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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,

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Nikil Saval (BSS #544)

Was there ever an age in which the office provided reasonable security for the worker? Is it possible for the office worker to be given respect and adequate compensation in the 21st century? We talk with Nikil Saval, author of CUBED, to figure out how a system designed to pit office workers against each other went wrong. It turns out that misguided philosophy, austere architectural developments, and a carefully manufactured belief culture against organized labor are all part of a very complicated narrative we all take for granted.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Islamophobia, Extremism, and the War on Terror: Arun Kundnani (BSS #540)

Twelve and a half years after 9/11, Islamophobia remains alive and well. Where did it come from? Why does it perpetuate in American and British culture? And what effect does it have on our democratic values? To get some answers to these questions, we talked with Arun Kundnani, author of THE MUSLIMS ARE COMING. It turns out that prominently positioned people continue to reinforce Muslim stereotypes, encouraging law enforcement agencies to adopt flawed radicalization models that are not predicated upon reality. These prejudicial policies have caused innocent Americans, whose only crime is to practice Islam, to be harassed, needlessly harangued by authorities, and falsely imprisoned. This 67 minute conversation investigates these issues at length.

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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.

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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.

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Julia Angwin (BSS #537)

Why are we so consumed with providing every moment of our lives to a faceless corporation who will share this data with other companies without our consent? What makes the NSA worse than the Stasi? And to what extent are we determined to become enslaved by convenience? We talk with journalist Julia Angwin, author of DRAGNET NATION, about these dilemmas, the inevitability of mutually assured disinformation, and why the black helicopter lifestyle is becoming more legitimate.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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