author

Ben Lerner on 10:04 – How Fictions Past and Future Impact the Present

Our interview with poet and award-winning author Ben Lerner about his gripping novel 10:04. On anxiety for the future, the importance of imagination, and why the line between fiction and reality is blurrier than we might suppose.

Ben Lerner's 10:04

For me, literature, like life, is about being open to the contradictions of experience as opposed to papering them over or offering false solutions – Ben Lerner

 

Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner author of 10:04

Michael Crummey, Exploring A Changing Way of Life on Newfoundland with ‘Sweetland’

Picture yourself as a man in your 70’s living in a small out-port on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland. You love where you live, and your roots to the place go deep. You were born and grew up there, and asides from a few short periods it’s where you’ve lived your entire life. The landscape, the people, the history of the place is practically in your bones. But since the collapse of the fishery jobs are non-existent and opportunities are few. And in order to save costs, the pf315_057_600provincial government has offered to pay residents a significant sum of money to relocate to a new city. But there’s a major catch. They will only pay if everyone agrees. Your friends, family, neighbours are all in favour, and you are the only hold out.

This is the painful dilemma faced by Moses Sweetland, the central character in Michael Crummey’s touching new novel of the same name – Sweetland.

With stakes high, Moses faces an increasing amount of resentment, even threats, from his fellow residents. Caught between the past and the future, between home and the unknown, between capitulation and holding on, what follows is a gripping story that touches on aspects of belonging, death, and what to do in the face of inevitable change.

It’s also a meditation on a very real dilemma that residents of small Newfoundland out-ports have faced in waves since 1954. In a province of many isolated hamlets, and ongoing economic turmoil, resettlement has been a painful, often debated reality of life for decades.

Michael Crummey is an award winning novelist and poet who has made exploring the contradictions, beauty, and hardships of life on Newfoundland the topic of much of his prose. He skilfully paints a picture of a way of life that few of us will experience, and one that is quickly becoming a thing of the past in our rapidly changing interconnected world.

Sweetland is Michael Crummey’s his fourth book, and it is both a subtle and thought-provoking read. Listen to our interview here.

Author Alexander Maksik, ‘A Marker to Measure Drift’

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Author Alexander Maksik

Author Alexander Maksik has recently published his second novel ‘A Marker to Measure Drift’. It tells the story of Jacqueline, a young Liberian woman who has fled the civil war engulfing her country, and is haunted by the trauma of her recent past as she struggles to survive on a Greek island full of vacationing and carefree tourists. Jacqueline experience’s of the world is visceral, having been stripped down to all but the most basic of human needs, the search for food and shelter. But all the while she is determined to maintain her dignity, even as she struggles to survive her uncertain state. The book is a fascinating meditation on memory, violence, and the need for companionship and understanding. isbn9781848548053-detail-detail3

Alexander Maksik has written for numerous publications including Harper’s, Slate, and The New York Times Magazine. His first novel was “You Deserve Nothing.”   We speak about his beginnings as a writer, the themes of isolation, and trauma, and why self-reliance is such a tempting, if often illusory idea.

 

Humorist David Sedaris on Writing, His Public/Private Persona, and on Not Feeling Like a Success

David Sedaris

Author David Sedaris

Best-Selling and celebrated author David Sedaris has been delighting readers for more that 20 years with his self-effacing essays in which he mines stories from his family, childhood, and day-to-day experiences for the perverse humour of human existence.

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

He first gained popularity in the early 1990s with his humourous radio essays on NPR (such as the SantaLand diaries in which he recounts his stint working as a Christmas elf at the Macy’s Department Store) and then later through his contributions to PRI’s This American Life, and the New Yorker magazine.

His latest collection of essays  Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is his 9th book and has earned him the usual glowing reviews and place on-top of the best-sellers list.

David Sedaris was in Toronto in May as part of his book tour and I leapt at the chance to have him on for an interview. We spoke about everything from his success as an artist, and his public persona, to his early days as a writer, and his admiration for the radio prose of the great Jonathan Goldstein.

Longtime Harper’s Editor Lewis Lapham on The Flaws of Journalism and Excesses of The American Ruling Class

Lewis Lapham editor of Lapham's Quarterly

Lewis Lapham editor of Lapham’s Quarterly

Whenever anyone happens to mention the name Lewis Lapham – the renowned American writer, and social thinker – chances are that a reference to Harper’s Magazine isn’t too far away. Over the course of the almost 30 years he spent in the role as editor of the influential magazine, Lapham and Harper’s became virtually synonymous.

Although he left his day-to-day role at Harper’s in 2006, the magazine still bears many of his distinctive marks; from its layout, to the style of writing  – even the Index and Readings sections which were created in a 1984 redesign he spearheaded – Lapham in many ways shaped the magazine into what it is today. And although the circulation of Harper’s has never rivaled that of more mainstream publications, an impressive number of people, from Ira Glass to Thomas Frank, credit Lapham and the magazine with influencing their journalistic sensibilities.

Harper's Magazine

Harper’s Magazine

But it’s not just for his role as an editor that Lapham become widely known. He is also by many considered one of the most prescient voices in America today. For decades through his columns and books, Lapham, with sharp wit and fierce independence, has been deconstructing the social-cultural landscape of America  – traits which have seen him compared with both H.L Menken, and Mark Twain.

He came from a privileged background –attending both Yale and Cambridge,  but Lapham has never been shy in criticizing what he sees as the excess, greed and short-sightedness of the ruling elite. He vocally argued for the impeachment of George W. Bush for launching the Iraq War, was openly critical of the Clinton’s,  and regularly has taken to task the mainstream media and press for their subservience to power and unwillingness to tackle the important issues.

Lapham's Quarterly

Lapham’s Quarterly

While he left Harper’s in 2006, Lapham has by no means slowed down. Having long been passionate about the wisdom that can be gleaned from examining history, he immediately went to work founding and editing Lapham’s Quartery a unique publication that takes an issue or topic of current interest and concern—War, Religion, Money, – and examines it in a historical context using the voices and events of the past to bring the topic to light.  

I spoke to Lewis Lapham at his office in downtown Manhattan.

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Writer and Philosopher Mark Kingwell on Solitude and The Examined Life

This week a conversation with writer, journalist and University of Toronto Professor of Philosophy Mark Kingwell.  We had a wide ranging conversation, and over the course of the hour Mark shares his thoughts and insights on topics including solitude, the importance of the intrinsic, the state of Canadian democracy, as well about some of the early influences that shaped him as he was growing up and which opened his eyes to the worlds of literature and philosophy.

Writer and Professor of Philosophy Mark Kingwell

Writer and Professor of Philosophy Mark Kingwell