Paula Bomer III (BSS #546)

Author Paula Bomer has dedicated her fiction career to staring inside the abyss and seeking the human. We discuss her new short story collection, INSIDE MADELEINE, and discuss everything from Flannery O’Connor’s notion of the grotesque, how sex defines relationships, boarding schools, how modest surrealism can reveal urban identity, and scatological moments in high literature. (The episode’s introduction includes some thoughts on the recent passing of Maya Angelou.)


Porochista Khakpour II (BSS #545)

In this wide-ranging 79 minute conversation, Porochista Khakpour discusses how she fused the romantic with the grotesque for her second novel, THE LAST ILLUSION, birds as an inevitable cultural symbol, growing up as an Iranian immigrant, quirky and pragmatic attitudes to death, Kafka and Kierkegaard, and academics who misinterpret authenticity,


Evie Wyld (BSS #543)

Evie Wyld is the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize-winning and Granta 20 author of ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING — a novel that is arguably more alive than most of the dull literary books about flatware and chalices at pretentious dinner parties. Our conversation gets into how work defines even the natural landscape, the relationship between insects and humans, and why kangaroos are quite dangerous.


Yiyun Li II (BSS #542)

In this vivacious chat with MacArthur fellow Yiyun Li (and on the occasion of her latest novel KINDER THAN SOLITUDE), we discuss nothing less than the mysteries that humans impose upon the universe, Li’s secret life as an accordion player, why poison is the most passive-aggressive murder technique, how Americans are exacting more care in discussing the uncomfortable, and how storytelling can encourage people to talk about the truth.


Ben Tarnoff (BSS #541)

More than a century after his death, Mark Twain is often portrayed as a jolly and avuncular figure. Yet the truth is that Twain was a savage wit and an incendiary figure, and it took this free-spirited iconoclasm to push expression forward. We talk with Ben Tarnoff, author of THE BOHEMIANS, to discuss how California writers (including Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith) defied the East and reinvented American literature during the 1860s.


Dinaw Mengestu (BSS #539)

MacArthur Fellow Dinaw Mengestu’s novels have been needlessly categorized as “immigrant fiction” when his work is about so much more. On the publication of his third novel, ALL OUR NAMES, Mengestu unpacks these issues with us, discussing how journalism helped him to peer into revolutionary turmoil, writing about quiet African immigrants, the American perspectives that are often overlooked, the depths of emotional trauma, and contemporary fiction’s relationship with the postcolonial.


Dorthe Nors, Save NYPL, and Blake Bailey (BSS #538)

In this triple-decker edition of Bat Segundo, we talk with author Dorthe Nors about Denmark, emotional connections to animals, the dangers of self-destruction and how folks songs fused with Swedish existentialism can produce an original voice, investigate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s silence on saving New York libraries and report on a protest, and talk with Blake Bailey about switching from literary biography to memoir.


Dave Itzkoff and Translated Literature: Mad as Hell (BSS #536)

This one hour program looks into two “mad as hell” scenarios. We talk with journalist Dave Itzkoff about MAD AS HELL, the making of NETWORK, Paddy Chayefsky’s colorful personality, and why something that seemed so absurd forty years ago became so real. We also investigate a controversy at Open Letter Books which may reveal an emerging ecosystem of smaller publishers being abused by agents on the make. That segment features Open Letter’s publisher Chad Post, Scott Esposito, and Michael Orthofer.


Sarah Churchwell (BSS #535)

Nearly ninety years after its publication, THE GREAT GATSBY remains a fluid and endurable masterpiece. In CARELESS PEOPLE, Sarah Churchwell tackles F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great novel with an approach somewhere between an avid reader and a obsessive scholar. This vivacious and jampacked conversation, which covers everything from old menus to famous murders to the interplay between Scott and Zelda, reveals that GATSBY is so rich that just about any literary interpretation is possible.


Jenny Offill (BSS #534)

If we leave out a few words, how does the story change? How are human instincts for speculation encouraged by a minor elision? Who really knows the story? Jenny Offill explores these ideas and more in her new novel, DEPT. OF SPECULATION. We discuss the virtues of twisted quotes, the narrative frameworks that can be extracted from poetry, the risks of self-consciousness, and the importance of a contrarian impulse.


Diane Johnson (BSS #533)

Diane Johnson is best known for her comic novels centered around France: LE MARIAGE and LE DIVORCE. But before all this, many years before, she wrote a darker novel called THE SHADOW KNOWS that attracted Stanley Kubrick’s notice. Johnson has published a new memoir, FLYOVER LIVES, that details her thoughts on her ancestors, growing up in the Midwest, her life, and her work. Our vivacious and variegated chat gets into the current state of Franco-American relations, forgotten writers, the Methodist practice of being frightened into being good, America’s migratory impulse, the demise of the American rail system, foodies, California history, and the considerable references and ideas that Johnson and Kubrick consulted for their work on THE SHINING.


Okey Ndibe (BSS #532)

Nigerian fiction writing is stronger than ever. But how does Nigeria’s protean identity, often described as “stranger than fiction,” affect contemporary fiction? In this one hour conversation, we hash out these questions with Okey Ndibe, author of FOREIGN GODS, INC., discussing Nigeria’s census problems, its many religions and languages, and how all of these fascinating complexities are often overlooked by Americans.

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