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.
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 author of 10:04
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.
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.
Thomas Frank is probably best known for his regular easy chair column in Harper’s Magazine – the opening essay in which he draws together elements from history culture and politics to make insightful, often unexpected observations into the social-political landscape of our time.
In his columns he has taken on everything from the high cost of tuition and the obsession with austerity in Washington D.C, to the culture of gun violence in America.
Thomas Frank, Easy Chair columnist at Harper’s Magazine
He was born in Kansas City Missouri in 1965, and attended the University of Virginia to study history. Although he originally was conservative, and was even briefly involved with the campus Republicans, soon he discovered his interest in writing, and while still an undergrad, he along with a group of friends founded THE BAFFLER magazine, a journal of cultural criticism.
In 1988 he began studying American history at the University of Chicago, from which he received a PhD in 1994. His dissertation was eventually turned into THE CONQUEST OF COOL a book about how industry had successfully commercialized the idea of rebellion and 60’s counterculture. After leaving academia, he became a full time journalist, although his main interest was culture, while writing for the Chicago Reader he became increasingly drawn to political and economic topics from investigating the advertising efforts of Enron, to challenging the dominant free market ideology of the day.
During his career as a newspaper and magazine columnist He also has written four best selling books – His most recent is called Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right.
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