Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Jonathan Ames . His latest book is called You Were Never Really Here (Vintage). It has recently been adapted into a major motion picture starring Joaquin Phoenix. Ames also writes for television, having created the shows Blunt Talk (Starz 2015-2016), starring Patrick Stewart, and Bored to Death (HBO 2009-2011), starring Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis.

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“Her heart was not hardened but her skin was thick,” writes Jean-Patrick Manchette of the titular protagonist in his last, unfinished novel, Ivory Pearl, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith with a superb ear for Manchette’s incomparable voice that easily shifts between the grit of the hyperfactual—“…in his right hand he held a semiautomatic Sauer Model 38 chambered in .380 ACP and fitted with a silencer”—and the nimble ability to sketch with the sparest of words the heart of a character, laid out, in this case, in three easy steps: “She wanted to become a professional photographer. She dreamt of meeting Robert Capa. She had an alarming predilection for images of dead bodies.” Ivy is a survivor who at one point casually, almost happily, admits having conveniently lost her appendix when she “caught that Viet round in ‘52.” And like so many other of Manchette’s characters, she also knows her jazz. Everything helps when you’re on a mission.

The TNB Book Club is pleased to announce that we’ll be reading Tonight I’m Someone Else (Holt Paperbacks), the wonderful and hotly anticipated new essay collection by Chelsea Hodson, in June.

Says Amy Hempel:  “This book has dark humor, recklessness, exhilaration….I felt I was reading a writer who would tell harder truths than many other writers, and she turns this nerve against herself to good effect.”

And Sarah Manguso says: “Chelsea Hodson tests herself against her desires, grapples with their consequences, and presents a surgically precise account of what they were to her. These essays are bewitchingdespite their discipline and rigor, you can smell the blood.”

Coming up next month.  Stay tuned.

Rock, Paper, Sister

Private Practice: 30 Years Later

June 8

Nick had presence. He was a tall, solid bodybuilder. Sharp, chiseled angles defined his jaw and shoulders. He wore a worn green T-shirt and jeans to his first therapy session. The muscles in his chest and arms were more defined than on anyone I’d ever seen. When he shook my hand, it felt like he wore a catcher’s mitt. I could barely get my hand around his.

I don’t intimidate easily, but I felt humbled by his size. He seemed a yin-yang blend of power and stillness.

American Snake Pit is a powerful title for your memoir-but the subtitle is even more intriguing: Hope, Grit, And Resilience In The Wake Of Willowbrook. Can you tell us where it came from?

The title came from Bobby Kennedy in 1965, after he toured an unannounced visit to Willowbrook, a large institution in Staten Island, New York. He stood shaken in front of the cameras and said: “We have a situation that borders on a snake pit.” That film clip really grabbed my interest and American Snake Pit was born. But in spite of this ominous image of a “snake pit,” this is a book about hope. The tremendous courage, bravery, and hidden skills of the people I helped move into the community by way of this experimental group home is astounding. It’s what’s possible when people are given the right opportunities.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Melissa Broder. Her debut novel The Pisces is available from Hogarth Press.

This is Melissa’s third time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 58 on April 4, 2012 and again in Episode 404 on March 13, 2016.

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My aunt died in a car accident when I was six. We buried her, a fetus in her belly. She was only 26.

I try not to hear my own biological clock ticking. I came across a chart. It was labeled, “The Age Factor.” There’s a picture of a healthy pregnant woman. Above her, the caption: “Likelihood of a woman conceiving after trying for a year.” To the right of her belly are percentages broken down by age group. My group, 40-44 is 36%, not bad, but the one after it, the one I’ll be in soon, 45-49, is only 5%.

Sunday morning, in my twenties, a baby is crying somewhere in the apartment complex. I lie in bed amazed at its fierce demand. I want not to cry. My father always said, Don’t cry, or I’ll give you something to cry about. I learned to cry softly so no one would be bothered by it, to do it with muffled sniffles and the silent roll of hot tears, not like this baby, crying with all its might. After a few hours, I wonder if I’m hearing things. Is that a baby or just my own sorrow? Finally, another neighbor yells, “Shut that fucking baby up. I’m trying to sleep.” The baby stops so suddenly I wonder if they’ve put a pillow over her face.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Susan Henderson. Her new novel, The Flicker of Old Dreams, is available from Harper Perennial.

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Now playing on the Otherppl podcast, a conversation with Lauren Grodstein. Her latest novel, Our Short History, is available from Algonquin Books.

This is Lauren’s second time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 216 on October 13, 2013.

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This month, the TNB Book Club is reading Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, by Tao Lin.   Available now from Vintage Originals, Trip is a remarkable and sometimes harrowing exploration of creativity, Terence McKenna, language, imagination, and, yes, drugs.  This is Lin’s first nonfiction book, a fascinating window into his life and work and deepest interests.  

What’s up with this book?

I had no capacity to take new clients and I turned down everyone who reached. There was no one to even refer them to. I am the only person (that I am aware of) who does this specific set of services for artists with my precise training. I thought if I wrote it all down in a book, I could be of service to more artists.

Then the 2016 presidential election vomited all over America. I quickly wrote up a pamphlet called Making Art During Fascism as a toolkit to help artists think about how to maintain their lives, their practices, and their (probable) increased activism. My friend, the writer Michelle Tea, asked if I wanted to expand this pamphlet into a short volume for Feminist Press where she’d recently launched the imprint Amythest Editions. I both expanded that pamphlet and incorporated a written account of what it is I do with artists. That’s how this all went down!

You’re an Artist, Keep Making Art

The realization that art could first save and then expand my life came when I was a teenager in a troubled home. Life with my mentally ill mom and alcoholic dad near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before the Internet, was difficult. A smart, queer feminist without the language to talk about any of it—let alone identify with those lineages—I was profoundly depressed and mostly miserable. I ached for art and counterculture (remember that word?), but they were really hard to come by in small Rust Belt towns in the nineties. I read books, made zines, bought 45s, and ordered Sub Pop record catalogs out of the back of SPIN magazine, which at the time was a wonderland filled with mysterious ads for things like The Anarchist Cookbook.

Now playing on the Otherppl podcast, a conversation with Sarah Kendzior. Her book, The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, is available from Flatiron Books.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Natalia Sylvester. Her new novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, is available from Little A Books.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Elle Nash. Her debut novel Animals Eat Each Other is the official April pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club. It is available from Dzanc Books.

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