On an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in early October, Jonathan Safran Foer sat down with New Yorker editor David Remnick for a conversation and reading from Here I Am as part of the 2016 New Yorker Festival. Despite taking place on a well-lit stage in Chelsea before a few hundred attendees, the conversation was uncommonly intimate and marked by unguarded candor, light-hearted jibes, and a healthy dose of sophomoric humor. Foer and Remnick covered everything from Jewish identity and the struggles of writing to digital distractions and raising children. An edited and condensed version is below.
Kelly Luce and Karan Mahajan spent three years studying together at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas, where they both earned MFAs. FSG recently published Luce’s debut novel, Pull Me Under, which tells the story of a Japanese-American woman who cannot escape the darkness of her past; as a twelve-year-old in Japan, she snapped and killed her bully. Mahajan’s second novel, The Association of Small Bombs—a heart-wrenching tale of “minor” terrorism’s effect on families and communities—is shortlisted for this year’s National Book Award. To celebrate their recent achievements, Kelly and Karan caught up via email, discussing false shoplifting accusations, culture shock, and a woman’s right to express rage.
Sjón—Iceland’s prolific poet, novelist, and frequent Björk collaborator—met with fellow writer Laura van den Berg in the Harvard Bookstore to discuss his miniature historical epic, Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was. The book follows queer teenager and cinephile Máni Steinn as he travels through the societal fringes of 1918 Reykjavík, while the Spanish Flu threatens to bring his entire city to its knees. M&aactue;ni must choose between escaping into the dream world of film and engaging with the community that has rejected him at every turn. van den Berg’s debut novel, Find Me also centers on pandemic; Joy, a lonely grocery store clerk and cough syrup addict, is immune to the fatal, memory-erasing disease that is sweeping across a near-future America, a stroke of fate that forces her to reevaluate her place in the world. Sjón and Laura’s conversation touches on the intersection between film and plague, the power of death as a social equalizer, and the pitfalls of writing books that could break someone’s bones.
Adina Hoffman and Lisa Cohen are long-time friends. Throughout this past summer, the two exchanged emails between Jerusalem and New York, considering what it means to write biography in each of their most recent books and beyond. Hoffman’s Till We Have Built Jerusalem, published by FSG in April, explores the contributions of three modern architects to Jerusalem’s cityscape, and Cohen’s All We Know, published by FSG in 2012, sheds light on the lives of three largely-forgotten modernist figures—Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland. Their conversation flows from Hoffman’s archival instincts to Cohen’s desire to write with the dead, limning an ethics of writing that challenges received histories, upends staid forms, and finds in overlooked traces necessary truths.
Jace Clayton’s book, Uproot, travels across the present musical landscape: from the prevalence of Auto-Tune in Moroccan Berber music to the slow archiving of traditional music on soon-obsolete computers. For the launch of the book, Clayton sat down with the Met’s social media manager, Kimberly Drew, to talk about ideal readers, the realities of the international DJ life, and technology. Their conversation was sandwiched between two DJ sets, one by Sonido Kumbala, a Mexican cumbia sonidera group that called out to listeners on both sides of the border as they played, and another by the Philly duo SCRAAATCH.
Kristin Dombek’s new book, The Selfishness of Others, takes the idea of narcissism—ever more prevalent in how we define and decipher our relationships—and deconstructs it through research, conversations, and analysis of personal experiences. She sat down with n+1 editor Danya Tortorici to discuss the “narcweb,” millennial girls, and the stickiness of language.
When giving interviews leading up to publication of Heartbreaker, my debut collection of stories coming out from FSG Originals this month, I found myself answering the same handful of questions over and over again, leaving a trail of cookie-cutter sound bites to clutter up the interwebs. At a certain point, you might as well get a robot to do the job for you. So for this piece I decided to ask my twin sister, Danielle Meijer—an adjunct professor in the philosophy department at DePaul University, social justice advocate, dancer, and muse&emdash;the questions most writers dread. The result? A fascinating conversation full of inside jokes and egregious mutual admiration. Welcome to The Twinterview.
Ian Frazier’s been a regular contributor to The New Yorker since 1974 and has published more than a dozen books with FSG. In his latest collection, Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces, his own curiosity becomes the impetus for the writing that The New York Times called “observation backed up by research and marinated in rumination and wordcraft.” He and Sarah Crichton, publisher of Sarah Crichton Books, sat down recently at Greenlight Bookstore to talk about this curiosity, as well as meteorites, General Henry Shrapnel, and Brooklyn bus rides.
C.E. Morgan’s “tremendous” new novel, The Sport of Kings, is a multi-generational saga set on the bluegrass fields and racing tracks of Kentucky. This June, Morgan sat down with Lisa Lucas, the Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, for a rare interview at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn to discuss the false stigma of regionalism, internalized literary sexism, the power of empathy, and the politics of storytelling.
Susan Brind Morrow is the author of a new book, The Dawning Moon of the Mind, in which she details her revolutionary translation of the Pyramid Texts—a series of carvings found in a semi-collapsed pyramid in Egypt, and the basis for a reinterpretation of ancient Egyptian religion. She spoke with Robert Thurman, the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, and James A. Kowalski, dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, about her new translation, and the natural beauty and poetry of ancient Egyptian texts.
Adam Phillips has been called “the Oliver Sacks of psychoanalysis,” and in his remarkable new book, Unforbidden Pleasures, he writes about agency and desire in an utterly transformative way. Here, Phillips discusses the tyranny of the Oedipus complex, Oscar Wilde, procrastination, and the new book with his editor, Ileene Smith.
The Tale of Shikanoko was inspired, in part, by old Samurai stories such as The Tale of Heike and The Tale of the Soga Brothers—and they are, in fact, full of dramatic combat and rival clans and traditions of honor, all of which emerges from Hearn’s lifelong study of Japanese history and culture. But these volumes are also brimming with supernatural beings, guardian spirits, and a palpable sense of magic.
Cote Smith’s debut, Hurt People, is set in his hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas, famous mostly for its prisons, but is also notable to Smith for “such boredom,” which he and his brother endured together for years. It’s “Midwestern boredom” according to Whitney Terrell, who grew up down the highway and across the state line in Kansas City. His third novel, The Good Lieutenant, is the story of Emma Fowler, a U.S. Army lieutenant in Iraq, and while the book obviously ventures further afield, Emma never quite escapes her Midwestern roots. Recently, Terrell and Smith sat down at Harry’s Country Club in, of course, Kansas City, to talk about what makes Hurt People so “incredibly powerful.”
Lian Hearn and Kelly Luce are perhaps not the two most obvious writers to have in conversation with one another. Lian Hearn is the pseudonym of a writer who lives in remote Australia and writes epic stories of a medieval, mythical Japan. Kelly Luce is a young writer based in California who has published an acclaimed story collection, Three Scenarios in which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, and whose debut novel, Pull Me Under, the story of a Japanese-born woman who returns home to confront her violent past, will be published by FSG this November. But once you start pulling at the threads they have in common—Japan, obviously, where they have both spent a lot of time; a strong current of violence in each of their work; and a sort of insistence on letting loose a ravishing, unbridled imagination on the page—it becomes clear that they’ll have a lot to talk about.
What do Shostakovich and DJ Screw have in common? More than you might think, writes The New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff in his new book Every Song Ever. His book is a celebration—of the possibilities for pleasure within music and of the act of listening at a time when listeners have never had it so good. This past week, Ratliff was joined by fellow music critic and FSG author Alex Ross (The Rest Is Noise) for a discussion of the book at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. In a far-ranging conversation, Ross and Ratliff talked proliferation of genre, the dangers of Pandora, and the changing nature of musical appreciation. Here’s a portion of their talk.
Garth Greenwell (What Belongs to You) and Hanya Yanagihara (A Little Life) have both seen their novels championed (sometimes by one another) as works signalling an exciting new wave of gay literature. But they had never met in person before appearing together at Three Lives Bookstore in Manhattan’s West Village to discuss Garth’s debut novel before a packed crowd.
The Pickle Index is being feted far and wide as a multi-platform vision of the future of storytelling. And it is that. But it also, at heart, an old-fashioned fable in the tradition of, say, George Orwell and James Thurber (a natural pair, like a carrot and a cucumber)—a fable about a world in which pickled vegetables are the basis of the diet, the economy, the culture, and the only hope is a seemingly hapless circus troupe trying to put their arcane skills to good and desperate use…you can see where the Orwell and Thurber comparisons come from. Right? But anyway, what’s more old-fashioned than the actual wood-cuts that illustrate the paperback edition? Here, digital visionary Horowitz peppers Ian Huebert, print-maker and illustrator, with questions about just the distinctly analog way woodcut gets made (Look at those tools! Sharp, dangerous tools that cut into wood! Look at that printing press!)—never once letting on that the FSG Originals paperback edition contains a secret illustration of an octopus in a rowboat that is absolutely exclusive to our edition. You will, however, have the opportunity to win a signed and numbered letter-press poster by Mr. Huebert himself. So read on, friends, read on!
Alex Mar has been compared to a kind of modern “Virgil” for providing a tour through the world of American practitioners of the occult. Just in time for Halloween, we asked her a few questions about her experience writing Witches of America, her favorite horror movies, and the difference between Samhain and what the rest of us celebrate with candy and pranks.
Last month the United States Postal Service issued a Flannery O’Connor stamp, complete with a glowing portrait and peacock feathers. Coincidentally, we also recently reissued all of O’Connor’s fiction with new covers painted by June Glasson and designed by Charlotte Strick. When the stamp sparked a bit of controversy, we figured, Why not? It is therefore with great pleasure that we present the official FSG Flannery O’Connor stamp, with a few words from Charlotte about the project.