Katie Crouch is the author of the novel Embassy Wife, available from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It is the official August pick of the TNB Book Club.

 

Crouch is the New York Timesbestselling author of Girls in TrucksMen and Dogs, and Abroad. She has also written essays for The New York TimesGlamourThe GuardianSlateSalon, and Tin House. A former resident of Namibia and San Francisco, Crouch now lives in Vermont with her family and teaches creative writing at Dartmouth College.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

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Two Poems

By Tobin Bartolo

Poetry

 

i never liked wearing hats
always reminded me of
many years in succession
playing baseball on a team

now i go to bed with my hat on
there’s no game on
there’s no one at the field
no glove, no team, no bat

it would be fun to play a game
with a team again
would you be on the team?
if you like, you can design the hats

Sam Cohen is the author of the debut story collection Sarahland, available from Grand Central Publishing.

 

Cohen is a queer, Jewish femme born and raised in suburban Detroit. Her fiction is published in Fence, Bomb, Diagram, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship and a PhD fellow at the University of Southern California, she lives in Los Angeles.

* * *

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

www.otherppl.com

@otherppl

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Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Kendra Allen is the author of the poetry collection The Collection Plate (Ecco).

 
Allen was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is the recipient of the 2018 Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction for her essay collection When You Learn the Alphabetawarded by Kiese Laymon. She has been featured on C-SPAN, interviewed in The Rumpus and Poets & Writers, and her work has been taught by New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds alongside that of Jamaica Kincaid and Eve Ewing, among other distinctions. She lives in San Antonio.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

www.otherppl.com

@otherppl

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Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Tao Lin is the author of the novel Leave Society (Vintage). This is his fourth time on the program.

 

Lin’s other books include Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Changethe novels Taipei, Richard Yates and Eeeee Eee Eeee, the novella Shoplifting from American Apparel, the story collection Bed, and the poetry collections cognitive-behavioral therapy and you are a little bit happier than i am. He was born in Virginia, has taught in Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program, and is the founder and editor of Muumuu House. He lives in Hawaii.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

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Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Matthew Specktor is the author of Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California, available from Tin House.

 

Specktor’s other books include the novels That Summertime Sound and American Dream Machine, which was long-listed for the Folio Prize. Born in Los Angeles, he received his BA from Hampshire College in 1988, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in 2009. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, The Paris Review, Tin House, Black Clock, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. He is a founding editor of the Los Angles Review of Books.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

YouTube

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

 

I was doing the thing where my mom was on the phone with me so I was walking laps around the neighborhood. I get pretty sick of being in my apartment. And I need the exercise.

I hadn’t been home in months and months and months and Mom was telling me about how my dad fell in the pond and couldn’t crawl out because he’s got bad knees. It’d be funny and kind of sad if it weren’t for the fact there was a six-foot alligator in there. Dad tries to scramble out of the pond and he keeps sliding in mud and meanwhile, the alligator floats, all scales and prehistoric eyes, just watching. 

I laughed, passing construction site after construction site, old buildings going down and new condos going up, expensive condos no one was actually going to live in. Hundreds of empty condos all over the neighborhood.

“But the real problem is you can’t call animal control on an alligator,” Mom was saying. “Trust me, I tried it. They told me the state budget was cut and they no longer have the equipment or the manpower to wrangle alligators. Can you believe that?” 

Mom sneezed. She works in an old government building and she always has a sinus infection. 

“There’s practically a dinosaur living in the pond, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. There’s no one to call. And you certainly can’t kill it. You know your daddy hates shooting things.”

I cut down a side street I don’t often walk down. It’s an ugly chunk of sidewalk covered in busted bottles but it always has the best graffiti, usually Polish because that’s who most of the people in the neighborhood are. There’s this one Polish guy named Brutus who always talks about how he’s a mutant because he grew up thirty miles from Chernobyl. Brutus wears urban camo and has a ponytail down to his ass. He’s six foot ten and he probably is a mutant but I like him. He’s a good guy. 

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of the poetry collection Felon, available from W.W. Norton & Co.

 

Betts is a poet, essayist, and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice. He writes and lectures about the impact of mass incarceration on American society. His previous books include the poetry collections Bastards of the Reagan Era and Shahid Reads His Own Palm, and a memoir entitled A Question of Freedom. A graduate of Yale Law School, he lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

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Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

 

“God is dead” was no celebration on Frederick Nietzsche’s part. It was a warning. Where would we find meaning now that the Enlightenment had rid us of the easy comfort of an unquestioned Lord? In 1942, Albert Camus attempted an answer in The Myth of Sisyphus. We recognize the absurdity but must imagine a happiness; “it is he who must give the void its colors.” It became our journey, our charge, our purpose, to provide the meaning. It doesn’t matter but as long as we’re here anyway, we might as well make it matter. 

 

I’ve never liked it one bit. Neither, it seems, does Dara’s unnamed hero (& very occasional narrator). 

 

“If his purpose is to generate purpose then that is no purpose at all.” (pg. 101)

 

The Story:

 

The story is a manuscript appeared on the writer Richard Powers’ stoop in the early to mid 1990s. The manuscript was The Lost Scrapbook, the first novel from the author working in complete pseudonymity publishing under the name Evan Dara. The story is a good one, as literary stories go. The reclusive author, like Bolaño’s Archimboldi in 2666, DeLillo’s Bill Gray, and even in the unceasing cast of writers, real and imagined, summoned in Vila-Matas’ Bartleby & Co. where he goes about defining “the literature of the no,” is an alluring literary figure. 

 

The story is the manuscript goes on to win the 12th Annual Fiction Collective 2 competition, judged by William T. Vollmann. The story goes it received one contemporaneous national review, an extremely favorable reading by Tom LeClair comparing Dara’s work to William Gaddis and was then summarily dismissed. The story is the famed critic and Gaddis scholar Steven Moore reached out to Evan Dara by e-mail to ask about the influence of JR, Gaddis’ massive 1,000-page novel primarily told in unattributed dialogue. This story is also a pretty good one. It feels specially tailored to spend the rest of its life performing as an interesting anecdote at parties put on by smartly dressed university professors. Evan Dara writes Steven Moore back. Says he checked JR out of a Paris library. Says he opened it once. Says he shut it. Says he didn’t want the influence. 

Matt Bell is the author of the novel Appleseed, available from Custom House Books. It is the official July pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

Bell is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Walla non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur’s Gate IIand several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

www.otherppl.com

@otherppl

Instagram

YouTube

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

 

Mark Leidner weaponizes the deadpan tone of a defeated world to reclaim that classically Romantic thing: the Sublime. Weaponizes like the weapon is a water gun; reclaims like he’s won a water gun contest and the reward is the end of global warming. In Returning the Sword to the Stone, Mark isolates the scenes of absurdity that string our inner lives together while gesturing toward the authenticities still available to us at this late date, this deeply stupid, cynical, and sentimental moment in history. Reading this collection was re-invigorating and a reminder that the opposite of stupidity is not intelligence but love.

 

Mark is a generous, wise, and witty writer. This interview was conducted by email.

 

While reading these poems, I was reminded of the D W Winnicott line where he says flippancy is a reaction to despair. What do you think is the relationship between that attitude and that feeling in your work? Does playfulness exist in concert with futility/frustration, or is it something purer and more simply fun?

 

I try to pair flippancy with something else — some other kind of seriousness, a lyricism, a formal constraint — to create tension. My favorite poetry is flippant yet not, playful yet ferocious, silly but provocative. Such conflicts are also the way I feel most of the time: despairing yet ready to laugh, contemptful yet looking to show mercy, skeptical but hoping to be naïve, etc.

 

Following on that, what or who is the contempt directed toward? The idealism here seems to be connected to love – the marveling at your subject who recites “Having a Coke with You” is one of the most moving invocations of love I’ve read in a long time. I love how that poem lifts off. Do you feel idealistic about love and love for writing? Or, why was it important to you to write a love poem where what you love is how much someone loves something else and loves sharing that something else with someone else?

 

I try to reserve the majority of my contempt for my own greed, vanity, and pettiness, but it often sprawls into contempt for the same qualities in others or the culture generally. While I’m idealistic about love and writing most of the time, that idealism is freighted with contempt for the deluding character of love and poetry. I usually feel satisfied with a poem’s honesty about poetry if it has at least little of both of these impulses in it.

 

In “Having a Coke with You,” I was recording a real-life event that spontaneously happened, so I didn’t think too much about underlying whys. In retrospect, it makes sense that I’d want to write this poem and put it in the book because it does present an ideal of love I believe in. Loving someone or something outside yourself is one way to escape the claustrophobia of exclusive self-regard. Loving someone outside yourself who in turn loves something outside themselves — poetry in this case, or a way of relating to it — seems like a more liberating extension of that transcendent space.

 

Transcendence calls to mind the moments of almost gleeful resignation in the collection: in the title poem, returning the sword to the stone (in all its forms) seems to indicate some abdication of expectation that sets you free. Is this act of playfully loving your limits (Sisyphus licking the stone) the same as humility?

 

We all face limitations we have no control over, mortality being the main one. I think learning to accept limitations, and possibly even to love them, is one pinnacle of wisdom. There is that Eliot line from the Four Quartets: “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire / Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” Someone quoted it to me once, and I often return to it. In Returning the Sword to the Stone I wanted to explore it.

 

I started the drive at 5AM from my Chicago apartment to Funks Grove, an unincorporated woodland area twenty minutes south of Bloomington-Normal. I was supposed to start working the previous day, but the publisher of Dalkey Archive Press had been in the hospital for treatment of a heart attack over the weekend. Off I-55, the narrow road twisted through corn fields and forest preserve. I pulled into the driveway and heard multiple dogs barking while I gathered my bags. The door opened as I approached and, in his Irish staccato speech, John O’Brien told the golden labs, “Quiet down, guys, it’s just my new friend.” 

The house smelled of cigarettes, which was no surprise after my three-hour Zoom interview the week before, during which John chain-smoked as we discussed the difficulties of modern publishing. The week I arrived, John gave up smoking after fifty years of doing so, because his cardiologist bet him that he couldn’t quit, and he was determined to prove him wrong.

I was admittedly nervous due to the notoriety of the Dalkey Archive Press, as well as the infamous “worst job posting ever” articles that appeared when I initially researched job openings at Dalkey. The 2012 posting for an unpaid internship demanded applicants “do not have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press (family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc.).” John was the one to bring up the posting in my interview, stating “I’ve been called an asshole many times before, but never as much in a twenty-four-hour period. Some people don’t get my humor.” While my position was for a modest salary, commensurate with experience, I convinced myself it would be worth the opportunity, and if not, I would try to learn more about publishing.

Greg Gerke is the author of the essay collection See What I See (Zerogram Press).

 

Gerke’s work has appeared in Tin House, Film Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, and other publications. He is also the author of a story collection entitled Especially the Bad Things, which was published by Splice in 2019. He lives in New York.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

YouTube

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

Mark Leidner is the author of the poetry collection Returning the Sword to the Stone (Fonograf Editions).

 

 

Leidner is also the author of two feature films: the sci-fi noir Empathy, Inc. (2019) and the relationship comedy Jammed (2014), as well as the story collection Under the Sea (Tyrant Books, 2018), the poetry collection Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me (Factory Hollow, 2011), and the book of aphorisms The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover (Sator, 2011). He lives in California.

***

Otherppl with Brad Listi is a weekly literary podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading writers.

Launched in 2011. Books. Literature. Writing. Publishing. Authors. Screenwriters. Life. Death. Etc.

Support the show on Patreon

Merch

@otherppl

Instagram

YouTube

Email the show: letters [at] otherppl [dot] com

The podcast is a proud affiliate partner of Bookshop, working to support local, independent bookstores.

 

A man is following me through a congregation of sightseers who’ve got no idea I’m about to be murdered. Shy is awestruck with the hundreds of gelato flavors and says, “Look! There’s one that tastes like blood…” but I can’t look because the guy is just beyond the open door, staring. He wants to kill me because when he got emasculated by a sort-of mime who made a slide-whistle noise while running a balloon sword up the inside of the guy’s thighs, everyone in the Piazza della Rotonda laughed, but I laughed closest, so I was his prey. I tell the scooper I would like half-pistachio, half-blood. 

 

***

 

Pool water wet, I weave through olive trees desperate to nab the pet-shaped blur I let escape out the villa door. All the others are jet lag napping and you and Chelsea are approaching fast so there’s nothing to do but fess up. You laugh and say no, there’s no dog, but, Chelsea asks, did it happen to have udders, which yeah, come to think of it, the dog mooed. 

 

The plumber’s pantomiming freestyle swimming and then he’s pantomiming a plumber who is shivering so hard he’s gotta grab his own arms tight or else he’d Energizer Bunny the fuck up, out, and away. He is doing this because, although my appearance says otherwise, I cannot speak his language. But little does he know, I’m from Boston and drink Dunkin Iced Coffees when it’s negative degrees, in fahkin Fahrenheit, dude. You’re around the side of the house, cracking up so hard, you’re a yellow rubber chicken that can no longer scream, just wheeze.