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Within thirty-six hours of the release of the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development, reviews—not just of the first episode, but of the entire season—started appearing online. Reviewers watched the full eight-hour season in one or two sleep-deprived binges, then spent the remaining twenty-eight hours spewing out essay-like things, some in excess of 3,000 words, purporting to offer an authoritative viewpoint on the show. One gets the sense that many of these writers would proudly refer to their essay-like things as thinkpieces, which is internet shorthand for unfocused, poorly edited conglomerations of words designed to project the appearance of depth without actually providing any.

 

I first encountered the work of Maria Semple after reading about her first novel, This One Is Mine, on the Three Guys One Book blog.  One of the Jasons (Rice, I believe) took issue with how girly the cover of the paperback was; the cupcake suggested chick lit, he wrote, and this was not chick lit.

Jason was right, but he didn’t really prepare me for the extraordinary experience of reading that book.  It had everything: it was well plotted, populated with fascinating characters, funny as hell, and so moving that I cried at the end.  I loved it so much, I taught it in my creative writing class a few weeks later.

So it was with great anticipation and excitement that I found that the brown envelope in my mailbox contained a galley of Semple’s second novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?.  I set it on the table, went to the bathroom, and came back to find that my wife had already snagged the copy and was outside reading it.  She tore through it in a day and a half, during which I had to endure her random laughter and gasps of  “Oh, this part is so good.”  I did the same.

And so, apparently, did Jonathan Franzen, not the easiest dude to impress.  Here’s what he wrote: “The characters in Where’d You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

And now, without further ado, here’s my interview with one of my favorite writers, the ever-fascinating Maria Semple.