Other People with Brad Listi
Summary: Brad Listi is the author of a novel called ATTENTION. DEFICIT. DISORDER. and the founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community. He also runs TNB Books, an independent press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. Here, he offers up in-depth, inappropriate interviews with today's leading authors.
Kathleen Alcott is today's guest. Her debut novel, THE DANGERS OF PROXIMAL ALPHABETS, is now available from Other Press. Bookslut raves "Heartbreaking, honest, and wholly engrossing, 'The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets' dredges the depth of love that divides us, unites us, and folds in on itself until we’re nearly crushed under the sweet ache of its weight." And The Wall Street Journal says "In fluid, bubbling prose, and with a good deal of plaintive humor, Ms. Alcott has written a beautiful story of love and heartbreak." Monologue topics: insomnia, nightmares, insomnia tweets, hairy armpits, velociraptors. Today's episode is sponsored by LITBREAKER AD NETWORK. Litbreaker helps book publishers, authors and premium brands reach an engaged audience of authors, artists, editors, agents, producers, bloggers, media professionals and readers — lots of readers. For more information, please visit Litbreaker.com.
Steven Gillis is today's guest. He's the author of several books and the co-founder of Dzanc Books. His latest story collection, THE LAW OF STRINGS, is now available from Atticus Books. Stephen Dixon raves "[T]his story collection hooked me from story one and continued to captivate to the end. Expert dialog and movement and resolution in each piece…This is a book you could read in a sitting or two. The pace is that swift; the stories are that good." And Michael Griffith says "Very few writers would dare explore, in a collection of stories, the intersections between quantum physics and everyday ethics, between cosmic law and domestic habit; fewer still could make those intersections so compelling and surreal and surprising, and could make the pages sing by so quickly; only Steven Gillis can provide just this bracing combination of thoughtfulness and spiked wit and deadpan finesse. 'The Law of Strings' is a revelation—strange, barbed, and original." Monologue topics: killing my television, beating my television within an inch of its life, sitting slack-jawed in a screen-induced narcotic haze, Amish novelists.
Benjamin Wood is the guest. His debut novel, THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS, is now available from Viking in the United States and Simon & Schuster in the UK. THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS was an official selection of The TNB Book Club. Joanna Smith Rakoff raves "Oh how I loved this novel! I was drawn in from the very first sentence and pretty much didn’t put it down until I reached the last. This is the kind of story that makes you want to hole up under the covers and not come out until you’ve uncovered the mysteries at its heart. I find myself constantly thinking of Wood’s characters—wonderful, surprising Oscar Lowe and those beautiful, doomed Bellwethers. It reminded me, more than anything, of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, another novel that utterly consumed me, body and soul." And Susan Daitch says "Discovering the world of Benjamin Wood’s characters is like unlocking a series of psychological puzzles, mysterious and completely engrossing. Impossible to put down, 'The Bellwether Revivals' is a brilliant investigation into obsessions and their entirely unpredictable consequences." Monologue topics: heat, Austerlitz, industrial warfare, no sleep, Terence McKenna, shamans, hills, mountains, getting ripped to pieces.
Amber Sparks is today's guest. Her debut story collection, MAY WE SHED THESE HUMAN BODIES, is now available from Curbside Splendor. Raves Michael Kimball: "There was Aesop, Thomas Bulfinch, Edith Hamilton, Angela Carter--and now there is Amber Sparks with a new take on the fable. May We Shed These Human Bodies is a clever, scary, and charming debut collection full of great imagination." And Ben Loory says "I always love a book that makes me fear for the writer's sanity. I'm over here praying for Amber Sparks." Monologue topics: my tweets, cultural talk-fests, disconnectedness, Lardass Hogan, Stand by Me, regurgitating pie.
D.T. Max is the guest. He's the author of EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY: A LIFE OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, now available from Viking. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it "A well-crafted, insightful chronicle of this singular writer’s life and literary work…Max’s biography succeeds on multiple levels: through his astute interpretations of Wallace’s literary output and liberal quotes from the writer himself, this book very much embodies the spirit and life of Wallace…for this reader, the biography provides a measure of solace – that if this great writer can’t be among us, at least he can be remembered in all of his genius and complexity." And Tom Bissell raves "This book should be handed to anyone who wants to write, if only to remind the aspiring writer that becoming a voice of generational significance turns out to be very poor insulation indeed from struggle, fear, and despair. D. T. Max is beautifully attuned to Wallace's strengths, whether personal or literary, and bracingly clear-sighted on his flaws. The result is a book that's moving, surprising (Wallace voted for Reagan?), and hugely disquieting. If you love Wallace's work, you obviously need to read this book; if you don't love Wallace's work, you especially need to read this book." Monologue topics: sunrise, Sunset Boulevard, insomnia, walking into the sun.
Thad Ziolkowski is today's guest. He's the author of the memoir ON A WAVE (Grove/Atlantic), which was nominated for the 2003 PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and his debut novel, WICHITA, is now available from Tonga Books, an imprint of Europa Editions. He is a Guggenheim fellow and the director of the writing program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The New York Times raves "WICHITA is a novel about expectations and outcomes, about what is open and what is veiled. Its emotional terrain is touching and vast. Whereas you might begin the book drawn in by its sense of humor, its ending will unhinge you, as if a storm has ripped through you and, like the wind in Rilke’s poem, sucked 'the world from your senses.' "'Through the empty branches the sky remains. / It is what you have.'" Monologue topics: bad days, writing, doing something else, misery, the bug, Lorrie Moore, advice, staring at a flashing cursor.
Leigh Stein is today's guest. She's the author of the novel THE FALLBACK PLAN and the poetry collection DISPATCH FROM THE FUTURE, both of which are now available from Melville House. Publishers Weekly hailed DISPATCH as one of its best books of Summer 2012, saying "Stein possesses a comic's honesty and sense of timing, simultaneously enchanting and dark, yet never cynical. She's already published a wonderful debut novel this year, but I think she's arguably an even better poet." Vol. 1 Brooklyn raves: "A book as deeply sad as it is perceptively playful, Stein recreates her life, one full of unbounded wisdom and imagination weaving a tapestry of myths, memory, history, and pop culture, that new sort of collective memory we all share." And Gary Shteyngart has this to say about THE FALLBACK PLAN: "Beautiful, funny, thrilling, and true." Monologue topics: Israel, music, excessive documentation, 9/11, travel, timing, violence, Jesus, Nate Dogg, deities, The Resurrection, research, airport security.
David Abrams is the guest. He's the author of the debut novel FOBBIT, which is now available from Grove/Atlantic. Publishers Weekly, in a starred reviews, says "Abrams’s debut is a harrowing satire of the Iraq War and an instant classic....Abrams, a 20-year Army veteran who served with a public affairs team in Iraq, brings great authority and verisimilitude to his depictions of these attempts to shape the perceptions of the conflict. [His] prose is spot-on and often deadpan funny, as when referring to the 'warm pennies' smell of a soldier’s 'undermusk of blood,' or when describing one misshapen officer: 'skull too big for the stalk of his neck, arms foreshortened like a dinosaur... one word came to mind: thalidomide.' This novel nails the comedy and the pathos, the boredom and the dread, crafting the Iraq War’s answer to Catch-22." And Library Journal raves "This darkly comic novel is a slice of awesome...a true dark comedy in that it reinforces how unpleasant life can be for soldiers, and how ridiculous, funny, and stupid life can be." Monologue topics: letters, praise, criticism, Twitter glibness.
Dana Johnson is the guest. She's the author of the story collection BREAK ANY WOMAN DOWN, winner of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction, and her debut novel, ELSEWHERE, CALIFORNIA, is now available from Counterpoint. Aimee Bender raves "I love listening to Avery talk about anything and everything, from the Dodgers to the art world to neighborhood negotiations to certain brands of shorts. Here is a character with an intensely engaging voice, surrounded by an equally riveting cast, all created by a writer who knows how to make words— and people— sparkle on the page." And T.C. Boyle calls it "Beautifully wrought. A contemporary bildungsroman with a wise and winning heroine at its heart." Monologue topics: letters, 'Thunderstruck,' readings, your mom.
Alix Ohlin is the guest. She's the author of several books, the most recent of which are the story collection SIGNS AND WONDERS, available now from Vintage, and a novel called INSIDE, available Knopf. Both were published in June of this year. Jane Ciabattari of The Boston Globe raves "Alix Ohlin’s wondrously engrossing INSIDE and SIGNS AND WONDERS display her characteristic strengths—dynamic plots, keenly observed settings, and characters so idiosyncratic, ambivalent, and contradictory they could be your family, your neighbors, people you work with…..She has a rare gift for examining the confusions of the 21st century, exploring the ways in which addictions, afflictions, attractions, and random impulses shape our lives. Her intense and beautifully shaped new novel and stories offer tentative yet illuminating answers." And The New Yorker says "Spanning a twelve-year period, [INSIDE] moves briskly between New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Kigali, and the Inuit community of Iqaluit. As the protagonists try, and fail, to establish connections with other human beings, Ohlin charts their small victories and larger disappointments. She is skilled at making her chilly cast of characters accessible, and even their most unlikely actions make sense, thanks to her tightly drawn portraits. And, while the novel’s premise is hardly comic, its Hollywood scenes show off the author’s satiric flair." Monologue topics: air travel, Israel, Ambien, The Wailing Wall, socio-spiritual faux pas.
Matthew Batt is today's guest. He's the author of the memoir SUGARHOUSE, now available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Andre Dubus III raves "It’s hard to write funny, especially when your world is crumbling around you, but in this utterly compelling memoir, Matt Batt makes it look easy. This is a sweet and deeply memorable debut by a writer who’s clearly the real thing." Steve Almond calls it "...a whale of a book -- an uproariously funny and deeply affecting account of home ownership and its discontents. Matt Batt has written a must-read manifesto for anyone who's ever faced off against a fast-talking real estate agent, an impossibly stubborn varnish, or a family on the brink of heartbreak. I'm still not sure how he managed to stuff so much life into one little book, but I'm dazzled at his achievement." And Cheryl Strayed says "Winning, funny, and crackling with life, SUGARHOUSE is a can't-put-down chronicle of a bad house gone good and a good family gone in directions the author didn't expect. Batt’s book about glue, grace, gumption, and the grit it takes to keep on living is an unforgettable and sweet read." Monologue topics: Los Angeles, dead dreams, desert wastelands, the new novel, Batt vs. Bott, the compensatory nature of my overuse of canned applause.
George Saunders is today's guest. He's the bestselling author of several books, including CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, and The Braindead Megaphone, and his brand new story collection, TENTH OF DECEMBER, is due out from Random House in January 2013. Thomas Pynchon calls him "An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times." It's a great thrill to have George on the program for this, the 100th episode of the podcast. Heartfelt thanks to everyone for listening over the course of this first year. Can't tell you how much I appreciate the kind support. Topics of conversation include: Chicago, population density, Winesburg Ohio, Visions of Gerard, sports, Amarillo, Steve Martin, engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Ayn Rand, Sumatra, oil, Atlas Shrugged, drinking, control, Kahlil Gibran, struggle, capitalism, Marxism, Jack Kerouac, Singapore, Bruce Springsteen, hitchhiking, Syracuse, graduate school, realism, Ernest Hemingway, fallow periods, absurdist tendencies, writing at work, John Steinbeck, being under-read, guilt, Catholicism, Susan Sontag, Jane Austen, happiness, energy, hopefulness, discipline, Stuart Dybek, The New Yorker, David Letterman, Jessica Alba, slaughterhouses, Terry Eagleton, performance, spontaneity, postmodernism, GQ, Marfa, MacArthur Genius Grant, Buddha Boy, nonfiction vs. fiction, the physical world, assuming common intelligence, and starting a band. Monologue topics: Episode 100, connecting at the level of consciousness, assuaging human loneliness, Howard Stern, Terry Gross, Marc Maron, Ira Glass.
Elizabeth Ellen is today's guest. She's the author of FAST MACHINE, a collection of her best work from the last decade. She lives in Ann Arbor where she co-edits Hobart and oversees its book division, Short Flight/Long Drive Books. Raves Roxane Gay: "Ellen’s writing is amazing...The best thing about [it] is that it has big brass balls." And The Stranger says "You don't get to see this side of womanhood very often in fiction—tough, and bitter, and unashamed—and it requires something intensive like FAST MACHINE, a deep, repetitive series of brutal inquiries, to uncover those kinds of secrets. What Ellen is doing here is going deep inside herself and coming back with something small and glistening and vulnerable cradled in her hands. She's offering it to you. You should take it." Topics of conversation include: whiskey, Maker's Mark, Ann Arbor, Ohio, marriage, divorce, children, racquetball, Florida, Key West, court reporting, Hemingway, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, shyness, house parties, University of Cincinnati, panic attacks, breathing, The Hills, break-ups, Columbus, reptiles, hurricanes, head shops, hippies, Jim Morrison, alcoholism, bikes, Buckeye Lake, nitrous balloons, LSD, toe rings, breakdowns, pot, performance enhancing drugs, Michigan, Dorothy Parker, Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, gender, Sofia Coppola, Somewhere, minimalism, George Saunders, Aimee Bender, internet literature, Pindeldyboz, Dave Eggers, Opium, Eyeshot, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, David Foster Wallace, Alt Lit, self-consciousness, plans, self-publishing, road trips, book tour, vans, Aaron Burch, Chelsea McClanahan, Chelsea Martin, trains, anxiety, work habits, and fairly long periods of dicking around. Monologue topics: Israel, Episode 100, neck pillows, whirlwind journeys, sleeping with your mouth open, haircuts.
Pauls Toutonghi is today's guest. He's the author of two novels, the latest of which is called EVEL KNIEVEL DAYS, now available from Crown Books. Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it "[A] superb literary effort....With writing both gently ironical and outright funny, the author's extraordinary talent draws readers into the world of Butte and Cairo. More entertainingly, his characters are both believable and appealing, especially Khosi's Egyptian aunts, their drill-sergeant housekeeper and the everyday people he meets. Brilliantly imagined. Artfully written. Superbly entertaining." And Garth Stein says "EVEL KNIEVEL DAYS is so good, I want to dress it up in a star-spangled jumpsuit, leap it over the pyramids of Giza on a Laverda American Eagle 750cc motorcycle, and watch it stick its landing before an audience of millions in downtown Butte, Montana. A funny, heart-warming, compulsively readable novel about the unbreakable bonds of family — and baklava. This is one you shouldn't miss. Terrific!" Topics of conversation include: Airbnb, road trips, axe murderers, book tour, Gillian Welch, Boise, authenticity, country music, college radio, record stores, parenthood, Elmo, Feist, ballet, Egypt, Footloose, Christianity, writer's block, classical music, immigration, poverty, Manhattan, oil, French, Latvia, solitude, teaching, similes, Alain de Botton, architecture, first drafts, wireless keyboards, time, procrastination, discipline, Seattle, Beethoven, goth, Jay Parini, role models, agents, Book magazine, rejection, stress, breakdowns, love, Granta, bullshit, and sleep. Monologue topics: travel, airports, Indiana, nostalgia, family, birthdays, Israel, my novel.
Oksana Marafioti is today's guest. She's the author of a new memoir called AMERICAN GYPSY, now available from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Kirkus calls it "Engaging . . . Marafioti describes with humor and introspection how the self-described ‘Split Nationality Disorder’ she experienced growing up only magnified upon her family’s emigration from the former Soviet Union to Los Angeles when she was 15 . . . [Her] probing observation of the contrast of American individualism with fierce Roma ethnocentrism, even xenophobia, yields a provocative exploration of identity. Contrasting cultural values shine in this winning contemporary immigrant account of assimilation versus individuation." And Booklist calls it "[A] wry, unforgettable memoir." Topics of conversation include: gypsies, Romani culture, insults, education, home-schooling, trigonometry, socialization, music, trains, tour buses, fame, Soviet Union, nomadic existence, alcohol, fighting, stadiums, Moscow, singing, Johnny Cash, 'Rainbow Connection,' Willie Nelson, classical piano, Malcolm Gladwell, face reading, prejudice, VHS, Betamax, parenting, infantilization, comic books, Batman, self, identity, midlife crisis, collapse, Rome, reading, books, Fifty Shades of Grey, wisdom of crowds, Twilight, B.B. King, immigration, psychics, exorcisms, Los Angeles, karaoke, Las Vegas, divorce, Hollywood High School, empathy, struggle, fear, pain, romance novels, slut machines, film school, work, and energy. Monologue topics: Episode 97, Episode 100, my sisters, birthdays, elevators, sadness, reality television, confronting people in confined spaces, 'What's Goin' On?', Marvin Gaye, neutral facial expressions, and dancing shit-faced.