Entertainment Weekly says
“What begins a little like Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep quickly warps into a sickly addictive thriller…think ABC’s Revenge when it was good, only more scandalous…With books like Bittersweet to stuff in beach bags, it’s beginning to feel a lot more like summer."
And The New York Times Book Review says
"A fairy tale aspect—of the Grimm, not the Disney variety—pervades the novel, which artfully builds an increasing sense of menace…Like a Downton-in-Vermont, Bittersweet takes swift, implausible plot turns, and its family secrets flow like a bottomless magnum of champagne, but Beverly-Whittemore succeeds in shining a light into the dark, brutal flaws of the human heart.”
Monologue topics: success, competition, ego, Vanity Fair, The Last Magazine.
Mike Sacks is the guest. His new book, Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers, is now available from Penguin.
Bob Odenkirk says
“No one generates more interesting, revealing, or entertaining interviews than Mike Sacks. Poking a Dead Frog is a classic.”
And Will Ferrell says
“This book is what I really look forward to in a book about humor: rich with words and humor, and funny stories with words. Thank you for your time.”
Monologue topics: family vacation, sweltering heat, chickens, fear, sexlessness.
George Saunders calls it
“A real tour de force [and] a beautiful fable...The reader is swept along by Sloan’s enthusiasm.”
And John Hodgman says
“In a time when actual books are filling up tag-sale dollar boxes, along with VHS tapes and old beepers, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore reminds us that there is an intimate, adventurous joy in the palpable papery things called novels, and in the warm little secret societies we used to call ‘bookstores.’ Robin Sloan’s novel is delightfully funny, provocative, deft, and even thrilling. And for reasons more than just nostalgia, I could not stop turning these actual pages."
Monologue topics: Episode 300, Stephen King, Lorrie Moore, Teju Cole, angst, Mary Karr, false summits.
Publishers Weekly says
"Schrag's frisky debut...is one of the most original coming-of-age stories of recent years."
And Flavorwire says
"Ariel Schrag’s story about a teenager who goes to spend the summer in New York with his sister is unlike any coming-of-age story you’ll read anytime soon. Funny and tender... Anybody familiar with Schrag’s comics won’t be disappointed with her work as a novelist; if you haven’t read her other work, let Adam be your introduction and read everything else you can find of hers from there."
Monologue topics: preschool, social anxiety, inferiority, courtesy, instincts.
The Daily Beast calls it
“Fantastic…These Cheever-esque stories all show that Barbash has a sensitive ear towards the subtle ways that relationships are formed and altered, but he’s also not afraid to open a story with a car accident and watch the sparks fly.”
And The New York Times says
“These stories should come with a warning: They might undo you.”
Monologue topics: competition, competitive mania, confusion, fear, loathing.
Karen Russell says
"It's hard to believe that this astonishing novel is Brittani Sonnenberg's first--she writes about family with wisdom, humor, and native daring. Here is Persephone's journey, undertaken by an entire family, the Kriegsteins, who ricochet through time zones, moving from Berlin to Singapore to Wisconsin to Shanghai to Atlanta, together and alone. Sonnenberg's prose is so vital and so enchanting that you will read this book in the dilated state of a world-traveler, with all of your senses wide open. Her family members are so well-drawn and complex that you'll close this book certain they exist."
And Wim Wenders calls it
"A captivating tour de force that follows a nomadic family across generations and continents."
Monologue topics: mail, multilingualism, cultural superiority, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Iran, Egypt.
Brian Evenson calls it
"A dark and luscious hell ride through the damaged but nonetheless appealing rituals of bondage. These are tantalizing and difficult stories in which fantasy and reality bleed (quite literally) into one another."
And Matt Bell says
"Each of these compelling stories is ruled not by certainty but by maybe, by sometimes, by ‘this is not necessarily a proclamation of anything’—and so we finally sense behind their pages the nervous heart of the modern man, stubbornly clinging to a fading authority, now more desperately than ever before.”
Monologue topics: thanks, Skylight Books, xTx, Roxane Gay, Lisa Mecham, curtseying.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, says
"Gwyn’s (Dog on the Cross) story is a gripping tale of men at war in the desolate snow-capped mountains of eastern Afghanistan, and captures the essence of close combat—the terror, excitement, chaos, tension, and cruelty, as well as the harsh decisions men make under stress...its gritty realism is part of the strength."
And Nic Pizzolatto, creator of HBO's True Detective, says
“Wynne's War is a deep and beautifully written story of men, war, and madness, told by a young American master. A page-turner of poetic and savage grace, of our time but transcending it, this novel takes its rightful place among the great American literature of war.”
Monologue topics: bad news, miscarriage, feeling bad about feeling bad, bad luck, bad.
Sam Pink says
“The first time I heard Ana’s writing was 2 years ago. In November of 2010, I read at the ‘Ear Eater’ reading series in Chicago. Ana was another reader. She was reading via Skype. There were a lot of people at the reading. After I read, I walked out of the room and stood in a hallway, staring at the floor. After a few difficult conversations with people in the hallway, I heard the host of the reading talking to someone on the computer. It was Ana. Ana started reading. I laughed a lot and enjoyed her reading. Seemed like other people weren’t enjoying it as much as me but I was enjoying it a lot. I stood in the hallway laughing and shaking my head ‘Yes’ and people looked at me. I kept thinking, ‘I want to go into the room and watch her face reading’ but then I would think, ‘No, don’t do that, just listen.’ Not sure why I kept telling myself not to go into the room where she was reading but I stood in the hallway and listened and enjoyed it a lot. Two years later, Ana emailed me Baby Babe. I opened the PDF just to skim a few poems but then I read the whole book. When I was done reading the book, I thought, ‘I’ll be glad to have this book so I can look at it whenever I want.’”
Monologue topics: foreign languages, bilingualism, power dynamics, ego, inferiority, anger.
Dennis Lehane calls it
"The real deal. Save Yourself is an electrifying, tomahawk missile of a thriller with honest-to-God people at its core. It rocks the house."
And The New York Times says
"There’s storytelling skill to burn here. Ms. Braffet has empathy for her working-class characters and brings neglected places to convincing life."
Monologue topics: orders of business, questions from listeners, blogging, what I'm reading currently.
Lee Klein is the guest. He has two books out this year. The first is called Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck, available now from Barrelhouse. The second, due out in August 2014, is called The Shimmering Go-Between (Atticus Books).
Blake Butler says
"Somewhere on the brutal truth continuum between Bill Hicks and Mussolini, Lee Klein’s rejection letters are mini-masterpieces of literary criticism disguised as no-thank-yous from Writer’s Hell. And yet, in each, a little lesson; a steadfast faith that says 'I took the time to read what you created and this is exactly what I thought.' They should be passing these things out under the pillows at MFA camp; we’d all be better off."
And Elizabeth Ellen says
"Lee Klein made me cry. He was the only editor ever to make me. This was back in 2002. I wish I still had the email. I remember it going something like, 'whenever you have the instinct to write a line like that, delete it immediately, without prejudice.' I hated him for a while. I pictured him looking like the guy in that 90’s movie Heavy (the one with Liv Tyler), except housebound and with no redeemable qualities. Then, somewhere around 2004, I met him 'IRL' and he was soft-spoken and sweet. It was harder to hate him after that. Reading all of these rejection letters here in this book made me finally fall a little in love with him, I think. I think if I had had access to (and disassociation from) these letters then, I might have fallen in love with him then. This is the funniest book I have read in a long time. It is also the smartest. I feel confused now, like I’m unsure whether to love or hate Lee Klein. But both of us are married now so it doesn’t really matter."
Monologue topics: analytics, paranoia, See's Candies, death, parenthood, mortal fear.
Daniel Woodrell says
"Young God is a poetic, grim, and beautifully dark novel about backwoods violence and horror recounted in a numbed, laconic voice. Morris writes with splendid economy, chapters short as contes, and plenty of slashing insights on the rough world of throwaway lives and varieties of wrong."
And Richard Hell says
"This book is so clean and dirty: thirteen-year-old Nikki’s nipples pop like buttons; Kool Kings come in a hard box; white goo tastes a little salty but mostly like nothing. The best dreams are of nothing. Except that it is not nothing. It is charged white space: These pages happen to you and now you’re awakening, groping groggily to reconstruct. Get mixed up by it. Enter the single-wide and find some ecstasy with Katherine Faw Morris."
Monologue topics: mail, videos, intoxicated listeners on rooftops, my bad memory.
Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, calls it
"A spellbinding look into the protagonist’s being... meticulously crafted ... Days and shows pass, but within this routine, a transformation slowly creeps into the narrative: that of commitment, and, perhaps, hope for the future."
And Michael Stipe says
"The world of Wonderland is authentic, vibrant, and genuine. Stacey D’Erasmo explores the delight and terror of second chances. A great read!"
Monologue topics: heat, Santa Ana winds, climate change, indifference, idiocy, fear.
Roxane Gay says
"In Once I Was Cool, Megan Stielstra is warm and open and wise. Whether she’s writing about the complex loneliness of early motherhood or failing to rise to the occasion or find the right language while living abroad, Stielstra is a masterful essayist. From the first page to the last, she demonstrates a graceful understanding of the power of storytelling. What she’s truly offering with her words, is the grandest of gifts."
And Christine Sneed says
"What an amazing cri de coeur Once I Was Cool is. Megan Stielstra tells us in a witty, sympathetic, confident voice who she is and what and whom she cares about most. Reading these essays, I laughed out loud and also found myself on the verge of tears so many times. This book should be read by anyone who's been in love, had a child or thought about having a child. So, probably, that's everyone."
Monologue: humans, friendships, community, the fragility of human relationships, loneliness, complexity, simplicity.
Leslie Jamison is the guest. Her new collection of essays, entitled The Empathy Exams, is now available from Graywolf Press.
The New York Times Book Review calls it
"Extraordinary and exacting....This capacity for critical thinking, for a kind of cool skepticism that never gives way to the chilly blandishments of irony, is very rare. It's not surprising that Jamison is drawing comparisons to Sontag....There is a glory to this kind of writing that derives as much from its ethical generosity, the palpable sense of stretch and reach, as it does from the lovely vividness of the language itself....It's hard to imagine a stronger, more thoughtful voice emerging this year."
And Phillip Lopate, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, says
"[Jamison] writes consistently with passion and panache; her sentences are elegantly formed, her voice on the page intimate and insistent. Always intelligent, self-questioning, willing to experiment with form, daring to engage with the weird and thrust herself into danger spots, a patient researcher and voracious processor of literature and critical theory, she is the complete package: state-of-the-art nonfiction."
Monologue topics: mail, cheering up, the struggle, expressing the subterranean.
Jonathan Evison raves
“O, Democracy! infuriates and inspires. Rooney has written a brilliant and fiercely readable novel of politics and ideals, both an indictment and a celebration of the American Experiment, which will leave you breathless.”
And Elizabeth Crane says
“With O, Democracy!, Kathleen Rooney makes a swift and seamless transition from poetry to fiction, pairing her skill for image with a fresh voice, humor, and a keen eye for the political world she navigates here. An exciting debut.”
Monologue topics: panicking, whining, suffering publicly, ratings, E.T., money, picking up the tab, emotionally needy social behavior.
Adam Wilson says
"Juliet Escoria is like a gutter-punk Grace Paley."
And Benjamin Samuel, co-editor of Electric Literature, says
"Reading the stories in Black Cloud is like getting punched in the throat; Juliet Escoria leaves you speechless. Her honesty teaches us that beauty can be found in violence, truth in pain, and life where we've always been afraid to look."
Monologue: travel, American Airlines, family, fatigue, weddings.
Mathias Svalina says
"Sometimes I think Sommer Browning is a James Wright for the basic cable generation, at others the gorgeously deformed lovechild of H.D. and Groucho Marx. What I mean is I cannot categorize these poems, and that's the highest compliment I can give any poetry."
Monologue topics: Birds, Bird, Charlie Parker, being pressed for time.
Josh Raab is the guest. He is the founder of The Newer York Press, an experimental literary publisher based in Los Angeles. Its latest title, The Inevitable June, by Bob Schofield, is now available for pre-order.
Monologue topics: the desert, Coachella, fish tacos, sunlight, curmudgeonliness.
Cheryl Strayed says
"As generous as it is smart, as intimate as it is grand, as illuminating as it is dark. With grace and guts, Justin Hocking dares to go where few men have gone before: not only out to sea, but also into the depths of the human heart."
And Junot Díaz says
“This beautiful memoir is beyond cool. A voyage both erudite and affecting.”
Monologue topics: TNB Book Club, mail, miscarriage, fatherhood, privilege, sadsploitation.
Today's show features conversations with multiple authors, all of whom have contributed to a new anthology entitled Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers. Guests include the anthology's editors, Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon, as well as Amy Brill, Arielle Greenberg, Cristina Henriquez, Heidi Julavits, Jane Roper, Rachel Jamison Webster, Sarah Jefferis, and Sarah Strickley.
"This isn’t a how-to book, nor does it present a case for the ‘perfect birth,’ which sets it apart from the plethora of childbirth manuals and lends it broader appeal and a very different type of resonance."
And Emma Straub says
"Pregnancy made my body ravenous for food and my brain ravenous for stories like this, stories of how other women had crossed the great divide. In delivery rooms, in the backseats of cars, and at home, these women tell their birth stories so clearly that they must have had stenographers present on the scene. I loved reading this book with my baby asleep in the next room, and will give it to every pregnant woman I know from here on out, forever."
Monologue topics: Labor Day, hard work, parenthood.
The Globe and Mail says
“A satirical, misanthropic romp through reality television, environmental disaster and apocalyptic possibilities. Once again, Coupland...has asserted himself as a documenter of our times and anticipator of societal threats.... The plugged-in consumer-culture philosopher has created a brand of his own, becoming—and, over the long haul, remaining—a thinky superstar for a distracted era. More than 20 years after he became a pop-culture darling with Generation X, Coupland is still innovating—not simply cranking out words and sculptures, but making a significant contribution with astute observations.... As the country’s go-to guy for art, design, and contemporary social commentary, could Coupland be Canada’s Biggest. (Cultural). Brain. Ever?”
And The Independent calls it
"...a scatological bun-fight of excess and debauchery, of juvenile humour peppered with bilious rage at the state of the world...It’s riotous, frequently very funny...I can’t locate very much seriousness, but I certainly enjoyed trying.”
Monologue topics: mail, age, generations, Spencer and Mira.
Publishers Weekly says
"Greenwood is a writer of subtle strength...finding light in the darkest of stories."
And Library Journal calls it
"...intricate and tragic...This compassionate, insightful look at hope and redemption is a richly textured portrait."
Monologue topics: Otherppl Premium, writing, worrying about the quality of my content.
The Daily Beast calls it
"Gripping...The perfect book for our present moment."
And Kirkus Reviews calls it
"An invigorating historical thriller... Intimately gripping... O'Connor writes with fire."
Monologue topics: company, family, being too busy, wanting to live in utopia, mail.
Rene Denfeld is the guest. She is an accomplished journalist who has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Oregonian, and other publications. She is also a licensed investigator who specializes in death penalty work. Her debut novel, The Enchanted, is now available from Harper.
Publishers Weekly calls it
“A striking one-of-a-kind prison novel....[with] rich, haunting prose...A stunning first novel from an already accomplished writer.”
And Donald Ray Pollock says
“Rene Denfeld is a genius. In The Enchanted, she has imagined one of the grimmest settings in the world--a dank and filthy death row in a corrupt prison--and given us one of the most beautiful, heart-rending, and riveting novels I have ever read.”
Monologue topics: Melissa Broder, public bathrooms, darkened anterooms, tall strangers, misunderstandings, micro-paranoia.