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Nicholson Baker II (BSS #520)

Nicholson Baker returns to our program for a rip-roaring 78 minute conversation. We discuss TRAVELING SPRINKLER, the many parallels between Baker and Paul Chowder. There is quite a bit of music and audio talk, vivacious arguments for and against Robin Thicke, a lively dialectic on whether or not Algebra 2 should be an educational requirement, and a vital discussion on alternative names for sexual organs.

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Kathryn Davis (BSS #519)

Life and narrative both require resolution. But when we stick to our conclusive guns, what do we give up in knowing other people? Kathryn Davis has dared to answer these questions in her provocative new novel, DUPLEX, and our conversation bounces around Leibniz’s notion of the multiverse, the intersection of religion and technology, and how a fluid fictional universe creates new possibilities in life.

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Daniel Woodrell (BSS #517)

In this rare long form interview, acclaimed author Daniel Woodrell discusses how William Kennedy’s novels provided inspiration for THE MAID’S VERSION, Ozark vernacular, what people get wrong about stew, how one can know all of humanity by living in a small town, Tony Danza’s boxing skills, film noir, avoiding tough guy cliches, and his experience as a Marine.

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Jesmyn Ward II (BSS #516)

In the aftermath of Trayvon Martin, why do so many young black men continue to die? Why are we doomed to repeat a savage American cycle? Jesmyn Ward’s new memoir, MEN WE REAPED, tries to answer this dilemma by looking into how five needless deaths, including her own brother;s, informed her own life. Our 40 minute conversation looks into how stories can get people to care, enduring racism, defending yourself, and why mediocre white culture keeps getting a pass.

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Kiese Laymon (BSS #513)

In the first of two related programs devoted to the American epidemic of gravitating to mainstream culture in an age of limitless choice, we talk with Kiese Laymon about how his novel, LONG DIVISION, and his essays have responded to this problem. We discuss hip-hop, the rich Mississippi tradition of storytelling, “the worst of white folks,” and why America is terrified of rich and variegated cultural engagement.

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Norman Rush (BSS #512)

In this wide-ranging 70 minute conversation, we talk with acclaimed novelist Norman Rush (author of MATING, MORTALS, and SUBTLE BODIES) about revolution, James Joyce, Botswana, his friendship with Thomas Disch, why his characters are seduced by quacks, and countless other subjects.

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Maggie O’Farrell (BSS #511)

In 1976, Britain faced the greatest water shortage of the 20th century and the feelings are eerily resonant of current climate change. How can fiction make sense of all this? We talk with Costa-winning author Maggie O’Farrell about her latest novel, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, discuss how research often springs from personal experience and the idea of the disappearing patriarch, and get into the thorny realities of families.

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Travis Nichols (BSS #510)

How do you sustain a 220 page novel told from the perspective of an online troll leaving an endless blog comment? We discuss the poetics of abuse with Travis Nichols (author of THE MORE YOU IGNORE ME), along with seductive caesuras, family members who disown you by email, and the largely illusory idea of self-declared misunderstood geniuses.

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Mark Slouka (BSS #509)

Mark Slouka avoided historical cliche by looking at 1968 from the vantage point of a small town and tapping into unanticipated emotion. We discuss Slouka’s novel, BREWSTER, whether Sherwood Anderson’s influence can be revived in 2013, and get into the subject of leisure — specifically, its current absence from American life.

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Gabriel Roth (BSS #508)

Gabriel Roth talks with us for an hour about his debut novel, THE UNKNOWNS, San Francisco culture between the two dot com booms, his Bay Guardian days, the unanticipated influences of My Little Pony and brony culture, avoiding the lad lit label, and writing about what you know.

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Matt Bell (BSS #506)

We talk with Matt Bell, author of IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS, about how to encourage imagination, James Joyce lookalikes, labryinths in fiction and video games, Nethack, the problems with depicting the quotidian, and how language creates mystery.

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Claire Messud II (BSS #504)

Claire Messud returns to our program to discuss her latest novel, THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, unlikable characters in fiction, why angry women aren’t featured in fiction, technological impediments, the millennial generation, Shel Silverstein’s songwriting career, James Joyce, and how fiction can be dangerous in a surveillance state.

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