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In Conversation

LIDIA YUKNAVITCH with Elizabeth Block

When literally only a handful of readers knew of Lidia’s work, she was always on the verge of something, slicing away at language like it was hers and hers alone, like she could turn it into anything, blow it up, tame it, orchestrate it, filibuster it, drown it, launch it into the sky. Now Yuknavitch has, indeed, reached a vast audience with bestselling books and as a TED speaker.

The Pure Present: Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School

Ben Lerner belongs to a rarefied cadre of writer: the poet-novelist. His sedulous understanding of poetry informs the language of his prose, which is beautiful and complicated but never lapses into gaudy braggadocio; it is empathetic, intellectual without being masturbatory, anxious yet assured, a deft coalescence of memoirish self-vivisection and critical commentary.

In Conversation

DESIRINA BOSKOVICH with Nancy Hightower

Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Desirina Boskovich, fills in gaps that I didn’t realize existed before. This multi-genre anthology explores the interstitial nature of science fiction and fantasy as it slips in and out of music, fashion, pop culture, design, film, and architecture.

In Conversation

JILLIAN WEISE with Kathleen Rooney

In her third poetry collection, Cyborg Detective (BOA Editions), writer, performance artist, and disability rights activist Jillian Weise (aka Tipsy Tullivan) offers work that is angry and funny, savvy and sad, and willing to criticize ableism in all its forms.

The Starless Sea

Erin Morgenstern’s new novel The Starless Sea is a beautifully wrought and many-layered tale; a riveting, rollicking, and complex quest for the very heart of story. For those who loved the magical depths and wondrous spaces of Morgenstern’s debut The Night Circus (2011), there is much here in her second novel to entertain and enthrall.

Negar Djavadi's Disoriental

“Escalators are for them.” This is crucial to Darius Sadr—father to the protagonist of Disoriental, and a symbol of Iranian progressives who reflect the regret and disappointment of Iranian intellectuals living in exile. Later in the book, the author makes it clear that this sentence was her original source of inspiration in writing the book.

Erin Carlson's I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy

The endless parade of anecdotes is intermittently entertaining and interesting. Ephron’s fantasies were painstakingly crafted; “Nora had to completely OK every single look, down to the cut of the shoes,” Tom Hanks recalls. Stories of deciding on certain minor details like Kathleen Kelley’s tousled hair or Harry’s chic bohemian loft provide a window into both Ephron’s vision—troublingly elitist—and her character as a filmmaker—collaborative, but self-assured and obdurate. Unfortunately, they do not get the commentary they deserve, and cumulatively these stories amount to neither a portrait of Ephron nor an appraisal of her legacy.

Marco Rafalà’s How Fires End

Marco Rafalà rouses us to applause with How Fires End. The novel teeters suspensefully between the good-hearted and bloody-minded.

John Domini's The Color Inside a Melon

The tension created by the murder mystery plot returns to the question of “who [do] you stand with?” Risto’s loyalty is to both his fellow clandestinos from Africa and his Italian wife; to Mogadishu, Somalia and Naples, Italy. Domini’s use of genre—be it the murder mystery plot, the film noir characters, or the inclusion of fairytale tropes—point to how an individual’s perception shapes and colors one’s relationship with culture.

In Conversation

Dana Diehl and Melissa Goodrich with Joseph Scapellato

I recently had the chance to see Dana Diehl and Melissa Goodrich stand side-by-side on a stage and read from their collaboratively written story collection, The Classroom. They tag-teamed their way through “The Boy Who Arrives in a Box,” the book’s first story, taking turns reading the words that they’d composed together, transitioning with grace and trust and happiness. What was on display, I felt, was the special connection that it takes to write a daring book together.

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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues