• May 13, 2022

    Mountain Song

    “Often it seems that the more action there is, the less happens,” wrote Ursula K. Le Guin, explaining her frequent boredom with adventure stories. Kim Stanley Robinson is, among many things, a great spinner of adventures—but whether he’s depicting Earth’s colonization of Mars or geopolitical intrigues in Antarctica, the fast pace of events in his novels never crowds out their rich inner worlds.

    These inner depths are usually set against and within the drama of landscapes both seductive and deserving of respect. So it’s no surprise that The High Sierra: A Love Story, his first nonfiction book

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  • April 08, 2022

    Marquee Moon

    Emily St. John Mandel is known for novels that hopscotch through time and transform and transcend genre. She has tackled everything from devastating pandemics (written before our own), Madoffesque Ponzi schemes, theater troupes, addiction, and the global shipping industry. Her 2014 best-seller, Station Eleven, was adapted into a critically acclaimed miniseries that premiered on HBO in late 2021.  

    Mandel’s sixth novel, Sea of Tranquility, is her most ambitious to date, spanning five hundred years, from early-twentieth-century Canada to a moon colony in 2401, the eras knitted together by her

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  • Caren Beilin. Photo: Aaron Shulman
    April 05, 2022

    Caren Beilin discusses ritual, revenge, and toying with trauma in a new novel

    Caren Beilin’s prose trusts us to invest in the logic, sound, and feeling at hand. I come for the sentences, and I stay for the politics. Her prior work in fiction and nonfiction challenges medical narratives; gives voice to the chronically ill; presents surreal, continuous menstruation alongside historical anecdote; and resists gendered positions of listening and caretaking. I have the sense as I read Beilin that we are making discoveries at the same time, reader and writer together, that the sentences propel realizations as opposed to the other way around.

    In Beilin’s new novel, Revenge of

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  • Warren Ellis. Photo: Faber
    March 31, 2022

    Musician-author Warren Ellis discusses his book Nina Simone’s Gum

    During the pandemic, Warren Ellis wrote Nina Simone’s Gum in his Paris atelier. As he told me, “It’s where I’ve pretty much done everything for the last ten years. It’s an old barn, converted into a studio.” The book centers on a piece of gum Ellis pulls off the piano Nina Simone used at a concert in 1999, but it ranges out through his history of learning to play violin and accordion, and then later joining Dirty Three and meeting Nick Cave. It’s a quick, rich book. We spoke by Zoom in January.

    SASHA FRERE-JONES: So this all begins when Nick Cave booked Nina Simone to play his version of the

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  • Mona Chollet. Photo: © Mathieu Zazzo.
    March 24, 2022

    A conversation with Mona Chollet about witches and feminism

    It is a misconception that witch hunts only occurred during the Middle Ages—many took place during the alleged lucidity of the Renaissance. Men exploited the climate of suspicion to dispose of women they didn’t want around. Whole family lines were wiped out. Nonconforming women were denounced, humiliated, and killed. Centuries later, this kind of persecution continues in insidious ways, underpinned by relentless misogyny and victim blaming. The same female figures are still considered dangerous: the single woman, the childless woman, the aging woman—all dismissed with fear, pity, or horror.

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  • Ari Brostoff. Photo: Amelia Golden
    March 15, 2022

    Ari Brostoff’s debut essay collection studies the ruptures of our very recent past

    Ari Brostoff’s debut collection of essays, Missing Time, shows one of our very best cultural critics at work. Written between 2016 and 2021, these five essays range from analyses of Bernie Sanders, The X-Files, Sigmund Freud, conspiracy theories, Jewish diaspora, Vivian Gornick, and falling in and out of (and back in) love with communism. What unites them is the curiously roving perspective of Brostoff, whose wisdom lies in understanding how popular culture and ephemera might be as ripe for historizing as social movements and schools of thought. A piercing investigation of the cultural detritus

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  • Missouri Williams. Photo: Ceci June
    March 04, 2022

    Missouri Williams’s philosophical novel of postapocalyptic survival

    Missouri Williams is an author, editor, and playwright currently living in Prague. As coeditor of the feminist film journal Another Gaze, and a contributor to outlets like The Baffler, The Nation, and Five Dials, she has written about the social importance of enmity, the epic misery of the writer Thomas Bernhard, and Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. In keeping with these themes, Williams has just produced her first novel, The Doloriad, published by MCD x FSG Originals.

    An apocalypse narrative of biblical proportions, the book follows an interbreeding family on the

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  • Marlon James, 2021. Mark Seliger

    Every Witch Way

    ELVIA WILK: I wanted to tell you that I had a dream in the Dark Star universe last night.

    MARLON JAMES: Oh, wow.

    It was intense. I’ve been rereading your books in anticipation for this meeting. I think some hyenas visited me last night.

    Hopefully they came in solidarity. You really don’t want to be on their bad side.

    They were definitely chasing me toward this interview. I guess they knew that I was excited to talk about your new book.

    Moon Witch, Spider King (Riverhead, $30) is the second in the Dark Star Trilogy. The first book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, set up a sprawling universe and

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  • February 25, 2022

    Stuart Jeffries's maximalist take on postmodernism

    Stuart Jeffries is an author and journalist who has contributed to The Guardian for decades as an editor and critic. His illuminating biography of the Frankfurt School, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School, was published in 2016 by Verso. It was a considerable, pleasantly accessible account of brilliant and conflicted thinkers, cultural Marxism, and the fight against fascism. The subjects of his latest book, Everything, All the Time, Everywhere: How We Became Postmodern, include David Bowie, Grand Theft Auto, Margaret Thatcher, Jeff Koons, Chris Kraus’s novel I Love Dick, and

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  • John Keene. Photo: Nina Subin
    January 25, 2022

    Bookforum talks with John Keene about Punks, an assemblage of poems three decades in the making

    John Keene, the novelist, translator, poet, is one of these bold, singular artists who continuously redefines and recontextualizes American literature. From his debut with Annotations (1995), a prose-poem about coming-of-age in St. Louis and still ahead of our time, to the masterpiece Counternarratives (2015), Keene’s output remains undefinable for how easily he blends genres, forms, and styles to celebrate the lives and experiences of people in the Americas who remained in history’s margins for far too long. Now, with the publication of his latest poetry collection Punks, Keene brings together

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  • January 18, 2022

    Bookforum talks with John Koenig about defining obscure emotions and experiences

    John Koenig’s new book, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, lives up to its description as a “compendium of new words for emotions.” To many readers, the most recognizable of his neologisms is surely sonder—“the realization that each random passerby is the main character of their own story, in which you are just an extra in the background”—which Koenig introduced years ago and has since found its way into the popular lexicon because of, one assumes, the ubiquity of the realization.

    Yet any dictionary is also an exhibition of language’s status as a—or, depending on which theorist you consult,

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  • Amber Husain. Photo: Leila Husain
    December 30, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Amber Husain about her book-length essay Replace Me

    Amber Husain’s Replace Me is a long-form essay on human replaceability in the workplace and in intimate relationships. It draws from Husain’s own experiences and an extensive list of articles, books, films, and artworks. The latter includes the sculpture by German Conceptual artist Rosemarie Trockel that lends its title to the book. Trockel has made at least two works with the title Replace Me, but the one that Husain cites is from 2011: two ceramic sofas covered in plastic with a soft blanket thrown on top. For Husain, the work “distills this doomed collision between fears and fantasies of

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