• 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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  • November 07, 2013

    Bookforum Talks with Mircea Cărtărescu

    Nothing can prepare you for the scope and ambition of Blinding, the first volume of Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu’s acclaimed trilogy. A phantasmagorical blend of fiction, memoir, surrealism, entomology, war, sex, death and destruction, the novel is, to use its own words, on a “a continuum of reality-hallucination-dream.” It’s author, by contrast, is a collected, unassuming man who looks, at moments, like the actor Daniel Day Lewis. At least that was my impression when we met on a recent Saturday night, in a book-lined Brooklyn apartment where Cărtărescu was staying for the New York leg of

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  • September 27, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Karen E. Bender

    It felt a little odd sitting in a cafe in Taichung, Taiwan, waiting for my wife, the novelist Karen E. Bender, to arrive. We usually come to this café together from our house down the road, carrying our books for Chinese class, but that day we wanted to treat this interview with a measure of formality: two writers in conversation about a new novel and the practice of novel writing.

    Bender’s most recent book, A Town of Empty Rooms, is a big, intricately plotted work of realism, the sort that manages to draw connections between the personal and the political without artificiality or strain. It

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  • September 11, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Said Sayrafiezadeh

    In Said Sayrafiezadeh’s new collection of short stories, Brief Encounters With The Enemy, the author takes on America’s seemingly unending wars and the moral ambivalence that can come from engaging in them. The book follows Sayrafiezadeh’s acclaimed debut, When Skateboards Will Be Free, which detailed his upbringing as the son of a Jewish mother and an Iranian father, and the family’s complex relationship to radical politics in the 1970s and 80s. Brief Encounters, Sayrafiezadeh’s first book of fiction, reveals his talent for creating the interior worlds of a variety of characters. In an interview

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  • September 02, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Jules Feiffer

    A twentieth-century cultural icon, Jules Feiffer started publishing his regular comic strip Sick, Sick, Sick—later known simply as Feiffer—in the Village Voice in 1956. (It was collected with the fantastic title Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-Confident Living in 1958.) Feiffer broke into the comics world in the 1940s as an assistant and later a writer for the famed cartoonist Will Eisner. Feiffer’s strip, which ran for 42 years, came to define the exuberant political ethos of the Voice and opened the door for the existence of alternative comics. He became a public intellectual; ranging

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  • August 22, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Peter Hessler

    Peter Hessler recently relocated to Cairo with his wife, journalist Leslie T. Chang, and their twin daughters. Their move Egypt came after a stint in southwestern Colorado, and before that, Hessler spent years based in and observing China. During his China period, Hessler produced books that met great success—River Town, Oracle Bones, and Country Driving—marking him as one of the US’s leading long-form journalists in the region. In 2011, he won a MacArthur “Genius” grant for his keen observation of “such rapidly changing societies as Reform Era China.” But Hessler had little desire to become

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  • August 14, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Peter Trachtenberg

    Peter Trachtenberg’s Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons is the memoir of a cat owner impelled almost against his will (and certainly against his better judgment) to fly from North Carolina to New York in search of his missing cat. It is also an account of a dissolving marriage, and a far-flung and highly erudite meditation on the nature of love.

    Trachtenberg is no stranger to asking big-picture questions through seemingly small subjects. His memoir, Seven Tattoos, moved effortlessly from the death rites of the Ngaju of Borneo to the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, becoming more

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  • August 07, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Adelle Waldman

    On an unseasonably cool day last month I met with Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. at a wine bar in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood—not far from the preferred stomping grounds of her novel’s main character, Nathaniel “Nate” Piven, an ambitious young writer whose romantic misadventures Waldman probes with astute psychological insight. Over gin-and-tonics we discussed the solemnity of youthful reading, the “moral lives” of nineteenth-century literary characters, and the different reactions people have had to Waldman’s Nate.

    Bookforum: I just read your essay in The

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  • July 01, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Philipp Meyer

    I met Philipp Meyer, author of 2009’s American Rust and the newly published The Son, at the bar of Dallas’s Belmont Hotel, which is cut into a hillside between I-35E and I-35W, the approximate reach of the frontier in the 1850s—the time of The Son’s opening events. Meyer’s epic new novel follows Eli McCullough, born in the first days of the Republic of Texas, who as a child is taken captive by Comanches and later returns to found an uneasy dynasty. Among the book’s sentences that could be read as themes for the whole: “There was nothing you could take that had not belonged to some other person.”

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  • June 24, 2013

    Bookforum talks with Karl Ove Knausgaard

    In Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s mammoth, six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle, the trivial and the momentous mix, change places, and push the work beyond the limits of categorization. At once a Proustian chronicle of the everyday and a latter-day account of a man’s need for, if not a room, then a few hours of his own in which to write, Knausgaard’s work—a controversial sensation in Norway—has been called “the most significant literary enterprise of our time." In a series of generous, thoughtful e-mails—some sent from “a balcony in a hotel in Beirut,” where the writer was

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  • May 15, 2013

    Bookforum talks to Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid published his second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2007. This year will see the release of Mira Nair’s film adaptation of that book, as well as Hamid’s follow-up novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, which NPR called a “globalized version of The Great Gatsby.” Hamid talked with us about the enduring appeal of The Reluctant Fundamentalist as well as comic books and writing in the second person.

    Bookforum: The Radical Fundamentalist has been used by colleges to teach diversity to incoming freshmen. What do you think it might tell us about religious fundamentalism, or

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  • May 07, 2013

    Bookforum talks with James Lasdun

    James Lasdun was born in London in 1958, the son of the prominent British architect Denys Lasdun. He made his literary debut in 1985 with the short story collection The Silver Age, and in the years since he has published three additional short-story collections, four volumes of poetry, and two novels—2002's The Horned Man and 2005's Seven Lies, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Lasdun moved to the United States in 1986 and has taught creative writing at Princeton, NYU, and Columbia University, among other institutions. His latest release, Give Me Everything You Have: On Being

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