Monday, July 16, 2018

Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange's acclaimed debut novel is There There.

From his Q&A with Hannah Beckerman for the Guardian:

The novel explores what it means to be Native American today. What does it mean for you?

It’s meant a lot of different things over the years. Currently it means going back to see my dad, who lives in Oklahoma now, and slowly trying to learn the language, because while he’s fluent he didn’t raise us with it. It means making sure my son knows that he’s Native too. It’ll keep meaning more things along the way.

Why didn’t your dad teach you the language?

There’s a lot of pain related to the past, and I think he was wanting a fresh start, wanting to raise us in Oakland and have us figure it out for ourselves. I think if we had been born in the 21st century to a dad who was fluent in Cheyenne, we probably...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lucy Tan

Lucy Tan's new novel is What We Were Promised.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for What We Were Promised?

A: As an MFA student at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote a short story set in Shanghai about two hotel maids being accused of stealing a bracelet. The feedback from my workshop was that the story had promise, but was limited by the form.

When my professor suggested I try writing it as a novel, I was relieved and excited. There was so much more I wanted to explore about the characters in that story, and turning it into a novel would allow me the space to do that.

The short story I initially wrote became the basis for the first three chapters of the novel told from the point of view of Sunny, one of the housekeepers who...[read on]
Visit Lucy Tan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay's books include Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger.

From her Q&A with Laura Snapes for the Guardian:

You recently tweeted about the so-called “incels”, the internet subculture whose members refer to their inability to find a romantic or sexual partner as “involuntary celibacy”. Girls are taught that men will lay claim to their bodies. Why are we culturally resistant to teaching boys that they don’t deserve sex?

That’s just the way it is. We have to change that and we have to teach both young men and young women about enthusiastic consent. And that a woman can say “no” at any time and it may suck, but you still have to listen to that “no”. Until we get there, we’re gonna continue to see things like in Santa Fe, where a young woman rejected a man and he went to school and killed her and nine others. No one is guaranteed love or affection and I don’t say that callously, because I think that love and affection and sex are important and that everyone should have their shot. But the men that can’t get laid, there’s a reason. It’s because they’re sociopaths and nobody wants them, and I’m not gonna cry for them.

Who’s your literary hero?

I love...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 13, 2018

Amy Mason Doan

Amy Mason Doan's new novel is The Summer List.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Summer List, and for your characters Laura and Casey?

A: I wanted to write a novel about girlhood friends reuniting after years of estrangement, but for a long time it was only the wisp of an idea.

Then one night two years ago I was camping with my family by the Oregon coast and some kids ran up with a scavenger hunt list. I gave them a graham cracker (one of the easiest items on the list, because it was S’mores city at the time). And they looked so excited, rushing off to get their next item.

I started picturing two grown women reuniting for a scavenger hunt. I knew it could be a satisfying, funny, poignant story if I told it right. I also knew that the women would need a good reason for the adult hunt, because I didn’t want it to be gimmicky. I realized they’d have to go on scavenger hunts as girls.

I’m an extremely visual writer. I need to play the story in my head and block it out like a film before I can set it down on paper. So before I wrote any of the high school scenes, I could picture young Laura—sensitive, lonely, teased for developing early and for her religious mother, spending her summers kayaking around this beautiful lake but desperate for a friend.

And I saw Casey moving in across the water like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Adam Tooze

Adam Tooze is the director of the European Institute at Columbia University and author of the forthcoming book, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.

From his Slate Q&A with Isaac Chotiner:

[Chotiner:] Everywhere I look—from Brexit to Hungary to the rise of a populist government in Italy to Marine Le Pen making the final round in France to what’s happening in Germany right now—it all seems to fit under a similar rubric, which is the rise of right-wing populism. Do you think it’s helpful to put all of these events under the same rubric?

I’m not very compelled by the populism argument. I mean, I think at this point it’s become so much of a meme that it’s beginning to act into the world. Some of the protagonists do identify themselves as populist and they’ve been labeled as such, and so that labeling and that self-identification is beginning to exert effect. What I would agree with is to say that Europe, like the United States, has been subject to some common shocks, and the common shocks one might think of as being things like the financial crisis or the spectacular derailment of Western policy in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Western Asia, and that then creates flows of people and challenges that all these different countries and the EU, NATO, organizations like that, have to deal with.

When those sorts of entities are exposed to those kinds of common shocks, then what you see is national fault lines, national fragilities, manifesting themselves across all of those countries at the same time.

The Brexit disaster is completely predictable given the ambiguities of the relationship of right-wing Brits—and indeed left-wing Brits—to the EU. Now, that’s a completely different phenomenon from reservoirs of extreme nationalist public opinion in Hungary, which draw their historical inspiration from memes and themes of national persecution, which go all the way back to World War I and the dramatic aftermath of World War I. Modern Hungary is a shadow of what it once was, and has been throughout the 20th century, and at certain moments, nationalist politicians in Hungary can mobilize that.

And that isn’t the rhetoric of what we call Italian populism, which in fact has two distinct strands. One is the League, which is a previously regional party, which emerged out of Northern Italian resentment against everything south of Rome, and on the other hand the Five Star Movement, which is an unforeseen type of politics, which is much more modernist in a kind of freaked-out … it’s positively Californian, right, in its belief in tech, and the mechanisms of popular referenda. They then form a coalition, given the logic of European politics, with the League, which allows them both to govern, whilst in Britain the Tories are clinging onto power with the help of the most right-wing parties in Northern Ireland. Both of these are responses to the shocks that Europe has suffered since 2008. Do they add up to the same political phenomenon? I...[read on]
Visit Adam Tooze's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Amber Brock

Amber Brock's new novel is Lady Be Good.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Lady Be Good and for your character Kitty?

A: I often have ideas or characters come to me as I’m driving to work and listening to music. In Kitty’s case, I was listening to “Symphony in C” by Cake and “Walking on Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox when the image of a girl popped into my mind. She had platinum blond hair, bright red lipstick, and a wicked smile.

I immediately wanted to know what that girl was up to. I drew inspiration from the machinations in Dangerous Liaisons and Emma, and the story and characters started to take shape in my mind from there.

Q: What type of research did you need to do to recreate New York, Miami, and Havana in the 1950s?

A: I always do an enormous amount of research before and during the writing process. It’s probably my favorite part! For this novel, I read some fantastic non-fiction books (including...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie's latest novel is The Golden House. From his Q&A with Arifa Akbar at the Guardian:

Which classic novel are you most ashamed not to have read?

Middlemarch. I always get beaten up for it. I owned up to it on TV once – when they still had books programmes on TV – and the newspapers said: “He calls himself a writer!”

Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine?

Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, even though he eats food I can’t stand, like offal, beef and inner organs. He’s one of the all-time great literary figures.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which books and authors have stayed with you since childhood?

I was a hugely obsessive reader, a real bookworm. My parents were very smart and didn’t force me to read just “good” books, so Batman comics were OK. It meant I got the bug at an early age. A lot of writers emerge from the cocoon of being great readers. Growing up in Bombay, I read whatever western children’s literature we got there; we didn’t get Winnie-the-Pooh so I discovered it much later. I read Lewis Carroll’s Alice and...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 9, 2018

Elizabeth Partridge

Elizabeth Partridge's latest book is Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam, a new book for teens.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write Boots on the Ground?

A: We saw a lot of coverage of the war on television and in magazines and newspapers when I was in high school and college. I was in the San Francisco Bay area where there were a lot of protests, and I often joined them.

I just could not see why our country needed to be in Vietnam, and I wanted us to get out. In the news coverage, I could see that not only were American troops being injured and killed, but Vietnamese military and civilians were as well. It all seemed senseless to me.

After the war, Vietnam veterans and protestors didn't mix. Most veterans rarely spoke about their service, just kept their heads down and tried to get on with their lives.

We had not yet learned as a country to separate the war from the warriors. Many veterans were traumatized, and there was little or no help for them from the Veterans Administration. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) had not yet been invented as term to describe the complex mental health issues that some veterans face.

Several years ago I went to ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 8, 2018

David Sedaris

David Sedaris's latest book is Calypso. From his Q&A with Andrew Anthony for the Guardian:

You write about your sister coming to see you at a gig, and you had someone close the door on her backstage, shutting her out of your life. It was the last time you saw her before she killed herself. Was that difficult to write about?

I didn’t mean to write about that. I thought: “Oh my, am I really doing this?” I thought it was important to do because anything that makes a story more complex is good to do. What I didn’t say in that story was whenever you talked to Tiffany it took you weeks to get over it, because she’d say something so disturbing or make you so angry, you couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Does it make you think you’re a heartless person?

When I read that out loud on stage, I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe I’m reading it. It is just as bad as it sounds. That you’re going to have someone close the door on that person’s face, and they’re going to commit suicide and you’ll never see them again... there’s not a way to make that funny. I read someone saying you can’t surprise a reader without surprising yourself, and in your life what surprise is there? But there are things, admissions that you can make, or scratch below the surface and say how you actually felt, and you can be there at your desk and you’re just shocked. So I think that was a situation where the reader can be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Danielle Teller

Danielle Teller is the author of All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea of retelling Cinderella from her stepmother's perspective?

A: When I became a stepmother, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get comfortable in that role. My stepkids and I had to slowly build trust and affection over time.

At first, they chafed under my parental rules and mourned the loss of freewheeling weekends with their dad. I felt as though my stepchildren didn’t want me around except to fulfill their various physical needs; I joked that I was a “ghost-servant.”

I worried that no matter what I did, my stepchildren would never see me as a net positive in their lives, and that got me thinking about the bad reputation of stepmothers in fairy tales.

What if those stories were inspired by real people who weren’t evil but struggling in a fraught relationship with other imperfect human beings? From that...[read on]
Visit Danielle Teller's website.

Writers Read: Danielle Teller.

The Page 69 Test: All the Ever Afters.

My Book, The Movie: All the Ever Afters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 6, 2018

Elizabeth Crook

Elizabeth Crook novels include The Night Journal, which received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, and Monday, Monday, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014 and winner of the Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Crook latest novel is The Which Way Tree.

From her March 2018 Q&A with Marisa Charpentier for the Texas Book Festival:

Why did you decide to write this book now?

When my son was fourteen he got lost in the canyons in Bandera County one night, and was finally located by search helicopters after a nine hour hunt, during which a mountain lion was spotted trailing through the canyon into which he had disappered. It was the scariest night of my life and left me obsessed with mountain lions and their attacks on humans. I read everything I could find on the subject. I guess I wrote this story partly because I had run out of real life accounts to...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Crook's website.

The Page 69 Test: Monday, Monday.

The Page 69 Test: The Which Way Tree.

My Book, The Movie: The Which Way Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Amanda Robson

Amanda Robson's new psychological suspense novel is Guilt. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Guilt, and why did you decide to focus on twins?

A: I have wanted to write a triangular story, about two women, and the man who comes between them, for a long time now. This stems from the fact that I have very close girlfriends, and sometimes devilishly wonder what would happen if our relationships were stretched by a third party.

Even though I am not lucky enough to be a twin, I chose twin sisters because I imagine them to have one of the tightest female bonds possible.

Q: The novel includes the theme of sexual harassment. Why did you decide to include that in the novel, and how does this story relate to the #MeToo movement?

A: The idea of sexual harassment came into my head as it just seemed to be the natural Machiavellian power play that a damaged character like...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal is the author of the novels The Lost Ones and its sequel, It All Falls Down. From her Q&A with Sam Wiebe, author of Invisible Dead and Cut You Down, at The Thrill Begins:

SW: ...Let’s start with the protagonist of The Lost Ones, Nora Watts. She’s highly resourceful and tenacious, while also displaying tremendous vulnerability. How did you come up with her?

SK: Nora came to me very organically. I started becoming serious about writing when I worked in the film/TV industry, so what I saw first was a logline about a woman who discovers the daughter she’d given up for adoption has gone missing, and she doesn’t trust the authorities to look for the girl. Who doesn’t trust the cops? Someone who’s had bad experiences with them, an outsider, a loner. Then I wrote a line about her singing the blues and I suddenly got her personality. I sensed she had a huge identity crisis that’s always hovering over her shoulders. Writing the story can be difficult, but understanding Nora never is.

How was it for you creating Dave Wakeland? Did you think about him a lot first or did he manifest on the page right away?

SW: With Invisible Dead, I knew I wanted a protagonist who’d embody some of the old school virtues of classic detective fiction, but who wouldn’t feel anachronistic. I wanted to avoid the cliche of the heroic loner in a corrupt world; in some ways the novel is about Wakeland coming to grips with his own complicity in the social ills he investigates.

For me, the classic detective writers
...[read on]
Visit Sheena Kamal's website.

Writers Read: Sheena Kamal (August 2017).

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Ones.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Great Believers, and why did you decide to focus on the AIDS crisis in Chicago?

A: I did not decide to write about the AIDS crisis in Chicago. I set out to write a different book. What’s now the subplot of Nora’s story in Paris in the art world was the book. An older woman had been an artist’s model in Paris, in the ‘20s…She could only live until about the ‘80s, so [the story] would be set in the ‘80s.

I had an art story in the ’80s, so AIDS could be in the book, but that could be a subplot. I wanted to set the book in Chicago, and as I started doing research, I was learning amazing and devastating stuff. That’s where the story wanted to go.

Q: How was the novel’s title selected, and what does it signify for you?

A: Part of the epigraph from...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 2, 2018

Randi Hutter Epstein

Randi Hutter Epstein's new book is Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The book is organized around stories from key moments in hormone research. And I have to say, many of the studies they were doing in the early days were pretty gruesome.

EPSTEIN: When we say study, we tend now to think of the randomised clinical controlled trial. You know, you have one sample here. You compare it to another. When they were doing studies, they were doing sort of weird experiments on people and dogs and all kind of things. So there was Harvey Cushing. He was one of the first people to talk about that pituitary tumors can really muck you up and like send a lot of hormones awry. But here's what he tried to do that didn't work out that's kind of a wacky experiment. He had a 48-year-old man that had a pituitary tumor that was making him have double vision and headaches and other endocrine issues. And Harvey Cushing thought, what if we take a nice, healthy pituitary of a baby that just died if there is a newborn that didn't make it and just implant that in this old man, and then we just revive him and he'd be back to normal. Newspapers got a hold of it, as media tends to do. And there were wonderful headlines like baby brain, you know, broken brain fixed by baby. And it went wild in terms of, wow, we can now cure broken, old brains. And, spoiler alert, let's just say that we don't replace baby pituitary glands into grownups when they have pituitary tumors anymore.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some of what these scientists were doing, though, was actually helping people. And you tell the story of a short 7-year-old called Jeffrey Balaban.

EPSTEIN: Yes. There was this huge optimism started in the 1920s when we figured out that insulin can help diabetics. So the thinking was, if we can change diabetes - which was a deadly disease - to a chronic illness, what else can we do? So originally the thought was, let's get growth hormone from cows just the way we got insulin from cows, and we'll give it to short kids. So...[read on]
Visit Randi Hutter Epstein's website and Psychology Today blog, Birth, Babies, and Beyond.

Writers Read: Randi Hutter Epstein (September 2010).

Coffee with a Canine: Randi Hutter Epstein, Ellie and Dexter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Natalie Starkey

Natalie Starkey's new book is Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your new book, you ask whether comets and asteroids should be feared or revered. How would you answer that, and are there reasons that both might be true?

A: As someone who has studied comets and asteroids for much of my career I truly believe that they should be revered.

While these small space objects have the potential to wreak havoc on Earth if they collide with our precious planet in the future, the more we learn about them now – about what they are made of and how they behave – will better prepare us to deal with one if it’s headed our way.

Comets and asteroids are ancient explorers of the Solar System, born at a time before the planets existed and as such they hold a wealth of information about the early Solar System. If we want to discover how life and water arrived on Earth, then we need to study these small enigmatic cosmic voyagers to see if they’ll reveal their 4.6-billion-year-old secrets.

Q: What first intrigued you about comets and asteroids, and what do you see as some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about them?

A: For many years I’ve been fascinated by...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Rachel Heng

Rachel Heng's new novel is Suicide Club: A Novel About Living.

From Heng's Q&A with Kristen Iskandrian for The Rumpus:

The Rumpus: When people ask you what Suicide Club is “about,” how do you respond?

Rachel Heng: I usually start by telling people it’s a dystopian novel set in near future New York, where life expectancies average three-hundred years and the pursuit for immortality has become all-consuming. The novel follows Lea Kirino, a high-powered organ trader whose perfect genetic code means she has the potential to live forever―if she does everything right. Things get complicated when she her estranged father re-enters her life after having been missing for eighty-eight years. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead choose to live―and die―on their own terms.

Suicide Club is a novel about our relationship with death, both our own and that of our loved ones. It explores the commoditization of wellness culture and the deep fear we seem to have of our oozing, shedding bodies, as well as the resulting desire to control them. At its core, I also think it is a book about...[read on]
Visit Rachel Heng's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 29, 2018

Terrence McCauley

Terrence McCauley's new novel is The Fairfax Incident.

From his LitReactor Q&A with Steph Post:

You’re the author of several books, including the acclaimed James Hicks techno-thriller series and Slow Burn, a classic noir novel set in the 1930s. The Fairfax Incident shares a protagonist—NYPD detective turned private eye Charlie Doherty—with Slow Burn and two others, but also reveals the origins of the University, the secret intelligence agency of the Hicks’ thrillers. Can you explain further how The Fairfax Incident links these two worlds and narratives together?

When Sympathy for the Devil, the first James Hicks novel, came out, I was surprised by how many people were interested in the University’s backstory. I intentionally wrote it so that the reader would buy into the modern-day action of the tale, but their request got me thinking about whether or not I should write a novel that shows how the whole story began. The Fairfax Incident had already been written for several years by the time I even thought of writing Sympathy for the Devil. I knew I wanted Charlie Doherty to continue working as a P.I. and get involved in pre-war events here in America. When people began asking for backstory, I was able to easily adapt the Doherty timeline to the University timeline. It was seamless, actually, and made the book even more fun to rewrite. Whether I’m writing about the modern day or the 1930s, I always want the reader to be interested in the characters more than the plot. I feel that if the reader develops an affinity or a dislike for the protagonist, it will keep them engaged in the book. I hope Jason Pinter over at Polis Books will allow me to continue telling the modern day story of Hicks while continuing to detail the beginnings of the University from pre-war all the way through the Second World War, the Cold War and beyond. Obviously, the books...[read on]
Visit Terrence McCauley's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Conspiracy of Ravens.

The Page 69 Test: A Conspiracy of Ravens.

Writers Read: Terrence McCauley (October 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rosalie Knecht

Rosalie Knecht's new novel is Who is Vera Kelly? From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with your character Vera Kelly?

A: She came together in bits. She has parts of the biography of some people who are close to me, and parts that I made up completely, and she had to have a personality that would bridge those pieces and hold together. She also has a slight reserve that I think all my protagonists have.

Q: Anmiryam Budner writes of the novel that it "brings to life a young woman who defies the stereotype of the glamorous male hero that has been...the public face of fictional espionage." What do you think of that assessment?

A: It's true that she's not a typical spy protagonist, not just because she's a woman but because she is often frustrated, unsure, irritated, lonely-- a lot of feelings that James Bond doesn't have.

However, a lot of those feelings...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

David Joy

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, TBD). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award. His new novel The Line That Held Us will be released on August 14th.

From Joy's conversation with Ingrid Thoft at Jungle Reds Writers:

INGRID THOFT: One of the main threads in The Weight of This World is the main character’s experience fighting in Afghanistan and his catastrophic re-entry into life back home in North Carolina. What prompted you to feature that and were there challenges writing about war and its effects?

DAVID JOY: I think a large part of that came from some things I was dealing with personally. That book is dedicated to a dear friend of mine who was a combat Marine and who served multiple deployments in Iraq, but anyhow, one day after he’d come home he walked into his house, shot his brother, shot his father, and killed himself. I don’t know what led him to do that, and I don’t know how his military service may have played into that, but I remember how he was portrayed on the news and just remember feeling like they stripped him of his humanity. So I think a lot of what I was doing in this book, maybe even subconsciously, was trying to make sense of all that. This novel is very much an examination of trauma and violence. The three main characters’ decision-making processes are driven almost solely by trauma, each uniquely his/her own. For ...[read on]
Visit David Joy's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where All Light Tends to Go.

My Book, The Movie: Where All Light Tends to Go.

The Page 69 Test: The Weight of This World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Adrienne Celt

Adrienne Celt's new novel is Invitation to a Bonfire.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What inspired you to write a novel based on the marriage of Vladimir and Véra Nabokov?

A: Nabokov has been one of my favorite novelists since I first read him, back in college—his writing has a way of enlivening existence as only the best art can do. Heightening sensation, danger, pleasure, while still remaining grounded (for the most part) in reality.

I took a seminar on his work, and I'm sure every paper I wrote was just one big mash note to him; my enthusiasm has not really tempered with time.

Part of Nabokov's fascination, though, comes from his larger-than-life mythos. He was a pre-revolutionary Russian aristocrat; he translated his own novels and wrote fluently (brilliantly!) in multiple languages; he was a refugee; and then there is his famous marriage.

It's well known that Vladimir's wife, Véra, was devoted in a way that few spouses can aspire to: she did everything for him, from opening his mail to teaching his college classes.

She's really become known as the ne plus ultra of female support for male genius, to the degree that she is known to have destroyed pieces of her own correspondence so that historians wouldn't be able to focus on her part of her husband's legacy. (Which kinda backfired, at least as far as my own interest is concerned, because what a fascinating thing to do!)

I wanted to explore what kind of woman—what kind of person—is able to subsume their own desires beneath the glory of another person.

Now, I should say that the characters in my book are only inspired by the Nabokovs, not based on them—I think that anyone familiar with Nabokov's biography would see the traces, but also the major deviations—and that's also true of the third important character: the woman who Leo Orlov (the famous writer in my novel) has an affair with.

Nabokov did in fact have at least one important...[read on]
Visit Adrienne Celt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2018

Stephen McCauley

Stephen McCauley is the author of The Object of My Affection, True Enough, and Alternatives to Sex. Many of his books have been national bestsellers, and three have been made into feature films. The New York Times Book Review dubbed McCauley “the secret love child of Edith Wharton and Woody Allen”, and he was named a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture. His fiction, reviews, and articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Harper’s, Vogue, and many other publications. He currently serves as Co-Director of Creative Writing at Brandeis University.

McCauley's new novel is My Ex-Life.

From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is novelist Stephen McCauley who's probably best-known for his novel "The Object Of My Affection," which was adapted into a film that Jennifer Aniston starred in. His new novel, "My Ex-Life," is about a couple who had been married 30 years ago until he - the husband, David - came out as gay. Now, for several reasons, they've come back together but this time as good friends and as allies. And what's brought them together is that he's a college adviser, and he's been asked to help the daughter, Mandy, with her college application and her college essay application.

So the daughter in the novel, Mandy, is one of the girls who thinks that she's not really attractive. She's not popular. She has a lot of doubts about herself. And one of the characters speculates, like, this is the kind of girl who gets herself into trouble. And this is the kind of girl who a boy or a man can exploit. And that turns out to be true. What can you tell us that you feel comfortable giving away about how she is taken advantage of?


MCCAULEY: Well, Mandy, as you describe her, is someone who feels that - as many of us do, I think - that somewhere within us, we have this undiscovered talent and quality that makes us unique and makes us stand out. But she doesn't know what it is. And so when a man who is in his late 20s comes along and tells her that, you know, he sees something in her that other people don't, she's very susceptible to that. And she gets involved in something that has the potential to be dangerous and have dire consequences for her involving the Internet. I mean, you know, right there - that probably tells as much as you need to know. And so she becomes very vulnerable to his attention.

GROSS: So have you had experiences with students or young women who - or your friends, or the daughters of your friends who've done that and have - or have nearly - gotten themselves into trouble, or into a dangerous situation or, you know, been exploited in a way that, you know, was really damaging to them?

MCCAULEY: You know, one of the things that is attractive about it to Mandy is that it allows her to be a different person when she is chatting online with anonymous men. It allows her to enter into a different kind of character, to be confident, to be sure of her body and so on. And I - many years ago, I had a student who was an incredibly bright, talented young woman. And I had her over to my house for dinner with a few other students who I was working on honors projects with. And she began talking about the job that she'd had the previous summer, which was working on a phone sex line, which tells you how long ago it was.

And it was all very funny. And she felt that it somehow was a creative endeavor, and it allowed her to take on this other persona and so on. And for a while, it seemed to be that way. And then - I don't know - maybe a year or so later, I heard from one of her other friends that it - doing this had had dire consequences for her because she had kind of crossed the line between, you know, being an anonymous person and meeting one of these guys that she was talking about.

And that risk is in the novel for Mandy. And I think it's kind of a risk...[read on]
Visit Stephen McCauley's website.

Writers Read: Stephen McCauley.

The Page 69 Test: My Ex-Life.

My Book, The Movie: My Ex-Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Greg Howard

Greg Howard is the author of Social Intercourse.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Social Intercourse, and for your characters Beck and Jax?

A: I wrote Social Intercourse for NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] in about five weeks and all I knew when I started was that I wanted to write a really funny, gay young adult romantic comedy.

The only other book I’d written before that was an adult paranormal thriller, so this was a huge direction change for me. I’d never really considered writing young adult before because I thought I was too old!

But after reading a few popular YA novels with gay main characters, I realized that there are so many different experiences and points of view, that mine are just as valid as the next.

I set the story in Florence, S.C., where I grew up and went to high school and tried to imagine how different things would be a for an out and proud gay kid there today, or how much it might be the same. I was NOT out or proud in high school, so Beckett is more of “who I wish I had been” rather than “who I was.”

The story evolved pretty organically, but I knew from the outset that I wanted the two main characters to be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow's new book is War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence. From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: The interviews with the secretaries of state are fascinating. You have Colin Powell, very bluntly, a fellow Republican -- a former Republican secretary of state, saying that Trump is gutting the State Department. Perhaps the most interesting one was Rex Tillerson who gives you the only interview I've seen where he on the record describes his frustrations and essentially why he was eventually fired.

What do you think is the big story? What did you learn from what Rex Tillerson told you?


FARROW: So I think in each of these conversations with all of the living secretaries of state, people will find something surprising, some moment of candor they didn't expect. You mentioned how searing Colin Powell was, saying we're mortgaging our future right now. This is a man who cared deeply about the workforce at the State Department. That was a common sentiment.

You know, George P. Shultz saying you don't have to take a job when he surveys the way Rex Tillerson acted on these orders to gut the State Department. And as you say Rex Tillerson himself really surprisingly candid in his last days in the job.

ZAKARIA: For example, he says he did not want those State Department cuts. He privately argued against them, but he thought maybe his corporate background, once the decision was made he had to be a loyal soldier.

FARROW: He did, although he also said, look, I may have just been too inexperienced. He said when he started defending those deep, deep cuts to the State Department on the Hill, he had only been on the job briefly and he might not have known better. He said, I think with hindsight that maybe he would have done things differently. That seemed to be the suggestion throughout our conversation.

ZAKARIA: He said something very peculiar, that he thought that Congress would increase the State Department's budget even though he was not requesting an increase.

FARROW: Which every other living secretary of state I spoke to found astonishing. That's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 22, 2018

J. E. Smyth

J. E. Smyth is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and author or editor of Reconstructing American Historical Cinema from Cimarron to Citizen Kane (2006), Edna Ferber's Hollywood (2009), Hollywood and the American Historical Film (ed., 2012), Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2015), and the BFI classics monograph on From Here to Eternity (2015).

Her new book is Nobody's Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood.

From Smyth's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of Nobody's Girl Friday, “This book is meant to challenge and to inspire people who love Hollywood and believe in gender equality.” What first inspired you to write the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?

A: When I started out – years ago – as an art historian at Yale, I got fed up when so much of the curriculum focused on celebrating the achievements of dead white men. So I changed majors and moved into film studies, thinking a younger cultural medium would be more gender inclusive.

But academic and popular understandings of film, and particularly Hollywood, were (and for the most part still are) focused on studies of great male directors (“auteurs”) and stylistic theories which claim the male gaze of the camera objectifies and punishes strong women.

It was assumed that women could only get jobs as actresses or secretaries in studio-era Hollywood. They were there to be looked at or to take dictation. It was depressing stuff to read. And I didn’t believe it.

Few historians bothered to look at the collaborative nature of film production during the studio system, or at...[read on]
Learn more about Nobody's Girl Friday at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nobody's Girl Friday.

My Book, The Movie: Nobody's Girl Friday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the author of The Johnstown Girls, a novel about the famous Johnstown flood. She has also written seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh: A Measure of Blood, Simple, The Odds, which was nominated for the Edgar® Award from the Mystery Writers of America, Hideout, Afterimage, Fallen, and Taken. George is also the author of the short story collection The Man in the Buick and editor of another collection, Pittsburgh Noir. She is a professor of theater arts and creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

From a Q&A with George about her new novel, The Blues Walked In:

You wrote JOHNSTOWN GIRLS, a novel about the Johnstown flood, and seven mysteries set in Pittsburgh. Your new book, THE BLUES WALKED IN, explores Pittsburgh's Hill District, with Lena Horne at the center of the story. Why is Pittsburgh the backdrop for so much of your work? Do you remember the first time you wrote a story with Pittsburgh as the setting?

KG. I did write those things! You might say I'm geographically challenged so I stick to what I know or can investigate by driving around. I've been in Pittsburgh got most of my life so I keep using it.

I don't remember the first time I imagined a story set in Pittsburgh, but I'm pretty sure it was early on—when I was writing short fiction and before I jumped into novel writing. I didn't name streets at that point but I felt the setting was local.

I DO remember the thrill of setting my first novel, TAKEN, in Pittsburgh. There was something totally exciting about naming real places—even the ones that had disappeared a year before my project, like Ralph's discount City downtown. I kept thinking, "I can do this? It makes it feel so real!" It felt like bravery as a writer. I was saying, "Believe this. Trust me."

One really funny thing happened early on that jolted me though...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathleen George's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Blues Walked In.

Writers Read: Kathleen George.

My Book, The Movie: The Blues Walked In.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Joanna Cantor

Joanna Cantor's new novel is Alternative Remedies for Loss.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What was the inspiration for Alternative Remedies for Loss, and how did you come up with your main character, Olivia?

A: I began Alternative Remedies for Loss as a short story, inspired by “Safari,” a chapter of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. I love family dramas and set myself the goal of writing a story similar to “Safari” but about a family traveling to India. After I completed the story, I didn’t feel finished with the characters, and I thought maybe the story could become a novel. So I kept writing.

When I came up with the character of Olivia, I was fairly new to writing fiction and just learned how to let my characters mess up. It felt liberating to create a female protagonist who was constantly stepping into action, rather than sitting around overthinking every email and conversation (which is more the way I am!) So from the start, she was...[read on]
Visit Joanna Cantor's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Jenna Blum

Jenna Blum's new novel is The Lost Family.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always think writers are haunted into writing their books. What was haunting you?

Recently on Twitter there was the hashtag #WhyIWrite. My answer was simple: because I have people in my head who won’t leave me alone. I had worked with the hero of The Lost Family, Peter Rashkin, before in my novella for the post-WW2 anthology Grand Central, and I was gratified and humbled by readers demanding to know what happened to him beyond the cliffhanger I left him on. So I was preoccupied by that question and kept throwing it up to the Universe—but the answer always returned to me in the form of Peter’s daughter, Elsbeth, and her unsuitable crush Julian, the photographer. I was consistently presented by the image of the two of them on Elsbeth’s nominal grandparents’ terrace in Larchmont, New York, both outsiders—Julian because he is the flavor du jour photographer who’s making a sensation shooting naked pre-teens; Elsbeth because she’s a teenager. They’re both synesthestic, meaning they assign colors to letters and numbers, and I saw them over and over again comparing notes. They were as persistent as...[read on]
Visit Jenna Blum's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Lost Family.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2018

Erin Duffy

Erin Duffy's latest novel is Regrets Only.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Regrets Only and for your character Claire?

A: I was getting ready to make my own transition from the city to the suburbs, and I wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea of giving up the city life and the independence that it afforded me, and moving out to the burbs.

Like a lot of women, I had a lot of anxiety, and struggled with the “is what’s best for my family what’s best for me” debate that has driven women crazy for hundreds of years.

After one particularly bad panic attack, my husband reminded me that moving wasn’t that big of a deal, and that if I really hated it, we’d move back.

It made me feel so much better to think of it that way, and then I had a horrifying thought: what if I wanted to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Maxine Kaplan

Maxine Kaplan is the author of The Accidental Bad Girl.

From her Q&A with Katya de Becerra:

You are a Brooklyn local and THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is set in a Brooklyn school. What was it like to write your hometown setting into a fictional reality of your book?

Honestly, at least at the beginning, that was purely for logistical purposes. I wanted to use layouts that I was familiar with. And I’ve never been a teenager in a small town or suburb, and don’t know firsthand how a girl like my MC would move in that environment, or really any environment other than a city with a highly developed public transit system. But I’m very happy with the decision for dramatic reasons, too, since it allowed me to touch on issues of privilege in ways that resonate with my own lived experiences. I don’t know if I always want to write about Brooklyn, but it was good to have the details of it readily accessible in my brain for my first book.

I love books with complex, compelling protagonists who have to navigate their way out of difficult circumstances. Kendall, the protagonist of THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL, sounds like exactly my kind of protagonist – how did Kendall come to be the leading girl of your debut?

Thank you! I love Kendall. Kendall is the reason I wanted to write this book. I’m a big fan of noir and all things noir-adjacent, including James Bond and Hitchcock. But the characters that always struck my imagination the most were the femme fatales—and I never got enough information about them to satisfy me. I wanted to depict these dangerous women/girls as real people. Basically, Kendall is...[read on]
Visit Maxine Kaplan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Accidental Bad Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai's new novel is The Great Believers.

From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

I always want to know what the “why now” moment is for an author in writing a novel. What was haunting you and propelling you to write?

When I started, I really just wanted to write about the Paris art world of the 1920s. It felt romantic and tragic. As I planned, though, that stuff turned into a subplot and the book became about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s. The research I did, especially the interviews I conducted and the photos I found, became my motivation. So much about what I learned made me angry and broke my heart, and those are great reasons to write.

I first came to NYC during the AIDS crisis of the 80s. I remember the silence=death icons all over the sidewalk and the horror of friends dying. What was your research like?

I’m a bit too young to remember the height of the crisis personally, and didn’t want to rely on secondary sources, so I did a lot of primary source reading (gay weeklies on archive from the ‘80s, online personal accounts) and a ton of in-person interviews. I interviewed survivors, doctors, nurses, journalists, historians, activists, lawyers, basically everyone who was willing to talk to me. And then, after I’d written the book, I gave it to three of those people to read—people who I knew would call me on every little thing that felt even slightly off. I was terrified of getting things wrong, both factually and emotionally, and I think that terror was...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 15, 2018

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie's latest novel is The Good Liar.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You tell the story from different perspectives, including some sections in the form of interviews. Why did you decide to structure the novel that way?

A: This wasn’t the story of one woman, but three, which always presents challenges in terms of voice and presentation. Because there is a documentary film being made, I thought using the interviews would be a good way of showing a different voice and I liked the challenge of having even less to work with than usual and yet still conveying someone’s personality.

Q: Did you know the ending before you started writing, or did you make any changes along the way?

A: I do always know the ending before I start writing. There was one change though – the...[read on]
Visit Catherine McKenzie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hidden.

Writers Read: Catherine McKenzie (April 2014).

My Book, The Movie: Hidden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Michael McFaul

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul is currently a professor of political science at Stanford University, the director of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His new book is From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

From the transcript of McFaul's Q&A with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: What -- what was it like? You're in a dictatorship. You are -- yes, you're the American ambassador, but you have the full resources of this dictatorship directed against you personally.

MCFAUL: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: Did you -- I mean, did you feel unnerved?

MCFAUL: Yes, in two respects. One, on the disinformation stuff, sometimes we could laugh about it, but sometimes it got pretty nasty. In fact, the low point without question was when a video circulated suggesting I was a pedophile.

And what do you do about that, Fareed? What do you say -- you get on Twitter and say "I'm not a pedophile"? And to this day, if you search my name and "pedophile" on the Russian search engine, Yandex, 3 million hits come up.

And then, second, you know, you've been to Russia. We used to meet in Russia when I was ambassador. And you should know. You know, but everybody should know that, if the FSB, successor organization to the KGB, wants to follow you and everything you do, they have tremendous capability to do that -- your e-mail, your phone, your house. I had to assume that every single movement I made in Spaso House -- beautiful place, by the way; I was delighted to live there -- but every single movement I made was monitored.

So they have that capacity. And I learned to live with that. But that's one thing. Then there's another thing. And this was -- got dicey sometimes. They can follow you without you knowing. They're great at that. But sometimes they want to follow you because they want you to know you're being followed. And every now and then that would tick up. We would see these guys at my son's soccer game; we would see them tailing me. And the worst was when...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Abdi Nor Iftin

Abdi Nor Iftin's new book is Call Me American: A Memoir.

From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to take you back to the beginning where this book begins and your family's story, your parents, who were nomads. And they describe a sort of Somali life that I've really never heard about, of lush fields and a peaceful pastoral life.

IFTIN: It is. It is. My mother had - you know, her entire world was just her nomadic life - you know? - the animals, her family. And she had no idea that the country that she was living in was called Somalia. She had always told me, you know, Abdi, there's only two days - the day that you're born and then the day that you die. Everything else in the middle is just grazing and hanging out with the animals. And, you know, how easy life had been to my parents before the disaster had hit and wiped out all their animals.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that disaster, of course, was the famine and the drought. And your life was marked very early on by war. What was your earliest memory of the conflict?

IFTIN: I was 6 years old when the civil war started, militias started, you know, pouring into the city and death and killings and torture. And I described the smell of Mogadishu. It was just, you know, the smell of gunpowder. And that had been...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer's new book is She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What was the inspiration for your new book?

A: I was looking back over some of the articles I’ve written, and I noticed a pattern of writing about different aspects of heredity. I asked myself why I was so interested in it---I have two teenage kids, and maybe it’s something growing on my mind.

I decided to do broader research on the history of heredity. I decided it would be my next book. It’s so fascinating. It’s important for our identity, our culture, and scientists are delving into heredity more and more deeply.

Q: What did you learn about your own genetic makeup from working on the book?

A: I learned that I probably have a genome a lot like other people’s genome, and that’s fine. There’s nothing that makes it exceptional. But if you prowl around in your genome, you will find something. I have a variant that protects me from various autoimmune diseases. Scientists have developed a drug to treat these autoimmune diseases.

I was able to pinpoint my Neanderthal genes. It’s fascinating but perplexing. It’s hard to tell what they mean for you. I have one that’s associated with nosebleeds—I never thought of myself as someone with many nosebleeds. And why would Neanderthals be prone to nosebleeds?

A lot is still mysterious about our genome. We have...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2018

Todd S. Purdum

Todd S. Purdum's new book is Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution. From his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: What was the relationship like - the friendship between Rodgers and Hammerstein?

PURDUM: I think the thing that was most interest to me in doing the research for the book was to come to realize how they had tremendous professional respect for each other. They had terrific artistic collaboration and commercial success. But they weren't personally close. And I found it very sad to learn that each went to his grave not knowing whether the other really had liked him. And they had a kind of a distant - a very formal relationship.

The one documentary example that survives is some letters they exchanged during the writing of the special television program of "Cinderella," written for Julie Andrews in 1957. And they'd been working together for 14, 13 years by that point. And the tone of their letters is - they sign each other love. But it's really - it's a very formal - well, Mr. Hammerstein, well, Mr. Rodgers. They're so correct with each other you might think they just met.

GROSS: Do you think one of the reasons why each didn't know if they were liked by the other was that they worked long distance - with Hammerstein in Pennsylvania and Rodgers in New York? They weren't in the same room composing. They weren't even in the same state. So they didn't have that kind of direct partnership where, you know, every day or every week they're together in the same room working something out together - collaborating in real time.

PURDUM: Yeah, no. It definitely wasn't the cinematic ideal of, you know, sitting around the piano and cranking something out together, you know. But...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Toni Morrison

From Toni Morrison's 1993 Paris Review interview with Elissa Schappell:

INTERVIEWER

You have said that you begin to write before dawn. Did this habit begin for practical reasons, or was the early morning an especially fruitful time for you?


TONI MORRISON

Writing before dawn began as a necessity—I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama—and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn’t know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits ... I didn’t know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy.

I was involved in writing Beloved at that time—this was in 1983—and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don’t remember exactly what the gesture was—there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard—but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 9, 2018

David Rapp

David Rapp's new book is Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book about the Chicago Cubs of the early 20th century, and their star trio of Tinker, Evers, and Chance?

A: I’m a lifelong Cubs fan myself. I began rooting for the Cubs when I was 10. Up to the point when I decided to write this book, they had never won. About six years ago they were in one of their frequent troughs of despair, and I asked myself, why do I still care?

I started reading about the team, and I arrived at this period from 1906-1910 when they were a dynasty and won four pennants and two World Series, and they were led by three guys, Tinker, Evers, and Chance. I didn’t know too much about them, and I started reading, and there wasn’t a lot. Their stories got more and more complicated, and I decided I had to do it myself.

I did research, and one thing led to another, and I was hooked. There’s the grip the team has had on me and on so many Cubs fans. It’s a morality tale of America—sports fanaticism was embedded in this decade. [I got] to see...[read on]
Visit David Rapp's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer's new novel is The Female Persuasion. From her Q&A with Caroline Leavitt:

So much of the brilliant The Female Persuasion is about how we can redefine what it means to be a woman, how other women can help—or hurt us in our careers and in our lives. Faith, an older mentor, makes the younger Greer’s head “crack open in college.” She changed her—and they changed each other. But as Greer ages, she comes to reexamine what has gone on with them, and to realize that what women must do is pass on what they’ve learned to other women, to be better people, to tell the truth. Can you talk about this please?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: the ways we help one another, and influence one another, and, for better or worse, change one another. It can often be intergenerational, or of course intragenerational. Early in life, being helped, or being taken up by someone, is particularly exciting, and can feel like the natural course of events. But it’s interesting--I was talking to a performer in her 50s who noted that sometimes younger women in her field assumed that older women would behave maternally toward them simply because of the age disparity. It’s best, of course, when there’s a real affection and a sense of connection.

Have you had mentors of your own and what was that like? (I think you have because of your wonderful dedication… ) Have you mentored anyone and found your own ideas challenged because of it? There’s an idea in your novel that as we grow, we sometimes grow out of our mentor. Or maybe we just don’t need the mentor, anymore.

Yes, the women on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright's latest book is God Save Texas: A Journey Into The Soul Of The Lone Star State. From his Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: You have a chapter called "Culture." Explain. You say there's level one of Texas culture and a level two. What's the distinction you're drawing?

WRIGHT: Well, I say there are three levels of culture. And level one is the basic, primitive stuff that we think of in the case of Texas, like barbecue and cowboy hats and boots and belt buckles and rodeos. And that's all, you know, very characteristic of the state. And it's that kind of thing, you know, that people think of when they think of Texas. And, you know, that was true of Texas in its formative days, and it's - it continues in a form of nostalgia.

Level two is when money comes into the picture. And people begin to explore outside of their native culture, and they get educated. They travel. They learn about different cuisines. They start collecting art and building museums and theater companies and dance companies, and all of the world rushes in. And that is - you know, it's an important stage, but there's a - it's a bit neurotic, and it is full of envy. It's casting its eye on other cultures and what they have to offer. And there's a deep sense of insecurity about that level. And that really...

DAVIES: And you see this in the big museums and performance venues in - what? - Dallas and Houston and other places, right?

WRIGHT: Sure. And in, you know, the - and in the education that we get, you know, sending your children abroad and so on. You go out in the world, and you learn about it. And that's very important. But it creates a sense of estrangement and, some ways, a sense of embarrassment about level one, the primitive stuff that goes together, that makes your culture unique. And then, you know, I postulate a third level, when you...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gloria Chao

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. She currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Chao's debut novel is American Panda.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for American Panda, and for your main character, Mei?

A: I wanted to write the book I needed as a teen, and a book that would help Asian Americans feels seen. I hoped American Panda would show readers that they aren’t alone, that it’s okay to not feel wholly one thing or another, and that cultural gaps can be difficult.

For Mei, I wanted a conflicted, awkward teen struggling with her identity, and who loved her parents and culture even though she also had a hard time with them. She needed to be someone who was relatable to many in feeling out of place, but also specific enough to show a window into another experience.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: When I...[read on]
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The Page 69 Test: American Panda.

--Marshal Zeringue