1.
when I see I’ve overwatered it again, I jab
the turkey baster into the rust-colored runoff
before the water spills over,
onto the hardwood floor.

in our mid-town apartment,
the harsh light sears the spiky leaves.

it reminds me of summer,
when you left me here on Beachwood Dr.
and I shot Demerol
my rust-colored blood backing up in the syringe,
the same pierce of yellow light,
the sharp spike breaking my skin.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Jonathan Evison. His latest novel, Lawn Boy, is available from Algonquin Books.

This is Jonathan’s third time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 1 on September 14, 2011, and again in Episode 382 on September 30, 2015.

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At first glance, Susan Tepper’s novella Monte Carlo Days & Nights seemed on the light side: an American man and woman, she on the north side of her twenties, an attractive Airline “stew,” he a fortyish executive for a music company, on a weeks’ vacation together in Monte Carlo, a place that has always seemed to me as comically ersatz and overblown as Fredonia – though I like Susan’s work, particularly her masterful short fiction.

For me the sense of lightness, however, was quickly dispelled by her control of her means, whatever else she might be up to. In this work she marries the intensity of focus, the crisp delineation and the vivid, but pruned imagery of short fiction, with the unfolding of a novelistic narrative and a long look at character, dovetailing the two in short bits that are somewhat complete in themselves but also serve as chapters in the longer narrative, which for the most part, plays out over their week in Monte Carlo.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Michelle Dean. She is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle’s 2016 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Her new book is called Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion, available now from Grove Press.

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Let’s start with that cover – it is both lovely and bizarre. Where did it come from?

Isn’t it? It’s an illustration from an early 17th-century anatomy textbook on fetal formation by Adriaan van Spiegel and Giulio Casseri I came across in the process of researching historical medical texts. The governing idea of this manuscript was the concept of maternal imagination – that a mother’s thoughts and experiences, especially traumatic ones, affect fetal formation and can be responsible for monstrous births. This illustration seemed to embody both of those – specific anatomical detail of pregnancy combined with that imaginative presentation of the baby blooming from the mother’s abdomen. And I love how the book designer curled the mother’s hand around the C.

Mary Toft knew how it felt with child –
three birthed, one dead – but in the field,
heavy with her fourth, up starts a hare.
The effect is more than Mary can bear:
the rabbit all day long ran in my head.
That August, a large lump of flesh bled
from her body, and by October: rabbits,
litters of them, enough for every Cabinet
of Wonder in London. But was it fair or fake?
Methought they there a burrow tried to make.
Mary, Mother Incarnate, carny
of the most marvelous yarn –
the rabbits all day long ran in my head –
snared hare, lapful of lapins bred
in her Welsh rarebit, follicular,
cuniculous, mad with rabbit fever,
rabid with fervor to birth, quaint
trickster, canny coney, cunning cunt.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Adrian Todd Zuniga. His debut novel, Collision Theory, is available from Rare Bird Books. He is also the founder and host of the popular reading series Literary Death Match.

This is Adrian’s second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 403 on March 9, 2016.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Sloane Crosley. Her new essay collection, Look Alive Out There, is available from MCD Books.

This is Sloane’s second time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 424 on July 27, 2016.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Tao Lin. His new book is called Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change (Vintage). It is his first book-length work of nonfiction and is the official May pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

This is Tao’s third time on the podcast. He first appeared in Episode 180 and Episode 181 (a two-part interview) in June 2013 and again with Mira Gonzalez in Episode 371 on July 19, 2015.

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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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