Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with Ayobami Adebayo. Her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available now from Knopf.

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David-Shields-Other-People

Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with author David Shields . His new book, Other People: Takes and Mistakes, is available from Knopf.

David last appeared on the program on Episode 26, in December 2011.

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Matthew Salesses is the guest. He is the author of two chapbooks, Our Island of Epidemics and We Will Take What We Can Get, a novella called The Last Repatriate, and his new novel is called I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying (Civil Coping Mechanisms).

Tania James could send many postcards. She was born in Chicago, raised in Louisville, lived in Boston and New York while obtaining degrees from Harvard and Columbia (where she received her MFA in fiction in 2006), and now resides in Washington, DC. Perhaps it’s only fitting, then, that her first collection, forthcoming from Knopf (May 2012), is called Aerogrammes. I highly anticipated this collection from James, whose debut novel, Atlas of the Unknowns, was described by The San Francisco Chronicle as “the most exciting since Zadie Smith’s White Teeth,” and I wasn’t disappointed. James’ charactersturn-of-the century Indian wrestlers, traditional Indian dance instructors, chimpanzees from Sierra Leone, and self-appointed editors of DIY scriptology magazinesstruggle with identify and family in funny and heartbreaking ways. Their blood runs like ink into your bedsheets, and although your threadcount ruined, you can’t quite toss it away.

What do you do when your mother dies and you feel lost in the world, angry and hell-bent on self-destruction? You take a 1,000-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Or at least, that’s what Cheryl Strayed did in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Knopf). This is an epic journey across mountains and deserts—and along the way we are forced to endure snow and rain, intense heat and brutal cold—a passenger in the overloaded backpack that Cheryl Strayed calls “Monster.” While this is certainly a memoir—and we do spend time inside her head thinking about the death of her mother, her relationship with her family, and her troubled history with men—it is just as much a tale of wanderlust, the outdoors, and an education that only Mother Nature can provide.

Early on, Strayed (which later morphs into “Starved,” the letters on her necklace difficult to read at times) gives us a bit of backstory to help us understand why she is doing this:

I meet Matt at BookCourt an hour and forty-five minutes before the reading in Brooklyn. I haven’t seen him in months. Every time we reunite, I think the same thing: this room isn’t big enough to contain two people as beautiful as this. I consider loathing myself for this — it’s not a competition — but there it is all the same. In my head the words take up physical space and I visualize pushing them aside so they disappear somewhere near the ear canal.

They had made a movie about us. The movie was based on a book written by someone we knew. The book was a simple thing about four weeks in the city we grew up in and for the most part was an accurate portrayal. It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren’t changed and there was nothing in it that hadn’t happened. For example, there actually had been a screening of a snuff film in that bedroom in Malibu on a January afternoon, and yes, I had walked out onto the deck overlooking the Pacific where the author tried to console me, assuring me that the screams of the children being tortured were faked, but he was smiling as he said this and I had to turn away. Other examples: my girlfriend had in fact run over a coyote in the canyons below Mulholland, and a Christmas Eve dinner at Chasen’s with my family that I had casually complained about to the author was faithfully rendered. And a twelve-year-old girl really had been gang-raped–I was in that room in West Hollywood with the writer, who in the book noted just a vague reluctance on my part and failed to accurately describe how I had actually felt that night–the desire, the shock, how afraid I was of the writer, a blond and isolated boy whom the girl I was dating had halfway fallen in love with.  But the writer would never fully return her love because he was too lost in his own passivity to make the connection she needed from him, and so she had turned to me, but by then it was too late, and because the writer resented that she had turned to me I became the handsome and dazed narrator, incapable of love or kindness. That’s how I became the damaged party boy who wandered through the wreckage, blood streaming from his nose, asking questions that never required answers. That’s how I became the boy who never understood how anything worked. That’s how I became the boy who wouldn’t save a friend. That’s how I became the boy who couldn’t love the girl.