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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.

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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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Blake Bailey II (BSS #530)

Literary biographer Blake Bailey and Our Correspondent may be the only two people in the United States who have read everything Charles Jackson has published. Who was he? Well, in 1944, Jackson wrote THE LOST WEEKEND — a pioneering masterpiece that was among the first to depict the devastating effects of alcoholism. But seven decades later, Jackson has been largely forgotten, outshadowed by the Billy Wilder movie. We spend 73 minutes pinpointing Jackson’s forgotten legacy and considering the risks of waning literary posterity. We also talk about Bailey’s work on the Philip Roth bio, as well as his forthcoming memoir, THE SPLENDID THINGS WE PLANNED.

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Alissa Nutting (BSS #529)

Alissa Nutting’s TAMPA was one of the most controversial books of 2013. It is also one of the best books of the year. In this bold and variegated 76 minute conversation, we reveal how Celeste Price was created, the torment it brought Nutting in life and after publication, and why America remains needlessly hostile to fictitious viewpoints which dare to reveal the truth about human aberration.

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Elissa Wald (BSS #528)

What happens when you meet somebody and all of your assumptions proved to be wrong? That’s precisely what happened with this conversation with Elissa Wald, author of THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN. She’s a novelist who wrote a noir novel without reading any noir and who depicted class violence without being conscious of it. The result is one of the strangest conversations we’ve ever aired, a chat that absolutely fails (which is entirely our fault) before hobbling back to an unanticipated grace.

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Eleanor Catton (BSS #524)

What if a 900 page novel incorporated Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, the golden ratio, set its action in 1865 and 1866 while aligning character temperament to astrological signs and planets, and incorporated massive strands of storytelling? Well, THE LUMINARIES does just this. In this wide-ranging 71 minute conversation, we talk with Booker Award-winning novelist Eleanor Catton about the benefits of an overly planned structure, considering reader intentions, Douglas Hofstadter’s GODEL, ESCHER, BACH, how old newspapers reveal history in unique ways, the Otago Gold Rush, mystery novels, Shakespeare, eccentric forms of tax evasion, and the real impact of politics and history on everyday lives.

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Paul Harding II (BSS #521)

Over the course of a few centuries, prayers for the dead have transformed into less uptight celebrations. But what candor did we lose in the transformation? In the first of two shows devoted to Halloween, we discuss this American relationship to grief and impermanence with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding. The talk revolves around Harding’s second novel, ENON, and gets into candlepin bowling, the oneiric morass inside the skull, our national history of religiosity, and John Cheever.

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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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