In Conversation

Unforbidden Pleasures

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.

Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn

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 & Whitney Terrell

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 & Kelly Luce

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.

Laura van den Berg & Emily St. John Mandel

Laura van den Berg, whose debut novel Find Me is now available in paperback, and Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven, corresponded from across the world to talk about open space, the aftermath of catastrophe, and the end of the genre wars.

Alex Ross & Ben Ratliff

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 and Hanya Yanagihara

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

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

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.

Flannery O'Connor Stamps

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.

Battle Lines by Ari Kelman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Featuring breathtaking panoramas and revelatory, unforgettable images, Battle Lines is an utterly original graphic history of the Civil War. Here Ari Kelman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm talk graphic novels, Civil War reenacting, and drawing like Martin Scorsese.

Valley Fever by Katherine Taylor

In Valley Fever, Katherine Taylor examines high-class small-town life among the grapes—on the vine or soaked in vodka. It’s a blisteringly funny, ferociously intelligent, and deeply moving novel of self-discovery. Here she talks to us about California’s Central Valley, the deadly Valley Fever, and accepting where you’re from.

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

This year’s Book Expo America launched with a marquee conversation between Jonathan Franzen and critic Laura Miller. The two sat down in front of a packed crowd to discuss the writing of Franzen’s latest novel, Purity (coming September 1st). Their conversation ranged from the story of the book’s name to its eponymous protagonist, and to the importance of climbing one’s own mountains as a writer.

The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon

From the title alone, Aleksandar Hemon’s new novel, The Making of Zombie Wars, suggests that the author is up to something new and different. And while it’s not exactly what you’d call a traditional “zombie novel,” Hemon does admit that it could be described as a “roller-coaster ride of violence and sex.” Here, he talks to his editor, Sean McDonald, about how he changed up his writing process for this book, even enrolling in a screenwriting workshop; why this book maybe isn’t so different from his earlier books; and the challenges of being “funny all the way through.”

John Freeman and Adonis

For the past thirty-some years, Adonis has lived in Paris, but continues to write in Arabic. His poems of exile and longing reflect a long life spent, for political reasons, outside of his native Syria. He despairs of the war that rages there now, and does not see easy solutions. During a free-ranging conversation in New York City last spring, the eighty-four-year-old poet explained how the forces behind his modern voice are actually centuries old. He also spoke boldly against the force of organized religion within the Middle East and Syria.

The Road Home by Ethan Nichtern

In The Road Home, Ethan Nichtern, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, investigates the journey each of us takes to find where we belong. Here, Nichtern discusses the metaphor of “the path,” and the effect of mediation on the creative process with the writer and fellow Buddhist practitioner Maud Newton.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Following the recent publication of The Sellout, which has been called “among the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century,” we asked Paul Beatty to sit down with his editor, Colin Dickerman, and discuss his explosive follow-up to The White Boy Shuffle. He took stock of his influences, the state of Taco Bell, and the process of transforming a shoe box filled with notes into a finished novel.

Love and Lies

In his latest book, Love and Lies, Clancy Martin argues that love requires deception and self-deception. He uses philosophy, literature, and his own life to argue the case. I am his wife, and I wanted to ask him the difficult, scary questions—like what should a married woman do if she has an affair and gets pregnant with the other man’s kid—but in the process I found that we all know the answers to those questions. The answer is: lie. But still, many people, when faced with the situation, are too weak; they tell the truth. So I tried to find a place—still difficult and scary—where I could ask questions that touched on the truth about love and our marriage, and I wasn’t sure what his answers would be. I am his third wife and he’s my first husband, and that’s part of what’s scary, of course. Did I marry a pathological liar?

van den Berg and VanderMeer

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us her debut novel, Find Me—an “unforgettable…unique…glorious” (TimeOut New York) tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in a world that has been devastated by a mysterious disease. Here, native Floridians van den Berg and Jeff VanderMeer (author of widely and wildly acclaimed Southern Reach Trilogy) talk about the many ways in which Florida influences their writing, the “daily contact with the surreal,” and the best theme park in the state, Gatorland.

Hans Ulrich Obrist and Marina Abramovic

On November 16th, 2014 the seminal performance artist Marina Abramović and Hans Ulrich Obrist, one of the world’s most influential critics and curators, sat down at McNally Jackson to celebrate the publication of Obrist’s book, Ways of Curating. They discussed the rituals of creativity, night trains, Da Vinci’s sleep cycle, and much, much more.