• Interior view in lantern of lighthouse of Fresnel lens - Split Rock Lighthouse, Off Highway 61, 38 miles northeast of Duluth, Two Harbors, Lake County, MN. Photo: Lowe, Jet/Library of Congress
    July 16, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Christina MacSweeney about translating Jazmina Barrera’s On Lighthouses

    A longtime translator, Christina MacSweeney is responsible for bringing the writing of authors like Valeria Luiselli, Daniel Saldaña París, Verónica Gerber Bicecci, and Eduardo Rabasa to English-language readers. She is drawn to works that exists outside the confines of a single genre, especially those that merge the visual and literary. The latest addition to this impressive ensemble is Jazmina Barrera’s On Lighthouses, a delightful, pocket-sized book chronicling Barrera’s obsession with the coastal structures of the title—from detailed descriptions of their architecture to their representations

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  • Alexandra Chang. Photo: Alana Davis
    July 09, 2020

    Bookforum talks to Alexandra Chang about writing a novel in snippets

    In Alexandra Chang’s debut novel, Days of Distraction, the twenty-five-year-old narrator escapes her unfulfilling job as a tech reporter by moving from her native San Francisco to upstate New York with her longtime boyfriend. On their road trip across the country, she begins to question her relationship with J., who is white. Once they settle in Ithaca, the narrator finds herself feeling increasingly distant from her boyfriend, and spends her time collecting forgotten pieces of Asian American history and working in the archives of a historical museum. Dissatisfied with Ithaca, she heads to

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  • Jean-Patrick Manchette, Self-portrait from 1964, © Estate of Jean-Patrick Manchette
    June 25, 2020

    Translating Jean-Patrick Manchette

    After the protests of May 1968, Jean-Patrick Manchette began writing a cycle of hard-boiled romans noirs. Involved with the French ultra-left since his adolescence, Manchette aimed to rehabilitate the genre. Steeped in American crime fiction, Manchette’s work imported the Situationist critique and other ultra-left discourse into what was then considered perhaps the lowest of all mass-produced literature.

    Translator Donald Nicholson-Smith has done more than anyone else to bring Manchette to English-language readers. Last summer, New York Review Books Classics published Nicholson-Smith’s

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  • Tracy O’Neill. Photo: Oskar Miarka
    June 11, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Tracy O’Neill about her new novel of digital connection and surveillance

    So, where does Quotients, this big, multilayered novel, come from?

    Quotients is about people trying to build homes and find shelter in family, when they feel that the world is place full of peril. This was a preoccupation in my own life. Then, I met a man who said he’d once been a spy. Spying is motivated by a desire to keep some “us” safe through gathering information and forming predictions, but it introduces danger, too. It’s predicated on the fear that things may not be what they appear to be, but it also weaponizes misinformation. I thought that the spy as a figure represented something

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  • 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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