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Last Build Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2017 03:52:31 +0000


Gunnhild Oyehaug: The Freedom of Knots

Mon, 10 Jul 2017 03:47:57 +0000

photo: Magne Sandnes Knots is full of short stories—some of them no more than a single paragraph—that burrow deep into a character’s head as they muddle through situations that threaten to overwhelm them. A man decides he’s going to prove to his wife he’s not a complete loser and tries to go shopping at IKEA; a [...]

Life Stories #94: Okey Ndibe

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 02:03:45 +0000

When Okey Ndibe came to America at the end of 1988 at the invitation of fellow Nigerian Chinua Achebe to edit a magazine about African culture, nobody thought to tell him about winter. He'd read about winter in American novels, of course, but he just assumed it would be like the annual cold snap in Nigeria, when the temperature could drop as low as sixty-five degrees, and he dressed accordingly. After his flight arrived in New York City, he stepped out of the terminal to look for his escort, and quickly learned what he was in for in the months ahead. Never Look an American in the Eye is Ndibe's memoir of his first years in the United States, how he gradually acclimated to our climate and our culture—and, too, how he's had to deal with American assumptions about him and his cultural heritage. (For example, although he's an American citizen, who didn't even begin writing fiction until after he'd been in the United States for a while, one of the first editors to see his debut novel on submission rejected it because she didn't see how readers could be interested in an "African writer.") It's all shot through with Ndibe's warm sense of humor, which comes in part from his belief that, as he says, "I've lived a very interesting, rich life in America, [but] it wasn't always like that when it was happening." "When I wasn't getting paid as an editor," he continues, "when I was working for food, it wasn't 'interesting.' When I had to lie about writing a novel, and had to go and write one, it was painful; it was difficult. When I was stopped by the police, it was terrifying. But as I looked back, it struck me that I had a very rich harvest of American narratives—and this is the quintessential immigrant culture in the world. I thought that the ultimate homage I could pay to America for the gifts that it's given me... is to tell my part of this immigrant drama that is America."

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Life Stories #93: James Rebanks

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:30:08 +0000

Like many people, I first became aware of James Rebanks through his Herdwick Shepherd Twitter feed, where he posts pictures of his flock and talks about life as a farmer in England's Lake District. When he came to the United States for the first time in the fall of 2016 to promote his two books, The Shepherd's Life and The Shepherd's View, I was excited to chat with him about how Internet fame has changed his life (not much, it turns out) and his role as an advocate for sustainable practices for farmers and consumers alike. We also dove into his personal history, including a reflection on how writing about nature typically comes from a leisurely perspective. "It doesn't tend to be the person that's pulling the turnips or plowing the field," Rebanks explained. "It tends to be somebody who somehow has enough time and enough money to wander through it and wonder how beautiful it is... And it's beautiful, and it's special, and it's wonderful writing. But it's not the full story of what happens on the land."

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Life Stories #92: Thomas Dolby

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 20:04:36 +0000

As I mention at the beginning of this episode, my inner 13-year-old was thrilled at the opportunity to talk to Thomas Dolby about his memoir, The Speed of Sound, because I’d been a big fan of “She Blinded Me with Science” and the album it came off of, The Golden Age of Wireless, for over three decades. But grown-up me was also excited to learn more about the inspiration Dolby took from the ’70s punk scene in London, and about the lessons he learned about himself and his craft while working as a technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Life Stories #91: Danielle Trussoni

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 17:39:50 +0000

I spoke to Danielle Trussoni about her second memoir, The Fortress, in late 2016, just a few days after the news had broken about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's marriage falling apart. The timing was apt, given that Trussoni's book detailed how, in a desperate bid to save her own marriage, she took the windfall she'd earned from her first novel and moved with her husband and two children to a medieval fortress in the middle of France. Spoiler alert: Moving to the other side of the world doesn't actually put everything that's gone wrong behind you.. When I mentioned to Trussoni that her husband's treatment of her read like blatant gaslighting, she told me that she'd never actually heard that term until after she escaped her marriage—to me, that was an important reminder of how easy it can be to find oneself in a relationship this destructive. She also observed that after a childhood shaped by her father's intense PTSD, she was used to and perhaps even attracted to turbulence and drama... and, too, conditioned to sort out her problems on her own, not showing even those closest to her how bad things had gotten and how much she needed help.

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Carys Davies’ Brief Drama of the Soul

Tue, 16 May 2017 05:05:14 +0000

photo: Emily Atherton The Redemption of Galen Pike, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award-winning collection from Carys Davies, takes readers to a lot of different places. The title story is set in a Colorado frontier town, where a virtuous Quaker woman comes each day to the cell where a murderer awaits his execution; other stories [...]

Life Stories #90: Barbara Schoichet

Tue, 02 May 2017 17:07:13 +0000

Barbara Schoichet got hit with a triple whammy just before her fiftieth birthday—she lost her job at a movie studio in Los Angeles, her girlfriend left her, and then her mother died. Don't Think Twice is the story of how she pushed back against all that by learning to ride a motorcycle, then flying out to New York to buy a Harley Davidson and ride it back home across the country. Almost immediately, she got first-hand experience of the camaraderie that exists between Harley drivers, through random acts of kindness on the road... and that was something she wasn't entirely prepared for: "To be honest with you, I kinda had a death wish. I didn't care whether I came back. I just wanted to divert my mind from all that was going on in my life. And one of the best ways to divert grief is to focus on something else. I focused on staying alive. It's interesting, because I had a death wish, but I was really searching for a life wish. I mean, the great thing about this trip was all I had to think about was staying upright and getting to the next town I was going to stop at, and looking at every nook and cranny in the road, making sure I didn't hit something. It really healed me, because by the time I got back, I thought I could do anything."

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Peter LaSalle’s Pursuit of Borges

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 03:24:07 +0000

photo: Alex S. MacLean There’s some odd little moments in Peter LaSalle’s Sleeping Mask. And I’m not just thinking about the story where a man walks out of an airplane lavatory and slowly begins to realize he’s somehow wound up on an otherwise empty plane, still en route to… well, he’s not quite sure. There’s also [...]

Sonia Taitz’s American Dream

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:59:35 +0000

photo: H&H Photographers I first met Sonia Taitz back in 2012, when we recorded an episode of Life Stories to discuss her memoir, The Watchmaker’s Daughter. Since then, she’s been focusing on fiction, and her latest novel, Great with Child, actually explores some of the same psychological and emotional themes that she previously wrote about in [...]

Mike Barnes: A Room in the Dark

Thu, 13 Apr 2017 04:55:04 +0000

photo: Segbingway As I was reading the opening chapters of Mike Barnes’ The Adjustment League, I was reminded of the private eye novels I’d read in my formative years, real classic hardboiled stuff. Obviously, I knew that wasn’t accidental, but I could also see that wasn’t all there was to it—in addition to the surface familiarity [...]