Barrett, Igoni (Victor Ehikhamenor)Just like Sean Carswell’s self-interview, I, too, asked my wife, Femke van Zeijl, who is a journalist as well as being the only person who knows why I dread dreaming of toilet bowls, to ask me questions as if she didn’t already know the answers. And then I rewrote her transcription.

 

First of all: why aren’t you interviewing yourself?

Because I know what questions to ask myself that I find impossible to answer—the kind of questions we keep asking until the day we stumble off this mortal coil. And so, in my head, this self-interview had grown into an existential issue that would require an entire novel to answer. I consider the publicity-oriented parts of writing as disparate from the creative process. The public appearances, the press interviews, etcetera, are all part of the writer’s job, yes, but interviewing myself is too close to the creative process. Thus I figured I would turn to my in-house journalist, since she knows nearly everything there is to know about me. That’s the closest I could come to a self-interview. Besides, journalists enjoy meeting deadlines, while I almost unfailingly miss mine.

Majka, Sara (Chris Ward)Is there anything you wished you could have talked about the book?

I kept waiting for someone to notice the dots–to ask why, online, a lot of times the dots on my book are yellow but on the actual physical book they’re orange. Also, the author photo, I thought someone might ask about the background, because it has striking green and white stripes. I wanted to be able to say that it was at a park in Philadelphia, that my friend, Chris Ward, was taking pictures of me in nature, with trees, and then I saw the striped shed and asked about it. I figured he would say that it was a bad idea but he also liked the idea.

Dorthe_Nors_So_Much_For_That_Winter

This week on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with Danish author Dorthe Nors. Her new book, So Much For That Winter, is available now in the United States from Graywolf Press.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Listen via iTunes.

Max_Porter_Grief_is_the_Thing_with_Feathers

This week on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast: Max Porter, whose debut novel, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, is the official June pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club. Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize, it is available now from Graywolf Press. (Photo credit: Lucy Dickens)

 

Get the free Otherppl app.

Listen via iTunes.

Lennon, J RobertOh, John, Why?

Wait, which thing?

 

I don’t know, all of it.

Yeah, no, sorry. I truly have no idea. I will say that it feels strange to actually ask myself, in public, that question, which of course I ask myself silently more than any other. Why did you just say that thing? What were you thinking? Why did you hit send? Are you an idiot? Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know that you can never take that back? You’ll always be the guy who did that. Your past is like a big wheeled cart, towering with reeking garbage, that you’ll have to haul behind you for the rest of your life, and it only ever gets heavier.

See You in ParadisePortal

It’s been a few years since we last used the magic portal in our back garden, and it has fallen into disrepair. To be perfectly honest, when we bought this place, we had no idea what kind of work would be involved, and tasks like keeping the garden weeded, repairing the fence, maintaining the portal, etc., quickly fell to the bottom of the priority list while we got busy dealing with the roof and the floor joists. I guess there are probably people with full-time jobs out there who can keep an old house in great shape without breaking their backs, but if there are, I’ve never met them.

Allen, Jeffery Renard (Mark Hillringhouse)So it seems that you have a new novel called Song of the Shank, which is based in part on a real person, Blind Tom, a book that I understand took you forever to write. Tell us more about it.

Better you read it.

 

Okay. So can you tell us what is the most important thing readers need to know about this novel?

The book is many things at once, travels in many directions, explores a number of possibilities in an effort to engage the reader and engage the world. I hope that anyone who reads the book will resist any inclination to try and pigeon-hole it as say a historical novel, or a novel about slavery and Reconstruction, or a novel about a musician, since it is all those things and more.

Song of the ShankShe comes out of the house and sees fresh shapes in the grass, a geometrical warning she does not understand. Blades mashed down under a foot, half-digested clots of earth where shoe heels have bitten in, mutilated worms spiking up through regurgitated blackness—piecemeal configurations, suggesting a man’s shoe, two, large, like Tom’s but not Tom’s since Tom never wears shoes in the country. A clear track, left foot and right, running the circumference of the house, evidence that someone has been spying through the windows, trespassing at the doors.

tumblr_n4fxvj9Z2G1r6xvfko1_1280

Leslie Jamison is the author of The Empathy Exams, winner of the 2013 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Jamison and her book are currently gaining some much-deserved attention, and we’re fortunate to have had a dialogue with her regarding not only her new book, but also the crafts of cultivating empathy and writing nonfiction.

Nors, Dorthe (Simon Klein Knudsen) JACKET smallOkay, Karate Chop, 15 short stories from Denmark, and you want to be interviewed in which language, English?

Yep.

 

And you are aware of the fact that I’m Danish too and that two Danes having a conversation in English is pathetic. That’s the kind of thing we did when we were fourteen and hung out in places where no one knew us. Remember? We would act as if we were English and have fun with people in stores. But how old are we now, 43?

I would prefer to say 35, but between you and me—yes, 43.

Karate Chop“Nat Newsom”

If I were to single out one person in particular from my extensive studies of human behavior it would have to be Nat Newsom, whom I knew ten years ago, or rather ran into outside the McDonald’s I passed each day on my way to work at Columbia University. Nat Newsom opened the door for the customers of McDonald’s while rattling a plastic cup he for want of a better solution had taped to his wrist. The reason Nat more than anyone else stands out for me as special is not simply that he was able to keep his spirits up despite lacking health care and the deposit his former landlord had vanished into thin air with. That was part of it, but more specifically it was because of the paradox of Nat, genetically predisposed to naïveté as he was, lacking the very quality that characterizes the condition.

Barry-Kevin-Olivia-Smith

When you complete what seems to you like the final draft of a short story, Mr. Barry, do you …

Please, there’s no need to be formal. Relax.

 

Thank you. So when …

By the way, would you care for a drink?

 Dark Lies the IslandERNESTINE AND KIT

Two ladies in their sixties made ground through north County Sligo in a neat Japanese car. The sky above Lough Gill was deep blue and the world was fat on the blood of summer. The speed limit was carefully abided and all the turns were slowed for. There was the carnival air of a fine Saturday in June. A vintage car show had drawn a crowd in 1920s boaters and blazers to Kilmore; the old Fords and Triumphs honked cheerfully in the sun, and the ladies as they passed by smiled and waved. There was a lengthy queue for the ferry ride to the lake isle of Inishfree, there were castles to be visited, and way-marked walks to be hotly trailed. All the shaded tables outside the village pubs were full and tinkled with glasses and laughter, and children played unguarded in the cool of the woods.

‘When it gets a good old lick of weather at all,’ Ernestine said, ‘this is one powerful country.’ 

51bh+kb+KXL._SY346_Body-without-Soul

It was a suburban street, one block long, the houses made of brick and built to last like the third little pig’s. Sycamore trees had been planted at regular intervals along the curb and the curbs themselves sparkled; I think the concrete was mixed with mica in it. I think when it was new the street couldn’t help but draw attention to itself, inviting envy.

Fiona Maazel is the guest. Her new novel, Woke Up Lonely, is now available from Graywolf Press.

Get the free official app. Subscribe for free at iTunes.