• Nana Nkweti. Photo: Shea Sadulski/Out of Focus Photo Studio.
    June 15, 2021

    Voice Leading

    I spoke with Nana Nkweti during the odd time after my first vaccine shot but before my second, when I felt stuck between the world as it has been since March 2020 and the world as it could be, post-immunity. This sense of being caught in two realities at once felt reminiscent of Nkweti’s debut short-story collection, Walking on Cowrie Shells. As embodied in characters like a pastor’s wife carrying a miraculous pregnancy after years of infertility in “The Devil Is a Liar,” an adopted daughter who isn’t at all like what her parents expect in “It Takes a Village Some Say,” and a jaded publicist

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  • Elissa Washuta. Photo: K. R. Forbes
    June 03, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Elissa Washuta about her new essay collection

    In her new collection of linked essays, Elissa Washuta explores heartbreak, the occult, and the legacy of settler colonialism in the US. Weaving Native folklore with the history of exploitation of tribes such as the Duwamish people—alongside analysis of Twin Peaks, Fleetwood Mac videos, and the Oregon Trail II computer game—Washuta considers broader notions of inheritance, magic, and value. For Bookforum, Washuta and I chatted over Zoom about narrative, literary Twitter, and learning to cede control.

    ELIZABETH LOTHIAN: You play with narrative a lot in White Magic. Can you talk a bit about

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  • Rachel Kushner. Photo: Gabby Laurent
    May 25, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Rachel Kushner about carceral geography and her new book, The Hard Crowd

    JULIA PAGNAMENTA: In a recent interview hosted by 192 Books, Ben Lerner observed that your essays in The Hard Crowd “resist psychological access.” You replied that any self-reflection missing from the essays was “intentional,” and that you were interested in analysis rather than in therapy. That the difference between the two models might play a role in the kind of “self-revelations” you were “willing to share.”

    I thought of this exchange when reading “Popular Mechanics,” The Hard Crowd’s chapter on writer Nanni Balestrini, where you write about Alfonso Natella, the protagonist in his novel

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  • Sarah Schulman. Photo: Drew Stevens.
    May 19, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Sarah Schulman about the life-and-death work of ACT UP

    In your new book, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987‑1993 you write that you can’t tell the story of ACT UP chronologically because too much was happening at once. So, you arranged the book thematically. What did this allow you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise?

    It lets the reader experience what time was like inside the organization. It was so intense. So many people were suffering and so many people were acting. In the back of the book, I do give a timeline so if people want to see when a particular event happened, they can, but it would be impossible to write

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  • April 27, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Maria Kuznetsova about her new novel of family lore and motherhood

    Maria Kuznetsova’s fiction is distinguished by her memorable female characters, women who can find wonder—and a wry laugh—even in the darkest moments. Her second novel, Something Unbelievable, introduces two such women: Larissa, a vivacious, acerbically blunt octogenarian living in Kiev, and her granddaughter Natasha, a “weary and ruined and sweat-covered” new mother in a cramped Upper Manhattan apartment. Natasha has lost both of her parents years earlier, and her baby daughter inspires her to reflect on matrilineal inheritance. She asks Larissa to recount her family’s escape from the Nazis,

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  • Dawnie Walton. Photo: Rayon Richards
    April 01, 2021

    Dawnie Walton discusses her novel about an iconic proto-punk singer

    One night in the spring of 1970, up-and-coming British singer-songwriter Nev Charles sees a young woman named Opal Robinson singing at a Detroit open-mic. She is wearing crushed velvet and a long blue-black wig, and he is, in his own words, “absolutely gobsmacked.” Her strange voice wields just the power his act is missing. When Opal starts performing with him in the New York City rock scene, a cult idol is born.

    Opal is the fictional musician and provocateur of Dawnie Walton’s debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, which begins by revisiting the duo’s origins. It goes on to cover

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  • Jo Ann Beard. Photo: Franco Vogt
    March 25, 2021

    Jo Ann Beard on how she found the deep imaginative spaces of her new essay collection

    With a year of lockdown and a year at home, what’s helping you stay in what you’ve described as the “underwater” imaginative space of writing, and what’s making it harder?

    I’m on sabbatical this year, and made a decision, even before the pandemic, that I was going to use it as an opportunity to do nothing. I’ve more or less worked full-time since I graduated from high school, and as you know, if you’re a writer, whatever you do for a living you always feel you have another full-time job on top of that. So I decided that I was going to spend this year not writing but experiencing what it is

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  • Bett Williams. Photo: Beth Hill
    March 15, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Bett Williams about her mycological journey

    If mushrooms are having a moment, psilocybin mushrooms are having their own red-carpeted star turn. Multiple double-blind studies conducted at Johns Hopkins University, which has its own Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, have shown how psilocybin mushrooms, administered in hours-long, therapist-guided sessions (with a playlist), have helped those with depression, various types addiction, fear of death. Microdosing is widespread, and psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in Oregon and various cities around the country. Bett Williams recounts her own “psilocybin odyssey”

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  • Vivian Gornick, 2020.

    Wisdom in the Work

    EMILY GOULD: Can you tell us about the process for making your new collection, Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature, and Feminism in Our Time (Verso, $27)? What went into it and what was left behind?

    VIVIAN GORNICK: A lot got left behind. I don’t know how any writer puts together this kind of a collection. Someone like Janet Malcolm solves the problem by just putting out book after book of collected writing. I don’t think I’m going to do that.

    My devoted editor at Verso, Jessie Kindig, made some suggestions that triggered other suggestions of mine. I didn’t want anything from

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  • Lucie Elven. Photo: Sophie Davidson
    February 23, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Lucie Elven about her new novel

    In her fiction, Lucie Elven delves into the uses and abuses of language—the way it can obscure or uphold power dynamics, and act as medicine, a shield, or a trap. Elven’s new novel, The Weak Spot, is a fable and a tale of workplace power dynamics. The book’s nameless narrator accepts a pharmacy apprenticeship in a mountain town, where the pharmacy’s owner, Mr. Malone, trains her to think of her work as a type of therapy. She hears her customers’ fears and complaints, teasing out their secrets while Mr. Malone eavesdrops. This comes naturally to the narrator, who nurtures a faith in the ability

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  • February 09, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Andreas Malm about his new book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline

    In his new book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire, Andreas Malm questions a central tenet of activist orthodoxy: strategic pacifism is always preferable to violence no matter the situation, the stakes, the actors, or the consequences. Malm, a lecturer in the human ecology division at Lund University in Sweden, has written several books on fossil fuels, climate change, and political economy. Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (2016) presents a detailed historic account of the role played by coal in the industrial revolution.

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  • Women from Boston and Charleston, West Virginia, holding signs, demonstrating against busing and textbooks, Washington, D.C.
    November 30, 2020

    Rick Perlstein, Leon Neyfakh, Sam Adler-Bell, and Matthew Sitman on how the Right keeps winning

    In his podcasts Slow Burn and Fiasco, Leon Neyfakh and his team have covered Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Iran-Contra affair, and more, making seemingly familiar stories feel both fresh and suspenseful. In the third season of Fiasco, Neyfakh turns his attention to the battle over school desegregation in Boston in the 1970s, during which white Northerners took pains to distance themselves from racist Southerners while fighting against school integration in their own city. An activist and two-time mayoral hopeful named Louise Day Hicks led the opposition to Judge W. Arthur Garrity

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