• Stacey D'Erasmo
    May 20, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Stacey D'Erasmo

    Brian Eno famously said that everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground album when it came out ended up starting a band. Someday soon, something similar could be said of Stacey D’Erasmo’s music-drenched road novel Wonderland. It’s truly an inspiring work—a master class in structure and character—and it makes you want to be a rocker and a writer. The story follows a former rock star, Anna Brundage, as she attempts a risky comeback and tours across Europe with her new band. I recently spoke with D’Erasmo about artistic ambition, the phenomenon of “dating your own characters,” and the

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  • May 14, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Jen Percy

    In 2005, seasoned Special Forces machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost eight members of his unit in a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan. As Jennifer Percy describes in her recent book, Demon Camp, Caleb was haunted afterward by images of friends’ charred bodies. When he left Afghanistan, something he called The Black Thing followed him home. Caleb struggled to adjust to civilian life, certain The Black Thing was trying to kill him. Then he met a minister, who persuaded him the apparition was a Destroyer Demon, just one in a pantheon of demons and angels fighting a war between good and evil.

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  • May 08, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Nikil Saval

    Despite recurrent media coverage of innovations in office design in the tech sector, the majority of office workers in the United States still work in cubicles. But those drab, square workstations weren’t always the symbol of drudgery they have become. Robert Propst, the designer of the precursor to the cubicle, conducted interviews with white-collar workers and various experts before creating his model, and he had high expectations that these movable units would satisfy the needs of both employees and employers. In Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, n+1 editor Nikil Saval describes how

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  • April 23, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Carl Wilson

    What does it mean to have good taste? Is the idea of taste relevant anymore? Music critic Carl Wilson reflects on these questions in 2007's Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, a “case study” of Céline Dion. The book is part of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series—pocket-sized books about a single album, usually staples of the rock-crit canon. Let’s Talk About Love takes on new life this year with the publication of an expanded edition that includes thirteen additional essays from well-known writers and musicians. Like his subject, Céline, Wilson is a native Canadian; he has been a writer

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  • April 10, 2014

    Arundhati Roy with Siddhartha Deb

    Capitalism: A Ghost Story (Haymarket), Arundhati Roy's latest book, describes in impassioned detail the consequences of India's economic and political choices over the past few decades, from which a few Indians have benefited and many, many more suffered. In late March, Roy read from the work to a sold-out hall at the New School. Afterward, she spoke to Siddhartha Deb about India’s wealth divide, the expectations of the country’s “brash new middle class,” the impending elections, and the Naxalite protests in the forest. Roy became famous for her much-admired 1997 novel, The God of Small Things

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  • March 06, 2014

    Bookforum talks with David Kinney

    "I'm mortified to be on stage," Bob Dylan said in a 1977 interview, "But then again, it's the only place where I'm happy. It's the only place you can be who you want to be."

    It's from this conceit—of Dylan’s infamous reticence and the many personas he’s adopted over the years—that David Kinney founds his fascinating inquiry into the world of obsessive Bob Dylan scholars, The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob, which comes out in May. Kinney, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, is no stranger to infiltrating obscure subcultures, as he did in The Big One: An Island, an Obsession, and

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  • February 12, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Rabih Alameddine

    Rabih Alameddine’s latest novel, An Unnecessary Woman, is about Aaliya Sohbi, a 72-year-old recluse and translator. The novel begins with Aaliya accidently dying her hair blue, and covers what seems to be just a few days of her life. Her thoughts are saturated with literature, and often turn to her semi-senile mother, her troubled best friend, Hannah, and the landscape of the ever-changing Beirut. An intricate portrait of a singular character, An Unnecessary Woman brings you right to into the depths of the mind of an introvert, questioning the value of living for literature alone. Alameddine,

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  • Peter W. Singer
    January 06, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Peter W. Singer

    Peter W. Singer’s previous books introduced the public to an unfamiliar world of privatized armies, child soldiers, and frightening robotic military machines. His latest offering, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), coauthored by cybersecurity specialist Allan Friedman, doesn’t take us to some distant, hypothetical battlefield, but rather into our own computers, to the dark—and, at times, bizarre—cyberworld that he calls “a place of risk and danger.” Singer, who is a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution and the Director of the Center for 21st

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  • Yan Lianke
    December 20, 2013

    Bookforum Talks with Yan Lianke

    Yan Lianke occupies a contradictory place in the landscape of contemporary Chinese literature: He is one of the country’s foremost novelists—winner of both the Lu Xun and Lao She prizes—but four of his books have been banned and can only be read in foreign editions. Once a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army (where he had a job writing propaganda), he lost his commission in 2004 after the publication of the Chinese edition of Lenin’s Kisses and was, for a period, barred from leaving the country. But the political winds have shifted yet again, and he now travels the world freely, giving

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  • Daniel Alarcón
    December 10, 2013

    Bookforum Talks with Daniel Alarcón

    At Night We Walk in Circles, Daniel Alarcón’s new novel, is set in an unidentified South American country of great contrasts, turmoil, and beauty. The plot revolves around Nelson, a young actor who is selected to go on an improbable tour to the provinces for an anniversary revival of “The Idiot President,” a absurdist play written by Henry Nuñez, one of the leaders of the long-defunct insurgent theater group Diciembre. In an intricate narrative that is part love story, part travel log, and part thriller, the characters of At Night We Walk in Circles are gradually consumed in a vortex where life

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  • Hilton Als
    December 02, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Hilton Als

    It’s been 15 years since the publication of Hilton Als’s previous essay collection, The Women. Now, in the florid White Girls, the New Yorker writer expounds on topics as varied as Truman Capote, Louise Brooks, Gone With the Wind, and Eminem. Effortlessly controversial, Als manages to add new layers to familiar subjects (the “n-word,” Richard Pryor, Flannery O’Connor) and fearlessly challenges conventions of race, culture, and sexuality. Bookforum recently called the author to ask him about White Girls.

    BOOKFORUM: You call a lot of people "white girls" in your new book, including Louise Brooks

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  • November 14, 2013

    Bookforum talks with John Freeman

    When I meet with John Freeman to discuss his new book, How to Read a Novelist, he is in the middle of moving. The wood-planked floors groan under the weight of books, thousands of them stowed in boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling. He offers coffee—the coffee maker isn't packed yet—and I see at once that he's the sort of bibliophile whose immersion in the world of fictional people hasn't hampered his ability to communicate with real, breathing ones. The coffee is good and strong; I haven't had a cup in almost two years, an experiment in caffeine deprivation that has somehow become habitual.

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