayze, tweets, drones.
Joyce Johnson is the guest. She is the author of several books, the most recent of which is called The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac, available now from Viking.
Kirkus calls it
“An exemplary biography of the Beat icon and his development as a writer…Johnson [turns] a laser-sharp focus on Kerouac’s evolving ideas about language, fiction vs. truth and the role of the writer in his time…there’s plenty of life in these pages to fascinate casual readers, and Johnson is a sensitive but admirably objective biographer. A triumph of scholarship.”
And Russell Banks says
"This is quite simply the best book about Kerouac and one of the best accounts of any writer's apprenticeship that I have read. And it should generate a serious reconsideration of Kerouac as a classical, because hyphenated, American writer, one struggling to synthesize a doubled language, culture, and class. It's also a terrific read, a windstorm of a story."
Also in this episode: Joshua Mohr, author of the novel Fight Song, now available from Soft Skull Press. Fight Song is the February selection of The TNB Book Club. Publishers Weekly calls it "an interesting mix of Charles Bukowski and Tom Robbins, with a cinematic heaping of the Coen brothers for good measure."
Monologue topics: doubt, doubting doubt, mental downward spirals, confusion.
James Lasdun is the guest. He is the author of two novels, four collections of poetry, and two collections of short stories, including the collection The Siege, the title story of which was made into a film by Bernardo Bertolucci (Besieged). With Jonathan Nossiter he co-wrote the films Sunday, which won Best Feature and Best Screenplay awards at Sundance, and Signs and Wonders, starring Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgaard. His new book, Give Me Everything You Have, is a memoir published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
J.M. Coetzee says
“Give Me Everything You Have is a reminder, as if any were needed, of how easily, since the arrival of the Internet, our peace can be troubled and our good name besmirched.”
And Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"Lasdun’s tale of being stalked is only part of the story—his disembodied, if mentally violent, encounters with 'Nasreen,' his stalker, lead him to reflect on topics as diverse as the seductive power of literature, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the writings of D.H. Lawrence, and his father’s work as an architect in Israel and the aggressively anti-Semitic response it provoked. The 'verbal terrorism' (Nasreen’s phrase) escalates as the book goes on, but it’s almost a red herring—it is indeed terrifying, and as the stalker becomes more sophisticated, she begins tormenting his friends and colleagues. But Lasdun is able to see past the surface-level effects of her attacks to the desperate and pitiable person behind them. This subtle, compassionate take on the subject is rife with insights into the current cyberculture’s cult of anonymity, as well as the power, failure, and magic of writing.”
Monologue topics: Julian Tepper, Philip Roth, bleakness, cynicism, writing, awfulness, the ability to change your fundamental nature.
Matthew Salesses is the guest. He is the author of two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics and We Will Take What We Can Get, and his new novel is called I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying, which is published by Civil Coping Mechanisms.
Matt Bell raves
“In Matt Salesses’s smart novel-in-shorts, a newly-minted father flees telling his own story by any means necessary—by sarcasm, by denial, by playful and precise wordplay—rarely allowing space for his emerging feelings to linger. But the truth of who we might be is not so easily escaped, and it is in the accumulation of many such moments that our narrator, like us, is revealed: both the people we have been, and the better people we might be lucky enough to one day hope to become.”
And Catherine Chung says
“Matthew Salesses has written an extraordinary and startlingly original novel that explores connection and disconnection, the claims and limitations of the self, and the shifting terrain of truth. Poetic, unforgettable, shot through with fury and yearning, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying captures in clear and chilling flashes our capacity for the cruelty and tenderness of love.”
Also in this episode: a conversation with Reality Hunger author David Shields. His new book, How Literature Saved My Life, is now availalble from Knopf. And later this year, in September, he will publish The Private War of J.D. Salinger, co-authored by Shane Salerno.
Monologue topics: mail, literary ambulance chasing, luck, cause and effect, beautiful people.
Andrea Seigel is the guest. She is the author of three novels: Like the Red Panda, To Feel Stuff, and The Kid Table. She's also an accomplished screenwriter.
Chuck Klosterman says
"If Helen Fielding had been born in 1979 and become a hyper-precocious Goth kid whose favorite book was Prozac Nation, she probably would have ended up writing exactly like Andrea Seigel.”
And Bret Easton Ellis says
"Andrea Seigel’s confidence— her intelligence and verve— lets her take risks that sweep the reader along.”
Monologue topics: capturing the cultural moment, chasing clicks, whorishness, the Super Bowl, grief essays, trending, feeling sickened.
Teddy Wayne is the guest. He is the author of the novel Kapitoil (Harper Perennial), for which he was the winner of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award. He has also been the recipient of a New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His second novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, is due out from Free Press on February 5, 2013.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, calls it
"Masterfully executed...the real accomplishment is the unforgettable voice of Jonny. If this impressive novel, both entertaining and tragically insightful, were a song, it would have a Michael Jackson beat with Morrissey lyrics."
And Ben Fountain raves
"The Love Song of Jonny Valentine takes us deep into the dark arts and even darker heart of mass-market celebrity, 21st-century version. In the near-pubescent hitmaker of the title, Teddy Wayne delivers a wild ride through the upper echelons of the entertainment machine as it ingests human beings at one end and spews out dollars at the other. Jonny's like all the rest of us, he wants to love and be loved, and as this brilliant novel shows, that’s a dangerous way to be when you’re inside the machine."
Monologue topics: surgery, Vicodin, hernias, tweets.
Blake Butler says
"Richard Chiem's You Private Person is a bustling prism of a thing, full of passages that actually lead somewhere off of the paper. His words have brains that have bodies that wake you up in the way waking can be the best thing, like into a warm room full of good calm remembered things that feel both like relics and new inside the day. Here rings a wise and bravely sculpted book packed full of stunning thankful color."
And Kate Zambreno says
"Richard Chiem writes of all the weirdness and ooziness and tenderness of young love, with such lucid specificity. Like some beautiful film from the 70s, but also distinctly now. Because I also love how in this book he documents the tremors of contemporary existence, of living and working in a city, measuring days not in coffee spoons but in cigarettes and Simpsons episodes."
Monologue topics: email, memes, Tony Danza.
The Paris Review raves
"It should come as no surprise that her provocative new work, Heroines, published by Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents imprint... challenges easy categorization, this time by poetically swerving in and out of memoir, diary, fiction, literary history, criticism, and theory. With equal parts unabashed pathos and exceptional intelligence, Heroines foregrounds female subjectivity to produce an impressive and original work that examines the suppression of various female modernists in relation to Zambreno's own complicated position as a writer and a wife."
And Bitch magazine calls it
"A brave, enlightening, and brutally honest historical inquiry that will leave readers with an urgent desire to tell their own stories."
Monologue topics: petroleum-based cows, Ron Currie Jr., TNB Book Club.
Rosie Schaap is the guest. She is a contributor to This American Life and npr.org, and she writes the monthly "Drink" column for The New York Times Magazine. Her memoir, Drinking With Men, will be published on January 24, 2013 by Riverhead Books.
Kate Christensen raves
"This book will be a classic. There is so much joy in this book! It’s a great, comforting, wonderful, funny, inspiring, moving memoir about community and belief and the immense redemptive powers of alcohol drunk properly."
And Wendy McClure says
"There are bar stories and there are coming-of-age stories. And then there is Rosie Schaap's thoughtful and funny chronicle that reminds us of all the drinks, dives, and deep conversations that helped make us who we are. This is a wise, engaging memoir."
Monologue topics: beautiful people, staring, Los Angeles, DNA masterpieces, hand signals, safety words.
Says Dennis Cooper:
“xTx is the complete young literary god. Billie the Bull is mind-bogglingly and intricately superb down to its tiniest punctuation marks. To me, she’s about as great as it can get. Seriously, I’m awestruck."
Monologue topics: my unit, my thing, this podcast, hybridized forms, navel-gazing, confusion.
Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun, raves
“A Familiar Beast is superb. Always engaging and often provocative, it follows the gut-tightening travails of a man hollowed by his own infidelities. With elegant prose, unforgettable scenes and Philip Roth-like psychological insights, Panio Gianopoulos’s debut novella marks the arrival of a bright and gifted writer.”
And Adam Langer, author of The Thieves of Manhattan, says
“Elegant, erudite and witty, this extremely well-observed and surprisingly suspenseful story offers more insights into love and human relationships than most authors manage in works three times as long.”
Monologue topics: mail, Facebook suicide, savage narcissism, Twitter.
Eli Horowitz is the guest. He was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney’s for eight years, where he worked closely with a variety of notable authors, including Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, and William Vollmann. His latest project is called The Silent History, a serialized novel designed for the iPad and iPhone.
Wired magazine calls it
The New York Times calls it
"One of the most talked-about new experiments [in publishing]."
And The Los Angeles Times calls it
“A landmark project that illuminates a possible future for e-book novels."
Monologue topics: blood pressure, heart rate, Tweets.
Christine Schutt is today's guest. She's the award-winning author of several books. Her first novel, Florida, was a National Book Award finalist, and her second novel, All Souls, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest novel, Prosperous Friends, is now available from Grove Press.
Sam Lipsyte raves
"Prosperous Friends is masterful, a comic-tragic astonishment. Christine Schutt continues to write some of the most original and rewarding prose I've ever read."
And Gary Lutz says
“It is no longer a secret that Christine Schutt is the finest writer among us, and Prosperous Friends is her finest work yet. There isn't a corner in any of her sentences left ungraced by her lyrical genius, her heart-fathoming wisdom. A few pages in, you'll know you have a classic in your hands."
Monologue topics: New Year's resolutions, killing my Facebook account, purging, getting rid of things, newspapers, radios.
Harrold Jaffe says
"Vampire Conditions melds a precise Texas regional with gothic, recalling Flannery O'Connor, who wrote out of Georgia. But Carr's intricate narrative patterns, jump cuts and unanticipated segueshave a distinctly postmodern feel. Any way you cut it, Brian Allen Carr is a potently eccentric writer."
And Robert Lopez raves
"At turns dark and brutal and wickedly funny, Brian Allen Carr's Vampire Conditions will put you in mind of Hannah, Pancake, Powell. This book will grab you by the throat and knock the wind out of you, will make you want to drive south, raise hell, hide out, call home, tell your friends."
Monologue topics: dreams, childbirth, salad bars, fetuses, Christmas, doll houses, emasculation, 2012, passage of time.
David Ohle raves
"In this amazing, collapsed-time text, I’m led along dark alleys of American history by an all-seeing voice-over narrative that reports on things from a great height and in an ultra-factual way. Familiar events of war, sorrow and struggle are seen anew, as if on a slide under a microscope.”
And Adam Braver says
“In The Alligators of Abraham, Robert Kloss drops us into the darkness of the Civil War, showing a culture perpetually on the edge of extinction. Yet out of that murky world, hazed and fogged, rise the clear and distinct shapes of a people not ready to surrender to their own haunting. A novel as lyrical as it is precise in its depiction of the struggle to maintain dignity.”
Monologue topics: burnout, empty-headedness, children's books, subversive kid poems, the power of one, ripple effects.
Mira Gonzalez is today's guest. Her debut poetry collection is called I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make Us Beautiful Together. It is due out from Sorry House in late January 2013.
Blake Butler says
"Mira Gonzalez’s brain spans the weird space between bodies stuffed with Ambien and food and light from porn on laptops in an anxious, calming kind of way, one concerned more with what blood tastes like than how the blood got out. It’s messed up and feels honest, open, like lying naked on the floor with your arms chopped off."
And Victor 'Kool A.D.' Vasquez says
"Mira Gonzalez is doing her thing. I fuck with these poems. I felt bad for her when she talked about how that dude said 'I’m gonna come on your stomach' like 15-20 times and then didn’t."
Monologue topics: Christmas, travel, my daughter, Best Parts / Worst Parts, sobbing fits, losing it.
Diana Wagman is the guest. She is the author of four novels and a past recipient of the PEN West Award for Fiction. Her latest novel, The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets, is now available from Ig Publishing. It is the December selection of The TNB Book Club.
Publishers Weekly raves
“Wagman’s talent for imagery is well served by the subject matter, and the story is perfectly paced, with humorous breaks in the tension. A PEN Center USA Award winner (for Spontaneous), Wagman has crafted an unusual thriller for psychological crime devotees and fans of the peculiar.”
And Book Page calls it
"...a dark, funny and sensitive thriller that might be the first of its kind: the Oedipal abduction tale.”
Monologue topics: holidays, heaviness, Sandy Hook, humanity, self-loathing, anger, depression, compassion.
Ned Vizzini is today's guest. He is the award-winning author of It's Kind of a Funny Story (also a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah.... In television, he has written for MTV and ABC. His essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, and Salon. He is the co-author, with Chris Columbus, of the fantasy-adventure series House of Secrets, due out in April 2013. And his latest novel, The Other Normals, is now availalbe from Balzer & Bray.
Lev Grossman raves
"The Other Normals is wildly imaginative, incredibly funny, and weirdly wise. I don’t know where Vizzini gets this stuff —it’s like he’s tapped into the collective unconscious of alienated adolescents everywhere."
And Kirkus says
"With a deft sense of humor and a keen ear for funny and realistic teen dialogue, Vizzini explores one teen everyman’s quest to become a hero, one roll of the six-sided die at a time …. Great geeky fun."
Monologue topics: flu, mail, doubt, self-sabotage, cannabis.
Zena el Khalil is the guest. She is an installation artist, curator, cultural activist, and author. During the July 2006 attacks on Lebanon, her blog, beirutupdate.blogspot.co/uk, was published on CNN and the BCC. In 2008, she was invited to speak at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, and earlier this year she was named a TED fellow. Her memoir, Beirut, I Love You, is now available in the United States in e-book format from NYRB Lit.
Gwyneth Paltrow raves
"Zena El Khalil brings the city and its current events to life through personal anecdotes about loss, tragedy, friendship, life as a young woman in a polarized city, and love for this conflicted, beautiful place she calls home."
And Publishers Weekly says
"Part love letter and part memoir, el Khalil’s work employs her artist’s eye and ear to depict Beirut during and after the Israeli attacks on the country’s south and the Lebanese civil war. No simple chronological narration, this is rather a highly personal, impressionistic depiction of events and emotions…. Her unflinching inside view of Beirut’s tragedy and of ‘Amreekan’ duplicity underscore why her 2006 blog beirutupdate.blogspot.com received international attention."
Monologue topics: Entertainment Capital of the World, iTunes ratings, Board, tweets.
Salvatore Pane is the guest. His chapbook, #KanyeWestSavedFromDrowning, was published by NAP in October, and his debut novel, Last Call in the City of Bridges, is now available from Braddock Avenue Books.
Stewart O'Nan raves
“Like his post po-mo Facebook generation, Michael Bishop, the manic narrator of Last Call in the City of Bridges, has reached the end of his irresponsible youth. Stuck and unsure, he looks back at those eight-bit Nintendo years with tender nostalgia while trying to feel his way forward. Like The Moviegoer, Salvatore Pane’s debut novel is a romantic ironist’s plea for authenticity in a fantastic age. It’s telling–and hilarious–that his hero’s model for male adulthood isn’t William Holden but Super Mario.”
And Tom Bissell says
“Quite obviously, Salvatore Pane’s mind has been dunked in video games, social media, comic books, the WebNet, and everything else our august literary authorities believe promote illiteracy. I’d like to hand the authorities Pane’s novel–a funny, moving, melancholy, sad, and immensely literate book about what being young and confused feels like these days–and tell them, ‘See? Things are going to be fine!’”
Monologue topics: worldview, jackhammering, to-do lists, mental lethargy, flying dinosaurs, palm trees.
Lydia Millet is the guest. She is a Guggenheim fellow, a past recipient of the PEN-USA Award for Fiction, and her story collection, Love in Infant Monkeys (2009), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest novel, Magnificence, is now available in hardcover from W.W. Norton and Company.
Jonathan Lethem raves
“[Magnificence is] elegant, darkly comic. . . with overtones variously of Muriel Spark, Edward Gorey and JG Ballard, full of contemporary wit and devilish fateful turns for her characters, and then also to knit together into a tapestry of vast implication and ethical urgency, something as large as any writer could attempt: a kind of allegorical elegy for life on a dying planet. Ours, that is.”
And Salon calls it
Monologue topics: chest colds, tuberculosis, the consumption, agent, manuscript, uncertainty, reading, the concept of "good" art, self-perception.
Sam Lipsyte raves
"The world of Eric Raymond's winning novel may be the 'post-idea economy,' but rest assured, the book is never post-smart, or post-funny. It's a rollicking and inventive corporate (and cultural) satire—get in now at the ground floor, people."
And Blake Butler says
"In a world where cash has become language, Eric Raymond's Confessions from a Dark Wood wastes no syllable in converting cultural mechanisms into a well-oiled, wise-cracking machine. Smart as Saunders, tight as Ellis, but banking waters of its own, after this one we'll no longer 'forget they built the Magic Kingdom on swamps.'"
Monologue topics: December, The Piñatas, the waiting game, seasonal affective disorder, the holidays, gift ideas, TNB Books.
Laurie Notaro, author of The Idiot Girl's Action-Adventure Club, raves
“I'm a believer that Erika Rae will make you cackle with heathen-like delight throughout Devangelical.”
And Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God, says
"Devangelical strikes a darkly funny blow at the central nervous system of evangelical Christianity delivered by a former insider.”
Monologue topics: chest colds, worries, can you imagine me?, bad music, Jack Wagner, cultural tornados.
The New York Times says
Michael Kardos’s first novel, THE THREE-DAY AFFAIR (Mysterious Press, $24), is so disturbing it makes you wonder what he might have in mind for his second book. The plot is original, if distinctly bizarre: three friends who met at Princeton have left their wives at home and are headed for a golf club to celebrate their annual reunion when one of them — the self-made millionaire who lost his fortune in the dot-com crash — impulsively robs a convenience store and kidnaps the cashier. In a panic, Will Walker, who narrates this nightmare, drives them all to the independent recording studio where he works. What follows is a carefully calibrated study of how even the most highly evolved members of our species can become feral under pressure. (“I was an animal in the woods and I was making this other animal go away” is how one of them describes it.) Surprisingly, the violence proves less shocking than the purely vindictive acts of cruelty even the best of friends can inflict on one another.
Monologue topics: Thanksgiving, illness, Disneyland, the Romneys, Black Friday, holiday misery, bitterness, attitude.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"Neatly mixing revolutionary politics with the erotic tension and cutthroat rivalry of the female conspirators...Engelmann has crafted a magnificent, suspenseful story set against the vibrant society of Sweden’s zenith, with a cast of colorful characters balanced at a crux of history.”
And Library Journal, in a starred review, calls it
“Fantastic . . . This rollicking adventure story reads at times like a fairy tale, with Good Guys and Bad Guys and obstacles to be recognized and overcome. It’s all quite fun. As either historical novel or adventure story, this clever first novel should appeal to a broad range of readers."
Monologue topics: mail, Sam Pink, Disneyland, Thanksgiving, exhaustion, The TNB Book Club.