• March 06, 2019

    Bookforum talks to Leah Dieterich

    Leah Dieterich’s Vanishing Twins is more than a memoir about love and marriage. It’s a literary experiment in both structure and subject, a novel mix of theory and story. The book examines Dieterich’s marriage to Eric, a man she met in college. When they first got together, they formed an unusually close partnership, creating a private world that felt both thrilling and stifling (as Dieterich notes, they had never spent more than a night apart). Eventually, this dynamic became overwhelming to her, and the couple decided to experiment with non-monogamy. Dieterich narrates the ensuing adventures,

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  • Sam Lipsyte. Photo: Robert Reynolds
    January 30, 2019

    Bookforum talks to Sam Lipsyte

    Anyone familiar with Sam Lipsyte's work knows to expect somersaults of sentences, language twisted line after line into laugh-inducing poses. In his new novel, Hark, those poses have names: “Ithaka, Persian Rain, Moonlight Diana Number Three, Wheel of Tartars.” But this isn't pilates—it’s a form of self-actualization called “mental archery,” propagated by a man named Hark Morner. The book is more than the story of Hark’s followers—it's an expansive look at the search for meaning and progress in a crumbling world, full of ineffectual leaders and full of itself. It would be easy to call Lipsyte's

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  • January 14, 2019

    Bookforum talks with A. S. Hamrah

    One of our most unerring critics, A. S. Hamrah is a soothsayer, a sidesplitter, a crank, and a moralist. His reviews linger wherever his attention is drawn, whether on or off screen: in the prosthetic hand worn by Jessica Biel over a prop stump for a shlocktale about American veterans, he presents a withering metaphor for Hollywood’s political cowardice; a missed screening prompts him to write an unmissable tale about the indignities weathered by reviewers. He has previewed films he will not see, and covered others without once mentioning character, plot, or star.

    With his collection The

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  • December 11, 2018

    Bookforum talks with John Keene

    The writer, translator, and poet John Keene has long married a daringly experimental style with a commitment to stories that are usually omitted by history’s ellipses. It’s an approach tangible in his work as a translator, where Keene has long expounded the need for English editions of black diasporic authors (coining, in his essay “Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness,” the hashtag #NonAnglophoneNarrativesStoriesPoemsandOtherFormsofExpressionofBlackLivesMatter); as well as in his fiction, from his 1995 debut Annotations, a black, queer bildungsroman-turned-fugue of semi-autobiographical

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  • December 03, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Meghan O’Gieblyn

    “The Midwest is a somewhat slippery notion,” Meghan O’Gieblyn writes in her debut essay collection, Interior States. “It is a region whose existence—whose very name—has always been contingent upon the more fixed and concrete notion of the West. . . . It’s difficult to live here without developing an existential dizziness, a sense that the rest of the world is moving while you remain still.”

    As a lifelong Midwesterner, O’Gieblyn’s personal existential dizziness is compounded by the loss of her faith. Raised in an evangelical Christian family, O’Gieblyn studied at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago

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  • November 12, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Sarah Schulman

    Sarah Schulman is a native New Yorker, an activist, and, although I'm not sure she would apply the label to herself, a profound philosopher on social relations. All of these streams flow into her recent novel Maggie Terry, a literary detective story about a former NYPD officer struggling with addiction, a tough case, and her ex-partner's theft of her daughter. In a compressed time frame of a few days, Maggie, fresh out of rehab, both loses and finds her place in the new New York. I spoke to Schulman about Maggie Terry and her other work by phone on a Saturday afternoon, me in Los Angeles,

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  • October 02, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Deborah Eisenberg

    Over the span of thirty-two years, Deborah Eisenberg has produced five short-fiction collections, each more emotionally thoughtful and rigorous than the last. Like her past work, Eisenberg’s newest collection, Your Duck Is My Duck, requires not just a reader’s utmost attention, but also a willingness to be vulnerable and receptive. Rather than concern themselves with plot in an obvious way, the stories tend to chase abstract questions and explore how time impacts those pursuits. In "Taj Mahal," a group of actors reflect on a tell-all about their colleague, with each character remembering both

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  • September 12, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Michelle Dean

    At first, it might be hard to see the connection between the ten critics profiled in Michelle Dean’s Sharp. Writers such as Dorothy Parker, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, Janet Malcolm, and Nora Ephron were singular talents—each an uneasy fit for any neat label. What links them, Dean writes, was that they were “sharp”—the word was often used as an insult—and possessed a keen critical facility that was underappreciated at the time but has become extremely influential. Dean’s book is an alternative to the usual, single-subject biography, which often considered “these women in isolation,

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  • July 19, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Chelsea Hodson

    In the autobiographical essays that make up her debut collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else, Chelsea Hodson examines the chaotic and bewildering experience of being an American woman and artist. At first glance, some essays resemble a well-curated Twitter feed—like the single-line, stream-of-consciousness observations found in “The End of Longing”—but Hodson offers much more than aphoristic quips: She delves deeply into themes such as longing, desire, performance, and voyeurism. Her fragmentary, self-aware style evokes recent works by Sarah Manguso, Jenny Offill, and Maggie Nelson, yet her

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  • July 11, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Keith Gessen

    Keith Gessen’s timely and hilarious new novel, A Terrible Country, arrives ten years after his first, All the Sad Young Literary Men. The story follows Andrei Kaplan, an overeducated, underemployed young academic as he relocates to Moscow to look after his sick grandmother in the summer of 2008. Over the course of the year, Andrei cares for his grandmother, plays hockey, befriends revolutionaries, and falls in love. I spoke with Gessen on a hot summer afternoon in the Greene Acres Community Garden in Brooklyn in the presence of many mosquitos and at least one cooped chicken.

    Was there a

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  • June 22, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Cheston Knapp

    The word essay comes from a French word meaning “to try.” But thinking of an essay as simply an exploratory effort diminishes the form’s deep tradition—one worthy of serious study. With his debut collection, Up Up, Down Down, Cheston Knapp exhibits both a studied mastery of the form and a reverence for its artistry. In his capacious works, Knapp seamlessly weaves seemingly disparate topics. In one essay, he studies the performative nature of professional wrestling alongside memories of a fraught father-son relationship. In another, he scrutinizes both UFO fanatics and his own relationship with

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  • May 31, 2018

    Bookforum talks to Porochista Khakpour

    Porochista Khakpour’s memoir, Sick, is a deeply powerful and harrowing odyssey through the most profound mysteries of mind and body, as Khakpour explores the roots of a chronic illness that has no clear beginning or end. I was already a great fan of Khakpour’s dazzling novels, Sons and Other Flammable Objects and The Last Illusion, in addition to her essays, and Sick cements her reputation as one of our most vital writers working today. We conducted this interview over e-mail in April and May of 2018.

    We’re both novelists and to me the start of a novel feels generated by a collision of several

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