Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chelsea Hodson. Her new essay collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else, is available from Henry Holt. It is the official June pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

This is Chelsea’s second time on the program. She first appeared in Episode 340 on January 7, 2015.

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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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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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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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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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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Steve Almond, author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country?, available from Red Hen Press.

This is Steve’s third time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 9, on October 16, 2011, and again in Episode 302, on August 10, 2014.

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Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Shauna Barbosa. Her poetry collection Cape Verdean Blues is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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The last time we talked we learned you were born in a log cabin and the illegitimate son of the Queen of England, what good that did anyone is hard to say, but I see you have another book coming out. Quite the coincidence.

I’ll say, and thanks for asking. Yes, it’s a horseracing, record collecting, and insane asylum novel called Whirlaway. It’s also about psychic evanescence, which is existing and not existing at the same time. It’s a funny book, I’ll add, but what else would you expect from the illegitimate son of an English Queen?

 

I understand you’ve used an unreliable narrator for perspective. What are you thoughts on this? Have you done this before?

Never intentionally. And I don’t like it as a rule. In my opinion, the writer should be doing the heavy lifting for the reader, being as clear and succinct and accessible as possible, but in Whirlaway my narrator is an escapee from a psychiatric hospital, a diagnosed and heavily-medicated schizophrenic, so I really had no choice. Poetry is supposedly the art of indirection, the way spaces become bridges and that sort of thing. Also at the heart of Whirlaway is a death mystery, and I found an unreliable narrator quite useful for this.

As an illustration of what I was up against at Napa State Hospital, what they used to call an asylum for the criminally insane, my fellow inmate Arn Boothby, an angry three-hundred-pound paranoid schizophrenic who regularly “cheeked” his meds, tried to kill another inmate one day in the client convenience store by grabbing his throat and throwing him through a glass display case. I was standing in line to buy a pack of breath mints at the time and can attest to him saying, “P. S. I Love You,” as the blood spread across the tiles. Boothby was tackled by two psych techs; a staff nurse and hospital police converged within minutes to beat in Boothby’s brains behind closed doors. Boothby told me later they would’ve killed him had not Dr. Fasstink inadvertently intervened. Boothby went to jail, vacation time for most of us at NSH, and I didn’t see him at the card game for a few months. When you’re surrounded by murderers, bank robbers, arsonists, and child molesters you’ll play cards with just about anyone.

Your book is dedicated To Ceci. Who’s that?

She’s my mom.

 

So why not say, To Mom?

My sister and I have always called my parents by their first names. It’s always been the most natural thing for us—I think I tried calling them Mom and Dad once, and it felt weird and impersonal. When I was nine, one of my teachers asked my mom if “Ceci” meant “Mom” in Spanish, because she kept hearing us call her that. I thought, it is our word for Mom.