Groping for Vines: An Interview with Fiona Maazel

A man wakes up and doesn’t remember the night before. Then he sees photos that show him assaulting a woman. Add the fact that he’s a new father, his job involves experimental surgeries, and his own father has dementia—oh, and he can read minds—and you’ve got Fiona Maazel’s new novel, A Little More Human. Memory, autonomy, and conspiracy theories abound in this complicated, well-crafted book. Maazel has won the Bard Prize for Fiction and was a National Book Award Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree. She was recently awarded a Guggenheim.

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Jaime Herndon: One thing I loved about A Little More Human was the intersecting storylines, especially Dr. Snyder’s memory loss, juxtaposed with his son’s mindreading ability and blackout. How did you come up with the structure/form of the novel?

Fiona Maazel: Thematically, I knew I wanted to be writing about memory, and memory as a way of constructing identity, juxtaposed against how incredibly hard it is to establish an identity when we know so little of what transpires in our own inner lives. I wanted to get at all that, but there was no way to do it from one perspective. I needed a few characters to allow me to approach the topic from multiple angles. Continue reading

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GREAT ARTISTS STEAL: D’Arc by Robert Repino

My novel D’Arc is the third book in the War With No Name series, which tells of a global conflict between humans and sentient animals. Amid the chaos, a cat named Mort(e) searches for his lost love—a dog named Sheba. Along with its apocalyptic themes, the book discusses the failures of political systems, the power of superstition, and the tribal impulse that drives all species. Below are some of the books that helped to inspire and inform D’Arc, separated by theme.

THE END OF THE WORLD

The War With No Name series is firmly set within the postapocalyptic genre. I’m drawn to these kinds of stories not only because of the Mad Max movies I grew up with, but because of the sense of upheaval, the reset, that comes with them. With a clean slate, people have the opportunity to start anew or to recreate the world of the past. But try as they might, they cannot avoid repeating the same mistakes that unraveled the former world.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

If you haven’t been browbeaten into reading this book yet, allow me to join in the bullying. Atwood’s novel captures the frustration and the stunned silence that would accompany a complete overhaul of society. The protagonist Offred has no choice but to adapt, and her ability to do so surprises her. This book was so influential for me that I used this line as the epigraph for the first book. “God is love, they once said, but we reversed that…” And really, that sums everything up. Continue reading

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HITTING SHELVES #45: The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens

The Australian by Emma Smith-Stevens comes out today! It’s a hilarious debut novel about a smiling, suntanned, backpack-wearing Australian (you know the type) and his search for meaning. We asked the author one question.

Fiction Advocate: Emma! How are you celebrating the publication of The Australian?

Emma Smith-Stevens: On the publication date of my novel The Australian (today!), I’m doing a reading at Unnamable Books in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn at 7pm. Some really incredible writers—Rachel Khong, Aaron Thier, and Nick Flynn—will be reading as well. It’s open to the public and I invite you, too: the more the merrier! Bring friends! Evil twins! Friends with benefits! Lovers—secret or otherwise! Frienemies! Doppelgängers! Those with whom you have relationships that you would describe as “complicated!” Bring ‘em all! Continue reading

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Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Sarah Dickenson Snyder is poet based in Massachusetts and Vermont. She is the author of The Human Contract (Kelsay Books, 2017) and the chapbook Notes from a Nomad (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Snyder’s poetry and prose have appeared in Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Teachers & Writers Magazine, Comstock Review, Damfino Press, Chautauqua, West Trade Review, The Main Street Rag, and Passager, among other magazines and anthologies. In May of 2016, she was a 30/30 Poet for Tupelo Press, and she has been selected to be part of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In addition to writing poetry, Snyder worked as an English teacher for thirty-seven years.

EB: First off, congratulations on your two books of poetry coming out this year! Do you primarily identify as a poet?

SDS: I write some prose—I had a piece recently in in Teachers & Writers Magazine about teaching writing, which is the first chapter of a book I’m playing around with. The book is tentatively called Teacher Land and it’s about the things I’ve learned from my years of teaching—something a beginning teacher might read. I’ve really enjoyed writing it, and I do like writing prose, but, really, I feel more like a poet. Continue reading

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The Literary Tourist Interviews Jeffrey Zuckerman

The Literary Tourist is a column of conversations between literary translators about newly released books in translation. This month Andrea Gregovich interviews French translator Jeffrey Zuckerman. Jeffrey received the PEN/Heim Translation fund grant in 2016 for his translation of The Complete Stories of Hervé Guibert and has two recent novels in translation, Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins (Deep Vellum, 2016) and Antoine Volodine’s Radiant Terminus (Open Letter, 2017). Radiant Terminus is a notorious pseudonymic author’s sci-fi tale about life in a future Siberia after a widespread nuclear disaster.

Andrea Gregovich: As a Russian translator, I was sucked into this book far more than I’d expected: it takes place in a future, post-apocalyptic Siberia but is written by Antoine Volodine, a French author. The details of life in the taiga, the vibe of the collective farms, and the institutions and overall culture felt authentically Siberian and Soviet to me, even in this dystopian take. What is Volodine’s background with Siberia and the Soviet Union—how is it that he’s so skilled at writing about it?

Jeffrey Zuckerman: It’s lovely to hear from you, Andrea, and I’m so glad this book has captured a world you probably know well. The (former) Soviet Union is a space that Volodine often returns to in his writing, and while he doesn’t seem to be on the record as having lived there for extensive stretches of time, it’s true that he has Slavic heritage—“Volodine,” after all, is the French transliteration of Володин.

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HITTING SHELVES #44: Large Animals by Jess Arndt

Large Animals by Jess Arndt comes out today! It’s a debut story collection that confronts what it means to have a body, straddling the line between the imagined and the real, the masculine and the feminine, the knowable and the impossible. You’re going to love it. We asked the author one question.

Fiction Advocate: Jess! How are you celebrating the publication of Large Animals? Continue reading

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