• September 12, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Michelle Dean

    At first, it might be hard to see the connection between the ten critics profiled in Michelle Dean’s Sharp. Writers such as Dorothy Parker, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, Janet Malcolm, and Nora Ephron were singular talents—each an uneasy fit for any neat label. What links them, Dean writes, was that they were “sharp”—the word was often used as an insult—and possessed a keen critical facility that was underappreciated at the time but has become extremely influential. Dean’s book is an alternative to the usual, single-subject biography, which often considered “these women in isolation,

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  • July 19, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Chelsea Hodson

    In the autobiographical essays that make up her debut collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else, Chelsea Hodson examines the chaotic and bewildering experience of being an American woman and artist. At first glance, some essays resemble a well-curated Twitter feed—like the single-line, stream-of-consciousness observations found in “The End of Longing”—but Hodson offers much more than aphoristic quips: She delves deeply into themes such as longing, desire, performance, and voyeurism. Her fragmentary, self-aware style evokes recent works by Sarah Manguso, Jenny Offill, and Maggie Nelson, yet her

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  • July 11, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Keith Gessen

    Keith Gessen’s timely and hilarious new novel, A Terrible Country, arrives ten years after his first, All the Sad Young Literary Men. The story follows Andrei Kaplan, an overeducated, underemployed young academic as he relocates to Moscow to look after his sick grandmother in the summer of 2008. Over the course of the year, Andrei cares for his grandmother, plays hockey, befriends revolutionaries, and falls in love. I spoke with Gessen on a hot summer afternoon in the Greene Acres Community Garden in Brooklyn in the presence of many mosquitos and at least one cooped chicken.

    Was there a

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  • June 22, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Cheston Knapp

    The word essay comes from a French word meaning “to try.” But thinking of an essay as simply an exploratory effort diminishes the form’s deep tradition—one worthy of serious study. With his debut collection, Up Up, Down Down, Cheston Knapp exhibits both a studied mastery of the form and a reverence for its artistry. In his capacious works, Knapp seamlessly weaves seemingly disparate topics. In one essay, he studies the performative nature of professional wrestling alongside memories of a fraught father-son relationship. In another, he scrutinizes both UFO fanatics and his own relationship with

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  • May 31, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Porochista Khakpour

    Porochista Khakpour’s memoir, Sick, is a deeply powerful and harrowing odyssey through the most profound mysteries of mind and body, as Khakpour explores the roots of a chronic illness that has no clear beginning or end. I was already a great fan of Khakpour’s dazzling novels, Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion, in addition to her essays, and Sick cements her reputation as one of our most vital writers working today. We conducted this interview over e-mail in April and May of 2018.

    We’re both novelists and to me the start of a novel feels generated by a collision of several

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  • April 16, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Wayne Koestenbaum

    Ludwig Wittgenstein noted that in representational writing, “one thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature . . . and one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it.” In Wayne Koestenbaum’s “trance journals”—The Pink Trance Notebooks (2015) and the newly released Camp Marmalade—both the frame and the off-frame are folded into his trans-perspectival impressions. Camp Marmalade deep-focuses on the color orange, but like the best procedural works, the tangents are as crucial as the concept. References kaleidoscopically come together with edge-by-edge precision.

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  • Meg Wolitzer. Photo: Nina Subin
    April 11, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Meg Wolitzer

    Meg Wolitzer’s new novel, The Female Persuasion, tells the story of Greer, a young college-aged woman, and her famous feminist mentor, Faith Frank. Through the book, Wolitzer explores both second-wave feminism and a younger generation’s responses to it. Along with the novel’s explicit political focus is the story of a life-altering female friendship. Through this relationship, Wolitzer observes the changing conditions of her characters’ lives in the context of feminism and misogyny—something she had been thinking about long before Trump and Weinstein. Wolitzer and I discussed the book this

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  • March 16, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Jenn Pelly

    “The Raincoats were a group of women who were, in part, just learning to play their instruments, but their debut album also coincides with the start of a whole artistic sensibility, one of fearless and knowing amateurism,” Pitchfork contributing editor Jenn Pelly writes in her recent book about the origins of the Raincoats, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 music writing series.

    The band—which in 1979 meant Ana da Silva (guitar), Gina Birch (bass), Vicki Aspinall (violin), Palmolive (drums), and Shirley O’Loughlin (manager and collaborator)—pursued uninhibited expression through imperfect post-punk

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  • January 25, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Mathieu Lindon

    The human capacity for love is vast and open, yet the word love is often limited: it’s the feeling between people with shared DNA, or the volatile emotion of romance. Mathieu Lindon has experienced life-altering forms of love that defy these categories. In his recently-translated book, Learning What Love Means, Lindon explores the many sides of love by writing about three very different men: His father, Jérôme Lindon, who was the publisher of the iconic French publishing house, Les Éditions de Minuit; Mathieu’s close friend and mentor, Michel Foucault; and the writer Hervé Guibert. An intimate

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  • October 31, 2017

    Malcolm Harris in conversation with Tony Tulathimutte

    I met author Tony Tulathimutte at a reading in Manhattan where he asked the audience to vote on which section of his novel Private Citizens to read from: the one on writer’s workshops or the one on pornography. Porn won, and Tony delivered a complex, funny, and disturbing passage about Will, one of the book’s protagonists, a desperate, recent college graduate. Later, when I saw his blurb recommending Malcolm Harris’s new study, Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, I read the book and was impressed by its sweeping socio-economic critique. As the pub date for Kids These

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  • Andrew Durbin
    October 17, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Andrew Durbin

    Over the past few years, I’ve heard Andrew Durbin read a handful of times from material that would comprise his debut novel, MacArthur Park. Blushing, he’d rush through the reading, his anxious timbre at odds with the confidently intelligent voice of his prose. Named for Donna Summer’s 1978 hit song, the novel is a series of snapshots, a scrapbook of scenes following a voyeuristic narrator, Nick (who, like Durbin, is a writer—a poet, obsessed with death, distracted by sex—and a lover of contemporary art) as he travels to dance clubs in Brooklyn, an artists’ residency upstate, the Tom of Finland

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  • September 13, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Lucy Ives

    Lucy Ives was supposed to be writing her dissertation when Stella Krakus, the main character in Ives’s debut novel, Impossible Views of the World, came into her mind. It would take six years for Stella to fully emerge, but when she did, she brought an unlikely triumvirate of irrepressible qualities: a nerd’s expertise in maps and early Americana, a kooky and misanthropic sense of self, and a gimlet eye for the art world in which she seems surprised to have found herself. Stella is a curator at the fictional Central Museum of Art in Manhattan, and when one of her colleagues disappears, she

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