• 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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  • Cara Blue Adams. Photo: Roque Nonini
    December 21, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Cara Blue Adams about her story collection You Never Get It Back

    Cara Blue Adams’s debut short-story collection, You Never Get It Back, follows twentysomething Kate Bishop as she tries to navigate the tenuous postgrad years: we see her fall in and out of love, experiment with different careers, and negotiate a changing relationship with her family as she gains the financial stability that has eluded her immediate relatives. This collection of linked stories highlights Adams’s keen sense of how gender, class, and ambition intertwine—it’s also a tribute to the lives we fight to make for ourselves when saddled with expectations and responsibilities beyond our

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  • Geo Maher. Photo: Verso
    December 15, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Geo Maher about abolishing the police and transforming carceral structures

    Seventeen months after George Floyd was executed by cops in Minneapolis, sparking the most potent Black liberation uprisings in this country in decades, the city held a vote on the future of its police. Minneapolitans were asked to vote on an amendment that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety focused on public health solutions. The amendment lost; 56 percent of voters rejected it. All too triumphant headlines followed: this was, we were to understand, a full rebuke of that silly idea that people would want to get rid of the police.

    Was it

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  • The second volume of Cured Quail
    December 08, 2021

    A new journal uses obstacles to critically evaluate culture

    Early in the pandemic, I googled “community” and “solidarity” and other common words whose purpose I could no longer feel. When I entered “Communism,” I got a page of self-published MAGAroni books detailing the failures of Jon Stewart and then, a few pages in, actual Communists popped up. This translation of Théorie Communiste’s piece on conspiracism brought me to Cured Quails blog. (I later quoted this piece in an essay for New York Review of Books about Adam Curtis.) Because I liked the name of the journal and they seemed committed to difficulty in a general sense, I ordered the first volume

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  • Brian Evenson. Photo: Kristen Tracey, © 2021.
    November 11, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Brian Evenson about his new story collection, The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell

    Brian Evenson’s latest collection, The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell, was published by Coffee House Press in August. Its stories often depict mysterious worlds in which several realities splinter apart. No one is who they seem to be. Everything is a lie, and nothing is true. Today, as our wealthiest citizens race to leave the planet and climate change takes its toll on our forests, oceans, and air, Evenson’s unblinking stories of genetic mutations and ecological disaster read as both cautionary and strangely transcendent.

    DAVID PEAK: Several stories in The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell are

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  • Tamara Shopsin. © Michael Schmelling
    October 21, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Tamara Shopsin about LaserWriter II, her novel of a Manhattan computer-repair shop

    Although it sounds like the name of a sequel, LaserWriter II is the debut novel of writer and designer Tamara Shopsin; it takes its name from a laser printer manufactured by Apple in the early 1990s. The mechanics of printing are a formal concern throughout the book, which is divided by surprising page breaks and pixelated illustrations, as well its central plot fixture: Shopsin follows Claire, a young New Yorker with anarchist leanings, through her stint as a printer technician at Tekserve, a computer-repair shop that operated on West 23rd Street until 2016. Between shifts spent laboring over

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  • Alexandra Brodsky. Photo: Lily Olsen
    October 14, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Alexandra Brodsky about her new book investigating how sexual violence is adjudicated

    In many ways, Alexandra Brodsky’s new book, Sexual Justice: Supporting Victims, Ensuring Due Process, and Resisting the Conservative Backlash, is a breath of fresh air. Skipping many of the moral debates surrounding sexual violence, Brodsky, a civil rights lawyer, looks for solutions. With a survey of the past and present of sexual abuse adjudication procedures, she looks at what’s working (very little), why sexual violence is treated so much differently than other kinds of harm, and what a viable reporting path for survivors might look like.

    Brodsky hasn’t always been so deep in the procedural

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  • Marlowe Granados. Photo: May Truong.
    October 05, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Marlowe Granados about her new novel Happy Hour

    Marlowe Granados’s debut novel, Happy Hour, follows two twentysomethings, Isa and Gala, as they navigate New York City in the summer of 2013. The pair make ends meet by working odd, off-the-clock jobs and charming everyone in their path. Published by Verso this fall, the book combines fun and glamour with Granados’s sharp sense of how moneyed society really works. Isa and Gala follow in the footsteps of party girls past while living in genuine precarity, but Granados insists that they needn’t suffer for it. For Bookforum, writer Alex Quicho recently caught up with Granados to talk about glamour,

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  • Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. Photo: Kayla Holdread
    September 24, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi about her new novel

    The writer Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi has just published a new novel, Savage Tongues. The book, her third, features a middle-aged writer, Arezu, who returns to a family property in Spain for the first time in twenty years. As a teenager, Arezu had a brutal affair in the apartment with an older man, Omar. Revisiting the site means coming to terms with abuse, violence, desire, and the ways in which politics and power infuse our intimate lives. For Bookforum, poet and writer Nazlı Koca spoke to Oloomi about personal and political self-destruction, resilience, the literature of exile, and the

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  • Asali Solomon, Philadelphia, 2021. Ron Nichols; Mural: David Shane

    A Day in the Life

    POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR: The Days of Afrekete (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) is another outstanding book, following up on your 2006 collection Get Down and your 2015 novel Disgruntled. I just love how you’ve created this incredibly intimate and yet expansive portrait of the complicated friendship of two women at middle age, who have all sorts of identity issues to reckon with—race, sexuality, class, everything. The fact that it is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Audre Lorde’s Zami also made it extra-satisfying to read. To what degree do you think it’s important

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  • Katie Engelhart. Photo: Owain Rich
    July 28, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Katie Engelhart about the right-to-die movement

    Mainstream debates over assisted suicide, or the “right to die,” are predictable. The so-called “sanctity of life” is pitched against “personal autonomy,” while murkier questions of context, political power, and personhood remain uninterrogated. Journalist Katie Engelhart’s The Inevitable does more than perhaps any book to date to advance and complicate the issue. The intensively reported text offers intimate portraits of people seeking and fighting to expand the “right to die,” each of whom seems to edge closer and closer to what we might call “imit cases”: individuals whose desires for

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