• Wayne Koestenbaum. Photo: Tim Schutsky
    June 02, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Wayne Koestenbaum

    Wayne Koestenbaum performs a surgery of surfaces. He finds the inside of a thing by drawing together the outsides of that thing, pinching the body until the folds present a name. His new book, Figure It Out, is a collection of essays and reviews written at some point in the twenty-first century, mostly the last ten years. The thread of the book is “Wayne thought it” and this glistens like a shell.

    These pieces are self-assignments, opportunities to create and solve a problem at the same time. Some tell you this right up front. From a 2015 piece called “Twelve Assignments,” here is the eleventh

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  • Lydia Millet. Photo: Nola Millet

    There Will Be Flood

    In your new novel, A Children’s Bible (Norton, $26), a group of kids, teens mostly, are on vacation with their parents in an old mansion when a flood occurs and American society begins to fall apart. Would it be fair to call it a soft apocalypse, or a plausible dystopia?

    The scenario in the book has a high degree of plausibility—it’s not phantasmagorical. It’s not an alternate world, simply this one. Plausible dystopia, soft apocalypse—they’re terms for genres, but they also describe our actual life now. Although at times, lately, I’ve watched the news or read the tweets and felt our reality

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  • Lucy Ives
    May 13, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Lucy Ives about a new Madeline Gins anthology

    Madeline Gins (1941–2014) never took anything for granted, certainly not something as foundational as language. Gins was a philosopher, writer, agitator, and architect. She is probably best known for her project Reversible Destiny, an elaborate philosophical endeavor she developed with her husband, the artist and architect Shusaku Arakawa, that questioned the inevitability of death. Over the course of several decades, beginning in the 1960s—often in collaboration with other artists, scholars, and architects—Arakawa and Gins conducted research, made art, wrote manifestoes, and designed and

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  • Celia Laskey. Photo: Leonora Anzaldua
    May 05, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Celia Laskey

    Celia Laskey’s new novel, Under the Rainbow, takes place in the fictional town of Big Burr, Kansas, which could easily stand in for any small town in America. Like the town Laskey herself grew up in, Big Burr is full of people who love each other, while also being insular. After LGBTQ+ rights group Acceptance Across America determines that Big Burr is “the most homophobic town in America,” the group sends a cohort of queer people from the coasts to change hearts and minds. Under the Rainbow follows several characters over the AAA’s two-year occupation of Big Burr and details the ways their work

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  • Chelsea Bieker. Photo: Jessica Keaveny
    April 14, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Chelsea Bieker

    Chelsea Bieker grew up in California’s Central Valley, where agriculture and survival are intertwined, a landscape that leaves its mark on her debut novel, Godshot. Fourteen-year-old Lacey May lives with her mother in the fictional town of Peaches, California. The grape-growing industry, the town’s main employer, has been ravaged by drought. Enter Pastor Vern, a glitter-loving cult leader who exploits this desperation by promising that God will bring rain if the townspeople join his church, Gifts of the Spirit. Almost all the residents of Peaches are drawn in to the group, including Lacey and

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  • Malcolm Harris. Photo: Julia Burke
    April 07, 2020

    “The way we’re counting value these days, it all goes away very fast.”

    One of the most striking, important, and unique features of Malcolm Harris’s work is the way in which he integrates a profound understanding of Marx’s critique of political economy into his analyses of our contemporary life without heavy-handed jargon. Harris’s first book, Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (2017), addressed how we should understand millennials and explains why we shouldn’t understand their generation in terms of the moralizing analyses that are often proffered but instead in terms of its mode of production. His new book, Shit is Fucked Up & Bullshit:

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  • Eve Babitz.
    March 31, 2020

    “I never thought of myself as an ‘influencer.’”

    JULIA PAGNAMENTA: In the preface to your first book, Eve’s Hollywood (1974), you write, “I believe that places should be capitalized . . . West, especially, is a serious place that should ALWAYS be capitalized. It also sounds more adventurous to go West than to go west.” The spirit and sense of a place—genius loci—are such prominent parts of your writing. How does sense of place influence your writing?

    EVE BABITZ: I was a visual artist first, my collages and drawings, and I really like the way certain words look, like West rather than west.

    I love reading descriptions of places. It’s how a

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  • Percival Everett, 2011. Courtesy the author

    Trout Fishing in America

    Greil Marcus: Starting in 1983 with Suder, you’ve published, I think, twenty-five books of fiction. In your new novel, Telephone (Graywolf, $16), the narrator is a geologist; one day, playing chess with his twelve-year-old daughter, she misses a move—and soon she is diagnosed with a disease that in a short time will destroy her mind and then her life. He can’t save her—but one day he finds a note in a shirt he’s ordered online, from New Mexico, reading “Help me” in Spanish. He places another order; another note, speaking for more than one person. He can’t save his daughter—maybe there are people

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  • Emily Nemens. Photo: James Emmerman
    March 19, 2020

    Fielding Questions

    Emily Nemens, the editor in chief of the Paris Review, is also an accomplished illustrator: Her cartoons have appeared in publications like the New Yorker, and in 2011 she started a multiyear series of watercolor portraits of every woman in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congresses. Nemens also happens to know a lot about baseball, thanks to a childhood spent watching Mariners games with her father in her native Seattle.

    Each of these skills comes into play in Nemens’s new novel, The Cactus League, a propulsive debut set in the highly competitive world of professional baseball. At the center of

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  • Fanny Howe. Photo: Lynn Christoffers
    February 17, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Fanny Howe about fragmentary narratives and recapitulation

    Born in 1940 during a lunar eclipse, the poet and novelist Fanny Howe is the black sheep of her blue-blooded Boston family. Daughter of Mark DeWolfe Howe, a Harvard law professor and civil rights activist, and Mary Manning, an Irish-born actress and playwright, Howe grew up as part of a powerful and gifted artistic pantheon. Breaking with tradition, she moved West, became a communist and later a Catholic, and dropped out of college three times. (Howe attended but never graduated from Stanford.) She eloped with a conservative microbiologist but left him in the febrile days following JFK’s

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  • Carson McCullers. Photo: Carl Van Vechten, 1959. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection.
    February 04, 2020

    Queering the Archive

    In 2012, Jenn Shapland was an intern at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center. While working there, she discovered the archives of Carson McCullers, the inspiration for Shapland’s new book. She had never read any of McCullers’s work, but the titles, Shapland writes in the first pages of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, “always struck a chord with me. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Like, same.” One day, as Shapland was answering queries from researchers and scholars, she came across a request for correspondence between McCullers and Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and

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  • Anna Wiener. Photo: Russell Perkins
    January 30, 2020

    “These companies can really infiltrate your identity”

    Silicon Valley has mostly been chronicled by founders, investors, and tech-utopian true believers. By that measure, Anna Wiener’s new memoir of working for start-ups, Uncanny Valley, in not really an insider's account. True, Wiener worked for a variety of tech companies beginning in 2013, but her customer-support jobs were viewed as superfluous to the “real” work of CEOs and engineers. This position of insider-outsider allowed Wiener to impartially observe the hidden workings of companies that have taken over virtually every aspect of the economy and transformed our public and private lives.

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