788 episodes

Interviews with Writers about their New Books
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New Books in Literature New Books Network

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Interviews with Writers about their New Books
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    Ron Walters, "Deep Dive" (Angry Robot, 2022)

    Ron Walters, "Deep Dive" (Angry Robot, 2022)

    “Why not just torture this main character and make his children completely disappear?”
    That’s the terrifying premise behind Deep Dive (Angry Robot, 2022), the debut novel by author Ron Walters, which sets a videogame developer on a thrilling virtual reality adventure which is equal parts Inception and Matrix, and perhaps a little Parenthood too.
    Creating a story that is a relentlessly thrilling and page-turning science fiction story is one challenge. But Deep Dive also has a strong emotional core, that of a parent whose worst fear has come true. And so aside from nefarious government organizations doing shady things, we’re also treated to some modern parenting issues. Such as regrets over trying to figure out that all-important work-life balance—and what happens when you can’t and one side of it almost completely vanishes?
    This emotional pull within a fascinating VR-centric plot will undoubtedly resonate with all readers, but it will especially speak to those with children who face similar struggles.
    “A lot of people I know who read science fiction and fantasy are parents. It goes back to the whole idea of wanting to see yourself reflected in fiction. And so seeing parents ‘on page’ is hugely important—and nice when it happens.”
    Ron Walters is a former journalist, college registrar, and stay-at-home dad who writes science fiction and fantasy for all ages. A native of Savannah, GA, he currently lives in Germany with his wife, two daughters, and two rescue dogs.
    Dan Hanks is the co-host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire and Swashbucklers.
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    • 45 min
    Judith McCormack, "The Singing Forest" (Biblioasis, 2021)

    Judith McCormack, "The Singing Forest" (Biblioasis, 2021)

    Two children stumble upon a mass grave in the forest outside of Minsk in Belarus where the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, buried tens of thousands of innocent victims of torture. The Singing Forest, by Judith McCormack (Biblioasis 2021) weaves the story of a low-rung enforcer of that torture in pre-WWII Belarus and a modern-day Canadian lawyer on the team prosecuting long-forgotten crimes. Stefan Drozd’s life from earliest childhood lacked anything resembling kindness, nurturing, or morality. He has no understanding of human interaction, never had a friend, and did whatever he had to do to survive, even when that required torturing, murder, or lying to get into Canada after the war. Years later, Drozd is in his nineties and doesn't understand why anyone is making a fuss about something that happened so long ago. Leah Jarvis, a somewhat timid and confused young lawyer from an eccentric family, is helping prosecute him for war crimes. Leah knows that Drozd is guilty, but she needs hard evidence. While working on this case, she grapples with her own history – the death of her mother, the disappearance of her father, and her erratic upbringing by three uncles. Leah questions her Jewish heritage and wonders how a person becomes evil, how power is wielded by those who have it, and how justice is served. This is a beautifully written, lyrical novel about truth, heritage, and memory.
    Judith McCormack was born outside Chicago and grew up in Toronto, with brief stints in Montreal and Vancouver. Her first short story was nominated for the Journey Prize, and the next three were selected for the Coming Attractions Anthology. Her collection of stories, The Rule of Last Clear Chance, was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Award and was named one of the best books of the year by The Globe and Mail. Her work has been published in the Harvard Review, Descant and The Fiddlehead, and one of her stories has been turned into a short film by her twin sister, Naomi McCormack, an award-winning filmmaker. Her most recent short story in the Harvard Review was recorded as a spoken word version by The Drum and has been anthologized in 14: Best Canadian Short Stories. Backspring, her first novel, was shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award in 2016. McCormack has several law degrees, which have mostly served to convince her that law is a branch of fiction, and she tries to point out as often as possible that Honoré de Balzac, Henry James, Paul Cézanne, Cole Porter and Geraldo Rivera were lawyers. She is a recipient of the Guthrie Award for outstanding public service and contributions to access to justice, and the Law Society Medal for outstanding service in the highest ideals of the profession.
    G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series and a prolific baker of healthful breads and pastries. Please contact her through her website (GPGottlieb.com).
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    • 25 min
    Howard Chiang, "Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader" (Cambria Press, 2021)

    Howard Chiang, "Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader" (Cambria Press, 2021)

    As the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in Asia and host the first annual gay pride in the Sinophone Pacific, Taiwan is a historic center of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture. With this blazing path of activism, queer Taiwanese literature has also risen in prominence and there is a growing popular interest in stories about the transgression of gender and sexual norms.
    Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, queer authors have redefined Taiwan’s cultural scene, and throughout the 1990s many of their works have won the most prestigious literary awards and accolades. This anthology provides a deeper understanding of queer literary history in Taiwan. It includes a selection of short stories, previously untranslated, written by Taiwanese authors dating from 1975 to 2020. Readers are introduced to a wide range of themes: bisexuality, aging, mobility, diaspora, AIDS, indigeneity, recreational drug use, transgender identity, surrogacy, and many others. The diversity of literary tropes and styles canvased in this book reflects the profusion of gender and sexual configurations that has marked Taiwan’s complex history for the past half century.
    Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader (Cambria Press, 2021) is a timely and important resource for readers interested in Taiwan studies, queer literature, and global cultural studies.
    Howard Chiang is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China and Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.
    Li-Ping Chen is Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.
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    • 51 min
    Mary Soon Lee, "The Sign of the Dragon" (Jaberwocky, 2020)

    Mary Soon Lee, "The Sign of the Dragon" (Jaberwocky, 2020)

    First place winner of the 2021 Elgin Award, The Sign of the Dragon by Mary Soon Lee (Jaberwocky, 2020) is an epic fantasy about a young king who must defend his kingdom against a number of outside forces, both human and terrifyingly otherworldly. Lee draws from Chinese culture to create a legendary figure in King Xau, one of honor, nobility, and subtle magic. With light, clean, and lyrical language, these poems shape an epic story of heroism and humanity.
    “Who saw them raft over the river,
    three hours before daybreak?
    Who saw their half-dark lanterns
    glimmer on helmut and shield?
    The heron in the reeds;
    the crane startled to air.”
    — from “Crossing”, The Sign of the Dragon
    Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. She writes both fiction and poetry, and has won the Rhysling Award and the Elgin Award. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: Elemental Haiku, containing haiku for each element of the periodic table, and The Sign of the Dragon, an epic fantasy with Chinese elements.
    Andrea Blythe bides her time waiting for the apocalypse by writing speculative poetry and fiction.
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    • 42 min
    72 Caryl Phillips Speaks with Corina Stan

    72 Caryl Phillips Speaks with Corina Stan

    Our second January Novel Dialogue conversation is with Caryl Phillips, professor of English at Yale and world-renowned for novels ranging from The Final Passage to 2018’s A View of the Empire at Sunset. He shares his thoughts on transplantation, on performance, on race, even on sports. Joining him here are John and the wonderful comparatist Corina Stan, author of The Art of Distances: Ethical Thinking in 20th century Literature. If you enjoy this conversation, range backwards through the RtB archives for comparable talks with Jennifer Egan, Helen Garner, Orhan Pamuk, Zadie Smith, Samuel Delany and many more.
    It’s a rangy conversation. John begins by raving about Caryl’s italics–he in turn praises Faulkner’s. Corina and Caryl explore his debt (cf. his The European Tribe) to American writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Meeting Baldwin was scary–back in those days before there were “writers besporting themselves on every university campus.” Caryl praises the joy of being a football fan (Leeds United), reflects on his abiding loyalty to his class and geographic origins and his fondness for the moments of Sunday joy that allow people to endure. John raises Orhan Pamuk’s claim (In Novel Dialogue last season) that the novel is innately middle-class; Caryl says that it’s true that as a form it has always taken time and money to make–and to read. But “vicars and middle class people fall in love, too; they get betrayed and let down…a gamut of emotion that’s as wide as anybody else.” He remains drawn to writers haunted by the past: Eliot, W.G. Sebald, the huge influence of Faulkner trying to stitch the past to the present.
    Mentioned in the Episode

    James Baldwin, Blues for Mister Charley, The Fire Next Time


    Richard Wright, Native Son


    Johnny Pitts, Afropean


    Caryl Phillips, Dancing in the Dark


    J. M. Coetzee, “What We like to Forget” (On Caryl Phillips)

    Graham Greene (e.g Brighton Rock and The Quiet American) wrote in “The Lost Childhood” (1951) that at age 14 ” I took Miss Marjorie Bowen’s The Viper of Milan from the library shelf…From that moment I began to write.”

    Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter


    William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom



    Read a transcript here
    Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.
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    • 49 min
    Matthew C. Kruger, "What The Living Know: A Novel of Suicide and Philosophy" (Nfb Publishing, 2020)

    Matthew C. Kruger, "What The Living Know: A Novel of Suicide and Philosophy" (Nfb Publishing, 2020)

    Now that science has granted eternal life and youth to all, the world is a place of endless opportunity to live out one's dreams and fulfill one's desires. With death unnecessary, it becomes optional and suicide is celebrated when chosen. However the main character, 10,000 year old Warren, has fought off the urge to die but begins to contemplate making this choice for himself. Matthew C. Kruger's book What The Living Know: A Novel of Suicide and Philosophy (Nfb Publishing, 2020) tackles questions such as: How many times can you send someone on their way and not start to feel as if it might be your time to go? How much life will you live before you come to say "that's enough for me"? Or, through it all, will your love for life always endure?
    Our conversation discusses the importance of, not just having a philosophy, but having a lived and embodied philosophy: one that's procedural and takes into account the messiness and hardships of each and every day. While the book is a hard read mentally -- and perhaps spiritually -- it comes to the beautiful and paradoxical conclusion that there might not be a point to living but there's no point in dying either, that life is worth living, and that you should let yourself be moved and transformed through struggle. Not easy, certainly, but worthwhile.
    Sarah Kearns (@annotated_sci) reads about scholarship, the sciences, and philosophy, and is likely over-caffeinated.
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    • 45 min

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