Now playing on Otherppla conversation with R.O. Kwon. Her bestselling debut novel, The Incendiaries, is available in trade paperback from Riverhead Books.

Named a best book of the year by over forty publications, The Incendiaries was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book, Los Angeles Times First Book Prize, and Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Fiction Prize. The book was also nominated for the Aspen Prize, Carnegie Medal, and the Northern California Book Award. Kwon’s next novel, as well as an essay collection, are forthcoming.

Kwon’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review, Buzzfeed, NPR, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Born in Seoul, Kwon has lived most of her life in the United States.

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Why did you give your book such an uncool title?

Yeah, I agree. It felt like it was related to the central concerns of the book, both myself as a father, but also the general concept of fathering, of responsibility. There’s a poem in the book with that title, that ends with the lines:

the children sleeping
alone in some
detention center
don’t need
our brilliant sincerity
it’s not enough
to give some money
make some calls
they are not ours
but they are
we are the first
new fathers
ours failed
where we cannot
stop waiting
there are no others

I was thinking about our founding fathers, and how they let us down. And all those fathers running things now, so destructively. And about what it would mean to be a new kind of father: what sort of fathers we all (regardless of gender) need to be now, to all kids, each other, the earth, ourselves.

Plus the word father seems very ancient and powerful, but also in need of renewal.

When I was fifteen
I suddenly knew
I would never
understand geometry.
Who was my teacher?
That name is gone.
I only remember
the gray feeling
in a classroom
filled with vast
theoretical distances.
I can still see
odd shapes
drawn on the board,
and those inscrutable
formulas everyone
was busily into
their notebooks scribbling.

The TNB Book Club is reading Exile this month, available from OR Books. Join us! Get your copy now!

And stay tuned for Belén’s appearance on the Otherppl podcast later this month.

About the book:

Che Guevara left Argentina at 22. At 21, Belén Fernández left the U.S. and didn’t look back. Alone, far off the beaten path in places like Syria and Tajikistan, she reflects on what it means to be an American in a largely American-made mess of a world.

After growing up in Washington, D.C. and Texas, and then attending Columbia University in New York, Belén Fernández ended up in a state of self-imposed exile from the United States. From trekking—through Europe, the Middle East, Morocco, and Latin America—to packing avocados in southern Spain, to close encounters with a variety of unpredictable men, to witnessing the violent aftermath of the 2009 coup in Honduras, the international travel allowed her by an American passport has, ironically, given her a direct view of the devastating consequences of U.S. machinations worldwide. For some years Fernández survived thanks to the generosity of strangers who picked her up hitchhiking, fed her, and offered accommodations; then she discovered people would pay her for her powerful, unfiltered journalism, enabling—as of the present moment—continued survival.

 

Who are a few of your favorite saints?

Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Augustine, Saint Lucy, and Saint Theresa of Avila.

I’ve hurt you: I’ve loved you.
I’ve vacuumed all the rooms.
I have no idea what became of us, yet
there are endless possibilities for happiness.
Once, when my lover betrayed me,
I greeted him at the door with a knife.
Now I am on my haunches, unvalued and unused.
Am I to be blamed for wanting absolution?
Am I to be blamed for keeping what I conjure
in a vial of formaldehyde beside my bed?
Idiot savant, death is my downfall.
My students fail, repeatedly, to deploy
the correct conjunctive adverbs
in everyday speech. Consequently,
I fold my napkin into a perfect square.
Henceforth, the night ends so quickly,
bringing forth the vulgar day.
When images become inadequate,
I shall be content with silence.
When images become inadequate,
I shall separate the chaff from the wheat.
I feel I’ve learned so little, here.
The soul pressed flat is matter, unsexed.
The heart pressed flat is meat.

I Have a Terrible Feeling is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

Cul-de-sac

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Forty-Two

 

I was unemployed for three months. I came back to work at the oil refinery for one day and told them I was going on vacation for ten days starting Friday, and they said, “Holy shit.”

But this is also the story of three roommates. Stacey. Lindsey. And Rae.

 

Friday morning, 6 a.m., I got on an airplane with Rae. We flew out of Newark, bound for Los Angeles. As we boarded, one of the flight attendants let Rae go, but stopped me at the door, and served all of first class its orange juice and coffee. I didn’t care, I thought it was pretty funny. But the people behind me began to murmur. And then yell. And then scream. The flight attendant with the coffee went back into the kitchen and got more. She came back and filled more cups. A riot was about to break out. But then we were all let go, and we filled up the rest of coach. Rae said, “What the hell happened to you?”

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chris L. Terry. His new novel, Black Card, is available from Catapult Press.

This is Terry’s second time on the podcast. He first appeared in Episode 217 on October 16, 2013.

Terry was born in 1979 to an African American father and an Irish American mother. He has an BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University and a creative writing MFA from Columbia College Chicago. His debut novel, Zero Fade, was named a Best Book of the Year by Slate and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Los Angeles with his family.

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Back in the late Sixties, in fact in what came to be known, ironically in restrospect, as the Summer of Love, when I was living in Greenwich Village, I fell in with a guy who called himself a revolutionary. Nicknamed—everyone had a moniker one back then— “Boots,” Pepe was Mexican, and with his stringy scrawny beard resembled Ho Chi Minh. He was short and wiry, not much taller than I was, and magically nimble on his feet—he’d learned foot-fighting when living in California, and tried in vain to pass it on to me, something he’d make me practice on Avenue A at three in the morning. With him it looked like dancing; with me it looked like hell.


I Have a Terrible Feeling
is a series of weekly drawings, cartoons, and sketches by poet Adam Soldofsky.

Good Luck: Episode Forty-One

 

Attn: All living memories currently living in the house of memory, the Good Luck novel is now open for submissions.

We are seeking short fiction to be published within the novel. Word limit: 8000 words.

One winner will be selected, receiving a prize of $10,000 plus publication within this novel (attributed). Good Luck is expected to win top prizes, possibly National Book Award, maybe Pulitzer, could win the Nobel, hard to say right now.

We are looking for writing that will make our skeletons jump out of our bodies and scream Death in the face till Death jumps out of its skeleton’s skeleton or whatever. Send stories about clouds that want to be rivers. Birds that swim deep. True love that is wrong. Fantasy day jobs, reality moonlight occupations. Memories of memories. Music that can knock over a brick wall. Rainbows that disintegrate dreams. Dust and gold nuggets and no animal fear. Sentences that will make our souls explode, bridges combust in flames or flowers, spaceships say fuck it and fly into a black sun. Stories full of uncomfortable joy, monkeypaw wishes, jackasses. Please, no semicolons, metaphors, or exclamation points!

This is a great opportunity to launch your own writing career, on the coattails of Bud Smith.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Shane Jones. His latest novel, Vincent and Alice and Alice, is available from Tyrant Books. It is the official August pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

This is Shane’s second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 301 on August 6, 2014.

Jones’ other books include the novels Light Boxes, Daniel Fights a Hurricane, and Crystal Eaters.

He lives in Albany, New York.

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Your newest collection is titled something sweet & filled with blood, that’s a little creepy. How did you select this as the title?

It’s a line from the last poem in the book, the star painter & a sleeping nude. The poem is about watching someone sleeping just after glorious sex. There’s something haunting about the wee-hours before sunrise…especially when you’re sleeping in someone else’s bed…

Thomas Fucaloro, cofounding editor of great weather for MEDIA, suggested it. The editors and I thought it encapsulated the collection nicely. There are some very saccharine moments in the book: first kisses, something asking someone to dance, a ballerina en pointe, and the last moonlight before sunrise. On the other hand, there are also some terrifying moments that make your heart race, or cause the adrenaline to start pumping…like when “red hives mount/under an amorphous head” in the lollipop presents as a young girl.

she radiates
billowing acumen
in the velvet mouth
of monochrome paint

she holds her shoulder
up to an albino
thought

‘here I have no purple,
no red rhythm,
only this slow,
grey,
shrill, thinking
thing within’