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In Conversation

Our Strange World

Already a trailblazer when it comes to making short prose an art form, Lydia Davis is also part of a vanguard shifting the publishing industry in another impactful way: Our Strangers will only be available through Bookshop, independent booksellers, and through libraries, but not on that well-known online marketplace. Yet, as momentous as this is, the true pleasure of this collection is having more of Davis’s stories in our strange world, in these strange times.

Louis Bury’s The Way Things Go

“Everything can be put into a film. Everything should be put into a film,” Jean-Luc Godard announced in 1967, following the release of Two or Three Things I Know About Her, his sprawling collage-film masterpiece that encompasses documentary footage of urban redevelopment around Paris, satirical Brechtian skits about everyday French life, pointed criticism of the US presence in Vietnam, scenarios linking capitalism and prostitution, countless pop-art images from the world of advertising and, among much else, that famous five-minute close-up of a cup of coffee accompanied by Godard’s whispered philosophical commentary.

In Conversation

Jeremy T. Wilson with Christine Sneed

In anticipation of The Quail Who Wears the Shirt’s November 2023 publication by Tortoise Books, Jeremy and I spoke recently via email about the Allman Brothers, the sublime Georgia peach, the Coen Brothers, and humans who are mysteriously transformed into quails.

In Conversation

Shannon Sanders with Shannon Perri

The book opens with the fictional Collins Family Tree, handwritten by Sanders’s own mother, priming the reader for the intimacy of the words to come. Yet paired with that intimacy are characters concerned with the role perception may play as they strive to forge their path in a world that’s not always welcoming. The characters in this collection are either members of the Collins Family, a multigenerational Black family spread across the Northeast, or in their orbit.

In Conversation

Natasha Stagg with Joel Danilewitz

Across essays and short stories, animating details provoke consternation—a father receives a heart transplant from a pig, a friend gets facial implants that illuminate beneath her skin. In our conversation, we touched on a number of topics in Stagg’s new and previous books, discussing what currently informs her work.

Meg Kissinger’s While You Were Out

In her new memoir, While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence, Meg Kissinger delves into her charmingly rambunctious family’s seldom acknowledged struggles with mental illness. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s North Shore suburbia in the 1960s and ’70s, during a time before many people had a working knowledge of mental illness, Kissinger invites us into the family home.

In Conversation

Being and Loving: Talking about Life, Art, and Writing with Jarrett Earnest

There is a moment that strikes me in Jarrett Earnest’s slight but mighty book Valid Until Sunset—a book of sixty images taken with Earnest’s Fuji Instax mini camera, images that are paired on facing pages with spare, meticulous prose of 250 words each.

Naomi Alderman’s The Future

Alderman writes complex novels and her new one, The Future, is a hefty but highly compelling page-turner that pulled me in and kept me reading from the first line. It’s a very dark read but also shot through with humor, sharp satire, compassion, a great love story, and well-wrought prose.

Justin Torres’s Blackouts

Justin Torres features none of the materials that usually occupy a political novel. There are no riot scenes, no courtroom confrontations. Rather, the primary drama is intimate: the hushed conversations between two men in a hospice.

Sigrid Nunez’s The Vulnerables

With her usual grace and skill, Sigrid Nunez presents a series of delicate, sometimes heartbreakingly sad, sometimes funny musings on life. There are those who will lazily call this a pandemic novel but it’s so much more than that. Instead, this is a window into the life of a writer, a woman who is both one of “the vulnerables” and a force to be reckoned with.

In Conversation

James Kennedy with Kathleen Rooney

James Kennedy’s depraved, hilarious, and genre-bending Midwestern horror coming-of-age novel Bride of the Tornado features voracious, sentient, animalic tornadoes wreaking havoc on a town less wholesome than first meets the eye.

Yvonne Rainer’s Parts of Some Sextets, 1965/2019

A dance to which the page was integral—fittingly for the linguistically inclined Rainer, who has penned a number of essays on her choreographies—Parts of Some Sextets was not only scored via a chart, but also timed to a book: Performers were cued by an audio tape of Rainer reading excerpts from the diary of William Bentley (1759–1819), a Salem minister who fastidiously recorded notable local events (an eclipse, a death, the arrival of an elephant).

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2023

All Issues