In Conversation

Peter Cole and Christian Wiman

Peter Cole and Christian Wiman, two longtime friends, recently exchanged e-mails about the process of selecting their own work for their latest collections. Wiman’s book of selected poems, Hammer Is the Prayer, published by FSG in 2016, was “a stunning reminder of how this gifted poet has transformed suffering into verse that is not just the best of his life, but among the best of his generation” (The Washington Post). Peter Cole’s forthcoming Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations, to be published by FSG in May, showcases the range of Cole’s work, building on his masterful translations and sharp poetry by weaving in dazzling new pieces. “It is,” says Harold Bloom, “a majestic work, a chronicle of the imaginative life of a profoundly spiritual consciousness.” Here, Cole and Wiman discuss the arrangement of collected works, the tension between life and art, and the survival of one’s own poetry.

Edouard Louis

A sensation in Édouard Louis’ native France, The End of Eddy is an unflinching portrayal of the French working class and the racism and homophobia that its author grew up surrounded by. Here he explains why every word in the novel is true.

Earlier this month at Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn, Kanishk Tharoor was joined by fellow FSG author John Wray to celebrate the launch of Tharoor’s debut short story collection, Swimmer Among the Stars. As trains crossing the Manhattan Bridge rumbled overhead, Tharoor and Wray discussed the short story form, literary influences, and the generative possibilities of history. Below is an edited and condensed version of their conversation.

Ishion Hutchinson and Teju Cole

Ishion Hutchinson’s poetry collection House of Lords and Commons was released to wide acclaim. All Things Considered said it was “ragged and fiercely beautiful;” The New Yorker praised Hutchinson’s “exquisite” sounds: “clusters of consonants . . . and the vowels so open you could fall into them, the magisterial cresting syntax.” Hutchinson sat down with […]

Hideo Yokoyama’s detective novel Six Four, about a cold case and the conflicts within a police department, was first released in Japan to wide acclaim. Yokoyama’s carefully plotted, high-tension novel seemed perfect for U.K. and U.S. readers that had been devouring books by writers like Jo Nesbø and Steig Larsson, so translator Jonathan Lloyd-Davies was tasked with bringing Yokoyama’s work to English-language readers. We talked to Lloyd-Davies about translating a Japanese bureaucracy, his translation process, and the appeal of a crime novel in a country with a low crime rate.
Jonathan Lloyd-Davies: I was still living in the U.K. when the novel was released, working on other translations, and on a strict diet of reading English to limit the influence of Japanese syntax in my work. Six Four first came my way via a translation summer school in Norwich, chaired by the translator and professor Michael Emmerich, who later brought the project to my attention. At the time I was finishing another translation and looking for something to take on. He was, of course, kind enough to warn me that it was a long book.

Rachel Cusk’s novel Outline, was published in 2015 to wide acclaim—it was listed as one of the New York Times‘s Best Books of the Year. It told the story of a woman, Faye, facing down a tremendous and terrible loss, through a series of monologues and conversations surrounding her. Transit, the next novel in the trilogy, uses a similar structure to delve even deeper into Faye’s psyche. Here, she sits down with writer Caille Millner at Green Apple Books in San Francisco to discuss the nature of fiction and creativity, sex in her writing, and childhood violence.

Future Sex

Emily Witt’s book, Future Sex was described as “Joan Didion meets fetish porn” (A.V. Club) when it was published this summer. In November, a few weeks after the election, Witt sat down with writer Anna Wiener at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, to discuss how the election changed her view of her own book, how writing the book changed her life, and how sexual mores have (or haven’t) changed.

The Gravity of Depression

Daphne Merkin, and her editor, Ileene Smith, discuss her new book, her childhood, family relationships, and lifelong battle with the illness.

Warren Ellis & Robin Sloan

A locked-room mystery taking place at a rest home for burned-out futurists, Warren Ellis’s Normal explores what happens when you spend all your time staring at the end of the world. A darkly funny book, Normal was initially published during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election. In early December, as the general American populace was getting a true taste of #abyssgaze, Ellis sat down with Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, to discuss haunted rocks, if all writers are commercial writers, and how exciting the world is when it’s on fire.

Jonathan Safran Foer & David Remnick

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 In Conversation

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.

Kristen Dombek & Dayna Tortorici

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 and Sarah Crichton

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 and Lisa Lucas

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.

The Dawning Moon of the Mind

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.

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.