• March 31, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Darryl Pinckney

    Darryl Pinckney’s second novel, Black Deutschland, is drifting and elliptical. At its center is Jed, a recovering addict from the South Side of Chicago who makes several long visits to West Berlin. It’s the 1980s, an era Pinckney portrays as blank, scattered, purged of optimism: perfect for a gay black man like Jed, who wants only to snap free of the burdens of “identity.” He falls into affairs and agonizes over the ones that work, all the while navigating an uneasy emotional détente with his cousin Cello, a failed pianist raising mixed-race children with her white, bourgeois husband.

    Politics,

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  • March 23, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Joni Murphy

    Joni Murphy’s debut novel, Double Teenage, ends with the words, “This is a spell for getting out of girlhood alive,” but it speaks equally well to anyone alert to the ways in which a culture of violence can inflect all aspects of life. Growing up in the American Southwest during the 1990s, Murphy’s two upper-middle-class protagonists are stunned by the murder of Donna Beth, their sometime-babysitter and role model. As they get older, they begin to see that the violence around them is systemic, extending to the routine killings of the narco wars and the way these horrors are normalized until

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  • March 14, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Garth Greenwell

    When I first became aware of Garth Greenwell, he was the enigmatic new English teacher at the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria, the high school I had graduated from a year before his arrival in 2009. He became an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights on campus—something that made the school, still attached to its missionary origins, distinctly uncomfortable—and he also introduced a much-discussed fiction assignment that required students to write their own stories modeled after James Joyce’s Dubliners: He wanted them not to look away from the incongruities of their own city, but to make an

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  • January 21, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Brian Evenson

    Brian Evenson has been disturbing readers with his stylish and macabre fiction since the 1994 release of his collection Altmann’s Tongue, which included a story about, among other things, a corpse whose mouth has been stuffed with bees and sewn shut. Evenson’s latest book, A Collapse of Horses, reveals that his unsettling talents have grown subtler and stronger—seventeen stories featuring unsolvable mind-games, drugged-out cults, and space-station claustrophobia, all rendered in Evenson’s unmistakable prose, which is capable of suggesting both grounded realism and jittery paranoia, often at

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  • October 28, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Carrie Brownstein

    From the opening pages of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, it’s clear that Carrie Brownstein, best known as a guitarist and singer in the seminal band Sleater-Kinney, and now as an actor and the cowriter and star of Portlandia, is a writer first. Covering her childhood in the Seattle suburbs, her time in the 1990s Olympia, Washington music scene, and her years recording and touring with Sleater-Kinney, the book sets itself apart from the general run of music memoirs: Well turned, subtle, and clear-eyed, it’s a striking literary accomplishment. I was curious above all about what she read and which

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  • September 14, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Sylvère Lotringer

    Few people can be said to have singlehandedly introduced a new body of thought to a foreign country, but that is precisely what the critic, professor, and Semiotext(e) founder Sylvère Lotringer did throughout the 1970s and ’80s, bringing French theory to these shores via the original Semiotext(e) journal (1974-1985), the famously anarchic “Schizo-Culture” conference at Columbia University in 1975, and, most importantly, the “Foreign Agents” series of pocket-sized paperbacks—English translations of essays and excerpts from Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Paul Virilio, and

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  • August 28, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Ottessa Moshfegh

    I first came to know Ottessa Moshfegh's writing through her shrewd, darkly funny stories in the Paris Review, for which she won the Plimpton Prize. Much of her work deals in disgust (see her story "Disgust"), fixation, and the personal horrors we can't look away from.

    Her new novel, Eileen, follows mousy, disturbed twenty-four-year-old Eileen Dunlop, who, like many of Moshfegh's young female protagonists, finds her small-town surroundings dull, bleak, and suffocating. By day, Eileen works in a boys' prison outside Boston and by night, she cares for her cruel, alcoholic widowed father

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  • August 18, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Camden Joy

    This year Verse Chorus Press will reissue four volumes of Tom Adelman’s writings as Camden Joy. Lost Joy compiles Adelman’s early short writings—handwritten Xeroxed manifestos that he once glued up to walls and telephone poles all over New York City, letterpressed tracts about albums he loved, short stories as music criticism, and music criticism as questionably authentic memoir. A pair of novels The Last Rock Star Book: Or: Liz Phair, a Rant and Boy Island, as well as his novella collection 3 by Camden Joy, share a tendency to put real-life musicians (e.g. Phair and bands like Cracker and

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  • July 22, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Jessica Hopper

    In 2003, Jessica Hopper, who had been writing about music since she was in ninth grade in the early 1990s, published her first longform essay, “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t,” in Punk Planet. This landmark piece confronted the emo scene’s inherent sexism, and established Hopper as one of the nation’s foremost feminist music critics. Since then, she has written hundreds of pieces—on her blog and for an array of magazines, tackling everything from intimate musician profiles to deeply reported features on rock in advertising. Now, she’s collected some of her greatest hits in the book The First

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  • May 29, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Maggie Nelson

    Maggie Nelson is the only serious and literary person I’ve encountered whose speech is filled with more “you knows” than mine. Unlike mine, perhaps, her verbal tic is not so much a crutch as a helping hand: she’ll be saying something fast, brilliant, and thoughtful, and maybe you don’t totally get it, but when she says “you know,” she allows you to feel as if you do. Likewise, in her writing she seems able to address anyone, speaking to her readers with the same cool fluency and presumption of being understood she shows in conversing with the philosophers, poets, and heroes of nonfiction—Roland

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  • May 05, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Dale Peck

    Dale Peck is not known for understatement. His reviews, collected under the title Hatchet Jobs, earned him a reputation as one of the most scathing critics of his generation’s revered literary voices. Peck’s 1993 debut novel, Martin and John, was released as Fucking Martin in the UK. His 2009 YA book, Sprout, went on to earn him the Lambda Award for LGBT Young Adult Literature and was a finalist for the Stonewall Book Award. His forthcoming work of nonfiction, Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS, recently landed on my doorstep as an advance review copy. Interested in the

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  • April 20, 2015

    Bookforum talks with Sarah Manguso

    Sarah Manguso's latest book, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, ostensibly about the eight-hundred-thousand-word journal she kept for twenty-five years, is in essence an act of withholding. On most pages, a few paragraphs or lines of text are surrounded by white space—precise moments suspended in the mass of formless, unrecorded time. Manguso describes how those blank spaces terrified her as a young woman. When a friend offers her a ride home from another city, she declines so she can spend the four-hour bus ride writing in her diary. At that point, she feels that recording an experience is the

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