• June 06, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Sunaura Taylor

    A few years ago, while Sunaura Taylor was researching her new book, Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation, she came across the story of a fox who was born with the same disability that Taylor has—arthrogryposis, a contracture of the joints. A hunter saw the fox and shot it, in what he called a “mercy killing.” But by all indications, the fox was healthy and surviving well. “The concept of a mercy killing carries within it two of the most prominent responses to disability: destruction and pity,” Taylor writes.

    The anecdote tidily encapsulates Taylor’s domain: the overlap between

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  • Durga Chew-Bose. Photo by Carrie Cheek.
    April 13, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Durga Chew-Bose

    “Should I try to change my pitch?” Durga wonders, in consideration of her natural speaking voice, in an essay called “Upspeak.” “Should I try to sound more staid?” She asks her father how she could learn to speak differently. Easy, he replies: “Stop reacting to everything.” But then there would be no book for an essay called “Upspeak” to be in, and happily there is a book, Too Much and Not the Mood, a first collection of fourteen prose pieces in which Durga reacts to, and is acted upon by, the whole of quotidian life, sussing out the unobvious in sentences often as pixely and coruscating, as

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  • March 23, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Melissa Febos

    In the early essays of Melissa Febos's Abandon Me, we watch her build a relationship with a bedazzling lover as she mines her past for the stories that made her the person she is—from an exploration of hickeys to a taxonomy of the gifts she receives from her lover, which are "beautiful and a little gruesome." The essays build into an interrogation of relationships, idolization, and how the author's past intertwines with cultural history. Though the book explores bonds that Febos has with others—lovers, friends, lost and found family members—the relationship it ultimately depicts is the one that

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  • Kelly Luce. Photo: Tony Rinaldo
    March 03, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Kelly Luce

    “No one is about to do anything crazy, except me.” We might want to worry if it’s a murderer who says this. Thankfully, it’s only Rio Silvestri, the high-functioning narrator of Kelly Luce’s novel Pull Me Under (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). Rio is a nurse, jogger, wife, and mother of a twelve-year-old. She seems to have her shit together. But when she receives a letter from Japan, her life starts to come apart. Because Rio isn’t her real name. And we might have something to worry about.

    She’s actually Chizuru Akitani, daughter of Japan’s Living National Treasure, the violinist Hiro Akitani.

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  • February 08, 2017

    Bookforum talks with John Darnielle

    John Darnielle is a master of sympathetically depicting his characters, both in his music (he's the front man of the indie-folk band the Mountain Goats) and his novels. In both mediums, Darnielle renders his subjects—whether they are weirdos, sinners or some combination of the two—with tender empathy. His new novel, Universal Harvester, details the lives of Jeremy, a video-store clerk, and Stephanie, the schoolteacher he has a crush on. When they stumble on a number of mysteriously edited tapes that contain disturbing footage, they're pushed to explore the hidden, sinister side of their small

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  • Judith E. Stein
    January 03, 2017

    Bookforum talks with Judith E. Stein

    Judith E. Stein's book Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art examines the life of the art dealer who founded the fabled Green Gallery and was an early champion of artists including Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, and Donald Judd. Stein's investigation—built on interviews with Bellamy's friends, family, colleagues, and lovers—spans from Bellamy's Cincinnati childhood as the son of an American father and a Chinese mother, to his time in Provincetown with members of the beat generation, to his later interactions with collectors (and Green

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  • September 29, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Alexandra Kleeman

    Alexandra Kleeman’s fiction may share affinities with the luminaries of our postmodern canon—Don DeLillo, Robert Coover, and Ben Marcus—but her sensibility equally recalls the films of David Lynch. With an eye toward the macabre within the mundane, Kleeman’s fiction tantalizes and spooks, thrusting the reader into bizarre worlds of dream logic. Each of the twelve stories in her new collection Intimations are enigmatic fables bound by a sense of emotional urgency: In the opening story “Fairy Tale,” a woman finds herself at a dinner table with her parents, where they are joined by a group of

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  • Adam Fitzgerald
    September 21, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Adam Fitzgerald

    When I first met Adam Fitzgerald in 2009, we were both fledgling graduate students, and I knew from the moment he entered the room that he was the personification of a promising young poet, with whirlwind energy, incredible charisma, and insatiable precocity. Now, his second book of poems, George Washington, is being published by Liveright, and he’s already an eminent figure in twenty-first century poetry.

    If Fitzgerald’s debut, The Late Parade, is—as the New York Times Book Review described it—“as textured as a corridor in the Louvre,” then George Washington is as gritty and gaudy as Route

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  • September 15, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Lidudumalingani Mqombothi

    When Lidudumalingani Mqombothi (he coolly goes by his first name) sat down to write "Memories We Lost," the short story that won him the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing, he’d finished film school having felt frustrated at the lack of creative freedom on which film schools tend to pride themselves. The story, which he previously sought to turn into a film, concerns two teenage sisters, the younger of whom battles an unnamed mental illness in a community that seeks to cure her through traditional means. The older sister attempts to protect her sister from her illness and her community while

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  • September 08, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Lauren Collins

    When in French: Love in a Second Language is New Yorker staff writer Lauren Collins's memoir of falling in love with a Frenchman and navigating life overseas. It isn't a linear story; instead Collins combines episodic anecdotes with heavily researched passages exploring linguistics. Appropriately, section headings make use of complicated French verb tenses. Flashbacks are simply “The Past” (Le Passé composé), for example; Collins's childhood is “The Imperfect” (L’Imparfait); and the more recent past is “The Past Perfect” (Le Plus-que-parfait). As Collins tells it, “I could have given each

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  • August 24, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Jesmyn Ward

    August 2 would have been James Baldwin’s ninety-second birthday. Across the Internet, people celebrated by quoting his work, sometimes with just text, sometimes through memes, so much so that by early Tuesday morning, “James Baldwin” was trending on Twitter. But over the last few years, in our extended cultural moment of racism becoming tangible to more than those it affects, Baldwin—his ideas and forecast for this country—has resurfaced like a message in a bottle, the words he wrote always true, yet now eerily prescient.

    His 1963 work, The Fire Next Time, with its forward-glancing title, was

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  • Emma Cline
    July 19, 2016

    Bookforum talks with Emma Cline

    A month ago, I attended a reading by Emma Cline at BookCourt, in Brooklyn. Cline’s debut novel, The Girls, had just come out to breathless reviews, and the event was well attended. Cline, twenty-seven, seemed neither nervous nor overeager to please. She announced she’d be reading from the beginning of her novel and read its opening passage and then another page or two, stopping after a few minutes and making a joke—that she always wished readings would end sooner than they did—that was at once unpretentious and spot-on. Less-is-more is a concept Cline understands. The Girls is taut and gripping,

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