“Making art is like an alchemical process for me. I want to take shit and make gold out of it, metaphorically speaking.”
Back from her Fool’s Journey in France, Nina Bunjevac returns to the show to celebrate her new book, Bezimena (Fantagraphics)! We talk about the graphic novel’s unique and weird structure, Nina’s abrupt decision to leave France and come back to Toronto after a year-long study of France’s BD publishing industry, and her upcoming tarot project and her explorations into the history of occult mysticism and esoteric philosophy. Along the way, we also get into fixing the financial model for comics-makers, the value of big publishers, her growth as a writer, how Bezimena helped her address past episodes of sexual assault, her joy that Canada legalized weed while she was away, the story of her collaboration with Antonio Moresco, how to make an Alchemical Kitchen, and plenty more! BONUS: I explain how to tip the housekeeping staff at hotels!Give it a listen! (our 2014 podcast is over here) And go buy Bezimena!
“I like small, intimate bookshops that smell like books, not yoga equipment.”
“I treat tarot the same way I treat my dreams, as symbolism.”
“I realized that my approach to writing is very poetic, and I now approach writing as poetry.”
“I told Jerome Charyn, ‘You escaped the Bronx by writing about it. I escaped by never going back.'”
With My Young Life (Simon & Schuster), Frederic Tuten had to get over his notion that memoir is a cheap shot in order to look back at the beginning of a career in writing, teaching, and art criticism in the New York of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. We get into what started him on this book, how he’s haunted by his childhood in the Bronx, his emphasis on quality over quantity in literary output (while coping with the cautionary example of his writing teacher, Leonard Ehrlich, who only published a single, well-acclaimed novel), his mentorship by artist and convicted murderer John Resko, the joys of cafe culture (and his favorite haunt, Cafe Mogador), and how he got two-timed by “the Elizabeth Taylor of the Bronx” with Jerome Charyn. We also lament today’s celebration of the mundane, celebrate his friendships with Herge, Lichtenstein, Resnais and Queneau, and talk about the books he wants loaded in his casket when he dies, the great allure of Juan Rulfo’s sole book, Pedro Paramo, why future pod-guest Iris Smyles’ first novel is better than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, how fact-checker Anne Stringfield corrected some virtual memories in My Young Life, how poverty shaped his later life, what he learned from sobriety, Gaugin and The Magic Mountain, and plenty more! Give it a listen! And go buy My Young Life!
“In my 80s I feel like I’m just beginning life. Beginning to learn how to live, and to work, and to enjoy.”
“Live in the dream of the work and rest easy. Something will come. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you’ve done it. And you can always fix it.”
Frederic Tuten grew up in the Bronx. At fifteen, he dropped out of High School to become a painter and live in Paris. He took odd jobs and studied briefly at the Art Students League, and eventually went back to school, continuing on to earn a Ph.D. in early 19th century American Literature from New York University.
He travelled through Latin and South America, studied pre-Columbian and Mexican mural painting at the University of Mexico, wrote about Braziliian Cinema Novo, and joined that circle of film makers, which included Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira dos Santos. Tuten finally did live in Paris, where he taught film and literature at the University of Paris 8. He acted in a short film by Alain Resnais, co-wrote the cult film Possession, and conducted summer writing workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers.
“I think I became a writer because my father never wanted to get out of the car.”
The Village People tell us that Key West is the key to happiness, but is it also the key to a literary legacy? Michael Carroll joins the show to talk about his new collection, Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories (Turtle Point Press), and the role Key West has played in his life. We get into the pros and cons of being married to a literary titan (Edmund White, in this case) and how they’re portrayed in each other’s work, the value of short stories in the short attention span era (and his lament that young gay men don’t read), growing up Southern Baptist and gay, whether his upbringing in Jacksonville means he is Florida Man (and whether Florida is The South or South-Ish), why he avoids hookup apps, the influence of Joy Williams on his writing and the sustenance he gets from Lana Del Rey, and how writing about gay sex helps him vent his political rage. Give it a listen! And go buy Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories!
“This book is a way to save Key West in my life and in my mind.”
“I used to torture myself over a paragraph or two a day. Then I realized that if I’m not enjoying the writing, you’re not going to enjoy the reading.”
Michael Carroll’s debut story collection, Little Reef and Other Stories, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from American Academy of Arts and Letters and was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction and the Publishing Triangle Award. His work has appeared in Ontario Review, Boulevard, The Yale Review, Southwest Review, Open City, and The New Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, he is married to writer Edmund White and lives in New York City. His new book is Stella Maris: And Other Key West Stories, from Turtle Point Press.
“Why I like writing is: it always feels like the first book.”
On the eve of his fifth book, the wonderful kaddish.com: A novel (Knopf), Nathan Englander looks back on 20 years of publishing. We get into how he wrote this novel at a breakneck pace compared to his previous work, the great advice he got from Philip Roth (I’m not jealous!), the chemistry of creativity, the importance of process, his need to push borders and examine boundaries, and making his bones on the sacred and the profane. Nathan also talks about the therapeutic aspects of teaching writing, being more appreciative of his yeshiva upbringing, treating books like religion, and getting into thrillers while working on his political novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth. We also discuss his foray into playwriting, how he knows when a story or book is done, and the challenges of being friends with other writers, among plenty of other topics. Give it a listen! And go buy kaddish.com: A novel!
“It’s lovely to live in New York as a writer, but you have to avoid static, as both reader and writer.”
“I replaced therapy with teaching. I find it really nice to have to put things into words for students.”
“To me, this is a book about how we tell stories, and how we come to understand stories.”
What sort of person breaks into Auschwitz? An author — and semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic and occasional criminal lawyer — in search of answers. Bram Presser joins the show to talk about his award-winning, fantastic debut novel The Book of Dirt, a memoir-fiction hybrid about his family’s experience in the Shoah. We get into the myths of how his grandfather survived the concentration camps and what they meant for his family and his book, the years of detective work (and the lucky breaks) researching his grandparents’ stories and records and the limits of knowing anyone else’s life, the exceptionalist vibe of Czech Jews, the stories he was afraid to learn and the heroism that redeemed his great-grandmother and her family, the challenges of researching an unheard-of story of survival when archivists are already put off by your punk-rock appearance, and how Bram avoided Holocaust cliches while giving agency, dignity and social dynamics to the prisoners in the camps. We also get into Bram’s worries about feedback from his mentor Dasa Drndic, the value of documentary fiction, the aspects of his other careers that supported his ability to write The Book of Dirt, that Auschwitz break-in, and why Talmudkommando would have been a better name for his Jewish punk band than Yidcore. Give it a listen! And go buy The Book of Dirt!
“One thing I took from writing this book is that we really don’t know much about the people we love. We accept an idea of who they are, but that’s all we have.”
“Every time I talk about the book and about my grandparents, I feel like I’m spending more time with them. It’s a way for me to get to know them and understand them.”
Scruffy scrivener. Semi-reformed punk rocker. Recovering academic. Occasional criminal lawyer. Two-time cartoon character. After schlepping around the world for 10 years in the acclaimed punk band Yidcore, Bram Presser realized he was getting too old to sleep on concrete floors and smear hummus over himself every night. Swapping the rubber chicken for a fountain pen, he has since dedicated himself to writing. In 2011, Bram won The Age Short Story Award and since then his stories have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award-Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac, and Higher Arc. His debut novel, The Book of Dirt, was published in Australia in 2017 by Text Publishing to wide acclaim and went on to the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, Best New Writer and People’s Choice Awards in 2018, as well as the prestigious Voss Literary Prize. The novel was published in the U.S. in 2018 and recently won the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction at the National Jewish Book Awards.