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Table For Two: Interviews


The Remedy for Love Pretend Dinner Party and Group Interview

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It’s such a pleasure to talk about a new book with friends and acquaintances that I thought I’d host a dinner party to do just that, invite a bunch of writers, readers, booksellers, radio hosts, filmmakers, and musicians, among others, to a bash in celebration of The Remedy For Love.  We’ll meet somewhere nice, since it’s all going to be pretend anyway.  I’m thinking Kauai, the garden isle of Hawaii, and will foot the pretend bill for all that pretend travel to a pretend luau, complete with fire dancing and hula lessons, all under a flapping tent, ocean breezes, tropical warmth, a fine contrast to the weather in the new novel, which is cold, cold, cold, a blizzard of epic proportions.  I’ve given my guests just a little to go on—a quick description of the novel (a small town lawyer tries to help a homeless woman and ends up stuck in a cabin with her during the storm of the century…) , and the quotes above from Peter Heller and David Abrams (two terrific novelists I had the good fortune to meet on the Life Among Giants tour).  Because, I don’t want to give away too much!  And now, everyone’s assembled, huge round table, cheerful (and well-tipped) servers dropping fabulous food, bowls of rum punch, bottles of wine.  Everyone has a gift copy of The Remedy for Love, still gaily wrapped (do not open until October 14, 2014, which is publication day!).  The dancing has yet to begin.  Amid the laughter, someone speaks up, gets us started. Continue reading →

Absinthe

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“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”    – Oscar Wilde

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Absinthe. Wormwood. The Green Fairy. Rumors of hallucination and poisoning have surrounded this emerald drink since Oscar Wilde said it made him see flowers growing in cafes, but in truth, it is simply very strong alcohol—over one hundred proof—and has been legal in the United States since 2007. Continue reading →

Read, Read, Read Everything: An Interview with Poet Cynthia Atkins

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Cynthia Atkins (photo Alexis Rhone Fancher)

 

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I have known Cynthia Atkins for years as a fellow teacher, wonderful poet, and generous friend. What her poetry has taught me, however, is that she’s also a powerful mental health advocate. We spoke on the occasion of the publication of Cynthia’s latest work, In the Event of Full Disclosure, which takes on issues of family and mental health with a voice that is both wry and wise. 

Mary: “In Plain Sight” begins with contradiction: “I am certain of only one thing– / I am in a team of (n)one.” I love how the confidence of the voice is undercut by the impossibility of any certainty in this world view. Where did this poem start for you in its initial draft, with those lines or something else? Continue reading →

Table for Two: An interview with Nina de Gramont

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Nina

 

Bill:  Where would you like to have our pretend dinner?

Nina: I wish we could have dinner at The Bombay Club in Harvard Square.

Bill: Ah, perfect!  I will order the hydrabadi bagare bagain.  Because it sounds like a bargain, at least in Boston talk…  And I like eggplant always.  So, just quick, before the waiter comes, tell us about your newest novel, Meet Me at the River.

Nina:  I will need a moment to choose between the vindaloo and the saag.  Also, I just found out The Bombay Club moved to the South End and then closed, which is a travesty, but since this is my imaginary dinner I can be stubborn.

Bill:  We can have our imaginary dinner wherever we want!  And a ghost restaurant seems appropriate, come to think of it.  Though I think they may have reopened in Burlington, Mass. Continue reading →

Table for Two: An Interview with Elizabeth Cohen

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I read The Hypothetical Girl because my friend Elizabeth Cohen wrote it.  That’s what you do when a friend writes a book, you buy it and read – it’s like if a friend opened a barbershop, you’d go and get your hair cut.  But I was so knocked out by the collection that I wound up emailing Elizabeth after nearly every story, because each is more wonderful than the one before.  All the stories are about looking for relationships online, and finding heartache, surprise, betrayal, and – just maybe – love. Elizabeth’s writing is funny, wise, insightful, and memorable.  All the things you want fiction to be that it hardly ever is.  In the end, I had to ask her more questions, and she was kind enough to answer.

Katherine Heiny:  Did you set out to write a collection about Internet dating or did you realize as you went along that that’s where the book was headed? Continue reading →

Table for Two: An Interview with Lauren Grodstein

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Lauren Grodstein

Bill:  If we could meet anywhere we wanted for a meal and a talk about your book, where would it be?

Lauren:  If we could go anywhere to talk about my book, I think we’d go to my grandmother’s kitchen in the Bronx.  Now, it’s possible I’m just saying that because it’s Jewish holiday season and  I’m feeling nostalgic – my grandparents have been gone for seven years, and I haven’t been to the Bronx in almost as long.  But if we were at her house, at her table, she’d keep bringing us food (whether we liked it or not), and it would all be delicious: gefilte fish she’d ground with her own hands, matzah ball soup, jars of canned black olives because she knows I love them.  We’d tell her to sit and eat, but she wouldn’t.  The food would keep coming:  roast chicken or pepper steak or brisket with the kinds of vegetables that have gone all limp and gravy-logged.  Kasha.  We could talk about my book a little; it’s about Darwin and intelligent design and love and grief.  But let’s say you happened to be a Creationist and I happened to be an Atheist and the discussion got heated – that’s when my grandmother would bring out the sweet cheese blintzes.  And we’d forget whatever it was that we were arguing about and when we came up for air, we’d agree that there couldn’t be a sweeter place on earth than my grandmother’s table. Continue reading →

Table for Two: Derek Alger Interviews Alan Cheuse

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Alan Cheuse

 

Derek Alger: Your most recent novel, Song Of Slaves In The Desert, is a complex one dealing with an especially turbulent time in history.

Alan Cheuse: Slavery is America’s curse, as Faulkner called it. Biology is just a long line of people trudging through time. History is what they did as they trudged, both good and bad, and despite the “family values” document that those political ignoramuses Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum recently signed about the good in slavery that held black families together, there was nothing good in that so-called “peculiar institution”. Slavery wasn’t peculiar among the Greeks and the Romans, but when it became tied to racial theory, as it did in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, its radical cruelty became more apparent. But why should a writer from Jersey become interested in it in a deeply personal way? Continue reading →

An Interview with Caroline Leavitt

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Meg Pokrass: So tell us about your new book.

Caroline Leavitt: Is this Tomorrow is the first novel I ever wrote set in the past, the 1950s.  It’s set in a time when everything was supposed to be perfect and everyone was supposed to be the same, and it centers around Ava Lark, a Jewish divorcee with a son, at a time when being divorced was a scandal and being Jewish was suspect. None of the neighbors like or trust her, and her boyfriends make them suspicious. But when her son’s best friend vanishes one day, the cops and the neighbors use it as an opportunity to ostracize her further. The novel flashes forward to when Ava’s son Lewis, and the missing boy’s sister Rose are adults who never got over the disappearance. And then the case seems solved–but is it really?  Continue reading →

Table for Two: Interview with Wes McNair

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This coming Thursday, January 31, Wesley McNair will launch his new memoir, The Words I Chose: A Memoir of Poetry and Family, at the Portland Public Library in Portland, Maine, always a good venue for writers, now a great one in its new renovation.  And a brilliant evening is planned.  It wasn’t hard to imagine where Wes and I would sit for our pretend meal–the porch of his camp on Drury Pond in in Temple, Maine, where in fact we sit many a summer’s evening, talking, talking.  Wes likes a beer and a whiskey.  I just go for the whiskey. Continue reading →

Table for Two: Bill Interviews Himself

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The Nervous Breakdown, a terrific cultural website on writing, books, music, and more, asked me to interview myself, which I dutifully did.  The result is predictably ambivalent.  You can read it there, or read it here and go there for much more.

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Q:  Bill, thanks for sitting to talk.

A: Thank you, Q. Continue reading →