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In Conversation

J.C. Hallman with Lydia Moland

Hallman has also embedded Anarcha’s story in gloriously rich detail from the nineteenth century, ranging from comet showers to train derailments to international espionage in the court of Louis Napoleon. That panorama alone makes the book a riveting read. But despite the scope and the glitter, Hallman never allows us to lose sight of Anarcha: her exploitation, her humanity, the embodied Black womanhood that left her so exposed to others’ whims and schemes. Hallman’s novelistic writing and brisk pacing had me eagerly turning pages, alternately aghast at and elevated by this story of human depravity, ambition, resilience, and vulnerability. It is surely one of the most important books of the year, and certainly among the most compelling.

Domenico Starnone’s The House on Via Gemito

In his homeland, Domenico Starnone⎯born and raised in Naples⎯may have enjoyed his greatest success with The House on Via Gemito. He’s formidably productive, also a journalist and screenwriter, but this 2001 novel took home the Strega, Italy’s highest honor. Now it’s at last out in English, and if you ask me, the book deserves more of the same.

Lorrie Moore’s I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home

Of course, Moore’s trademark precision prose works throughout to move the story forward and ensure the reader is both laughing and crying—warning: this is a deeply emotional read.

Emma Cline’s The Guest

Everything in Emma Cline’s latest novel The Guest is so green. The impression of trees outside the open window of a sports car, traveling from private property to private property.The shrubs on the dunes. The pastel gelato. The soup. The tint of a woman’s expensive-looking sunglasses, their designer’s name kept hidden. The lawns, the lawns, the lawns.

In Conversation

Giada Scodellaro with Julia Brown

“Sometimes I want a moment of recklessness, or something altogether new,” the main character of the story “Hangnails, and Other Diseases” declares. Some of Them Will Carry Me, the debut story collection by Giada Scodellaro offers readers both; Scodellaro’s narrative precision and control excavate the epic from small moments. Again and again, the stories entreat: Do not be fooled by the seemingly mundane.

Brandon Taylor’s The Late Americans

Brandon Taylor has a lot to say about truth. The characters in his new novel, The Late Americans, descend on Iowa City, home of the fabled University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop MFA program—an intentional setting for Taylor’s exploration of voyeurism, communication, and, yes, truth, in today’s America. In its opening, Taylor tosses the reader into a live workshop debate on the merits of poems that center trauma—its buried question being, “Whose voice is an authority? Whose experiences spur truth—yours or mine?”

In Conversation

Tembe Denton-Hurst with Naomi Elias

In her debut novel, Homebodies, Tembe Denton-Hurst—a staff writer at New York Magazine’s The Strategist who covers beauty and books—explores the way a layoff can either spell death or rebirth.

Greg Marshall’s Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew from It

Greg Marshall was nearly thirty when he found out he’d had cerebral palsy for his entire life. Told as a child that he had “tight tendons”—one of several phrases he would repeat when questioned about the way he moved—in Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew from It, Marshall explores the winding road to becoming aware of his diagnosis.

Henry Hoke’s Open Throat

Open Throat is the story of a mountain lion with internal monologue who lives alone in a thicket in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The story unfolds as he watches hikers pass by discussing very LA things like therapists and helicopters. From these hikers, he learns English.

In Conversation

Mark Wish and Elizabeth Coffey with D.Z. Stone

How does a two-person small press operating in a small apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side achieve so much success so quickly? I asked Wish and Coffey about that, and about other aspects of Coolest American Stories that distinguish it from other nationally distributed short story anthologies, such as why they respond to submissions the way they do, and how working together on Coolest has impacted their marriage.

Dorothy Tse’s Owlish

Owlish, the second novel by the Hong Kong-based author Dorothy Tse, features a fifty-year-old scholar named Professor Q, a “hack teacher in a debased, cultureless city” called Nevers. His academic career has stalled and his marriage isn’t fairing much better. We do learn early on, however, that he’s enjoying his first extramarital affair and has recently gotten back in touch with a mysterious old friend, Owlish. Things seem to be looking up, but not for long.

Sophia Giovannitti’s Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex

“The first person who bought my art was a client of mine,” writes Sophia Giovannitti in her debut book, newly released by Verso.

In Conversation

Helen Schulman with Alexandra Kleeman

Helen has written one collection of short stories and seven novels (Come With Me, This Beautiful Life, and P.S. to name just a few), the most recent of which is Lucky Dogs, out this week from Knopf. The novel follows American starlet Merry as she flees to Paris in the wake of a career-ending collision with an abusive film producer, where she falls in with a charismatic woman who seems to offer both support and a way to tell her story to the public—but ultimately isn’t what she seems.

Donatien Grau’s De Civitate Angelorum

Donatien Grau, who is both a historian and an accomplished curator of contemporary art, ponders the meaning of Los Angeles from the point of view of the classical historian. Not only does he consider the modern city as the ancient writers might have, but he does so in Latin and without translation, as if to keep in touch with his literary predecessors.

In Conversation

Stephanie McCarter with Tony Leuzzi

In our discussion below, McCarter provides numerous insights into Ovid and articulates several key decisions that informed her translation of his poem. “I wanted to prove, mainly to myself, that it was possible to write a poetic translation, an accurate translation, and a feminist translation all in one,” McCarter says.

In Conversation

Adam Shatz with Pac Pobric

In the opening pages of his new essay collection, Writers and Missionaries, Adam Shatz recalls a remark by John Berger that subtlety is a luxury of the privileged. “But I am not so sure,” Shatz writes. “It seems to me that subtlety and nuance are indispensable tools of criticism—not least for groups of people (so-called minorities, for example) who have been seen, and often vilified, as monoliths.”

Lauren Rankin’s Bodies on the Line

The overturning of Roe V. Wade took a decades-long project by an organized coalition of radicals and mainstream activists, clergy, politicians, and presidents. There are any number of in-depth articles and books detailing this history. What Lauren Rankin provides is a different history: one that focuses on the people doing the street-level activism that helped keep clinics open and helped patients access healthcare.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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