episode 16: Joshua Mohr: badass in a Subaru

Joshua Mohr has published five novels and a memoir since 2009. That’s a pretty rapid clip, especially since only one — his memoir Sirens, about the deep lure of self-destruction, getting clean, and relapsing — was written under the urgency of impending death (he didn’t die). We had a great conversation about punk songs as the template for writing scenes, connecting with memoir readers on a whole different level from novel readers, and lots more. Josh is a great talker, smart and funny and compassionate. Give him a listen. And then go read his books!

Books we mentioned

Sirens – Joshua Mohr
Cruddy – Lynda Barry
Some Things That Meant the World to Me – Joshua Mohr
All This Life – Joshua Mohr
Fight Song – Joshua Mohr
Damascus – Joshua Mohr
Termite Parade – Joshua Mohr
The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
The Adderall Diaries – Stephen Elliott
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter
Moonglow – Michael Chabon
Black Wave – Michelle Tea
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
One Way Down (Or Another) – Calder G. Lorenz
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
The Stand – Stephen King
The One-Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut


episode 15: Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred and the Pinewood Table

Michelle spent four years at the Pinewood Table, a critique group and Portland institution run by authors Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred. There, she found a writing community and scratched out a couple of hundred pages of a novel. In this episode, we talk to Stevan and Joanna about their talent for close reading, approaching writing with kindness, writing into the sore places, and post-election reading requirements.

To find out more, see The Pinewood Table. And read Stevan and Joanna’s books. They are so beautiful.

Books we mentioned

The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King
The Stand – Stephen King
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series – Louise Penny
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
The Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Botton
The Milagro Beanfield War – John Nichols
The Shipping News – Annie Proulx
Love Medicine – Louise Erdrich
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Hot Season – Susan DeFreitas
The Mind Body Problem – Jonathan Westphal
The Mind Body Problem – Rebecca Goldstein
Why Architecture Matters – Paul Goldberger
Dear Thief – Samantha Harvey
All That Man Is – David Szalay
The Alehouse at the End of the World – Stevan Allred
A Simplified Map of the Real World – Stevan Allred
Little Miss Strange – Joanna Rose


episode 14: Jonathan Russell Clark swims in books

Book critic Jonathan Russell Clark talked with us about the satisfaction he finds in writing criticism, his inspirations and the capriciousness of what hooks him in books. We also talk collecting books (and how they become the most hated objects in the house), unintentional manifestos, handling reader feedback, bridging the gap between older critics and the current literary and digital landscapes, and the way nobody ever takes a book recommendation.

Books we mentioned

It – Stephen King
Dark Tower Series – Stephen King
But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past – Chuck Klosterman
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
Against the Day – Thomas Pynchon
The Vegetarian – Han Kang
Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams – M.J. Simpson
2666 – Roberto Bolaño
The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolaño
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom – Jonathan Russell Clark
A Book of American Martyrs – Joyce Carol Oates
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Submission – Michel Houellebecq


episode 13: Scott Rogers and the 2016 wrap up

Scott Rogers joined us to talk about books we loved in 2016, books that surprised us, trends we noted and trends we bucked. Isaac talks about his reading couches. We discuss reading resolutions. And we get a great update on what’s happening with Big Ed and Summer America Barnham.

Books we mentioned

The Only Ones – Carola Dibbell
Black Wave – Michelle Tea
The Dark Tower (book five) – Stephen King
Slow Days, Fast Company – Eve Babitz
The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Kingkiller Chronicle (Book 1: The Name of the Wind) – Patrick Rothfuss
A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
The Gutenberg Elegies – Sven Birkerts
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Jerusalem – Alan Moore
Rising Up and Rising Down – William T. Vollmann
The Folly of Loving Life – Monica Drake
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
What is the What – Dave Eggers
City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
Bats of the Republic – Zachary Thomas Dodson
Satin Island – Tom McCarthy
The Reactive – Masande Ntshanga
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
The Last Samurai – Helen DeWitt
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra
Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler
Between the World and Me -Ta-Nehisi Coates
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
The Vegetarian – Han Kang
Version Control – Dexter Palmer
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Moby Dick – Herman Melville


episode 12: Aisha Sabatini Sloan melds narrative and theory

Happy New Year folks! In December, we talked to Aisha Sabatini Sloan about writing non-fiction, and her new collection, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit, which was selected by Maggie Nelson as the winner of the 1913 Open Prose Book Contest and is due out this year. Sabatini Sloan writes personal narrative about subjects — family, race, Detroit, the police — and with a voice that are both relevant and affecting. We talk about casually meandering into theory, as you do, and moving away from the safety net of structure.

Books that are mentioned

Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit – Aisha Sabatini Sloan
The Fluency of Light – Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
The Gift – Barbara Browning
I’m Trying to Reach You – Barbara Browning
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
Chelsea Girls – Eileen Miles
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson
Calamities – Renee Gladman
Unexplained Presence – Tisa Bryant
Long Division – Kiese Laymon
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America – Kiese Layman
Negroland – Margo Jefferson
The Narrow Door – a memoir of friendship – Paul Lisicky
White Girls – Hilton Als
The Water Cure – Percival Everett
I Am Not Sidney Poitier – Percival Everett
Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night – Book by Morgan Parker

Other authors we mentioned

Fanny Howe and Danzy Senna


episode 11: Michelle Tea and the end of the world

Michelle Tea joined us to talk about her latest book, Black Wave. We also touched on the tech industry, pant suits, trump pumpkins, overly official quotation marks, the honesty of third person p.o.v., protests, election rage, and writing the end of the world. Michelle F may have gushed on Black Wave a little. But come on, that book deserves it.

Books that get mentioned

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
Black Wave – Michelle Tea
Rose of No Man’s Land – Michelle Tea
Chelsea Trilogy Book Series – Michelle Tea
Dated Emcees – Chinaka Hodge
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America – Kiese Laymon
The Quick and the Dead – Joy Williams
When the Sick Rule the World – Dodie Bellamy
The Buddha – Dodie Bellamy
I Love Dick – Kris Kraus
Aliens and Anorexia – Chris Kraus
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
Jane: A Murder – Maggie Nelson
The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson
Bluets – Maggie Nelson
The Art of Cruelty – Maggie Nelson
Cruddy – Linda Barry
How to Get Into the Twin Palms – Karolina Waclawiak
The Invaders – Karolina Waclawiak
The Orange Eats Creeps – Grace Krilanovich

Writers we discuss

Eileen Myles
James Baldwin

What we’re reading

Michelle Tea
Everyone is Watching – Megan Bradbury
White Girls – Hilton Als
When Watched Leopold Dean Coors
Gold Fame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins
Black Hole – Bucky Sinister

The Miracle Girl – Andrew Roe

Michelle F
Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh




episode 10, part 3: Wordstock…Isaac Fitzgerald

Isaac Fitzgerald is the editor of Buzzfeed books, veteran of The Rumpus, and co-creator with the artist Wendy MacNaughton of Pen and Ink, and Knives and Ink. We caught up with Isaac between panels – he was a panelist and a moderator – to talk about how books get made, the collaboration behind his “& Ink” books, toe tattoos, first tattoos, giving publicists a little love, and lots more. In the process, Isaac might’ve shown a little skin, and a diner at the next table might’ve provided a much-needed author lookup for us (shoutout to Craig).

Books we discuss

Pen and Ink – Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton
Knives and Ink – Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton
“Confessions of a Former Former Fat Kid” – Isaac Fitzgerald
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
Ghost – Jason Reynolds
Sweet Bitter – Stephanie Danler
Moonglow – Michael Chabon
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace – Patty Yumi Cottrell
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Black Wave – Michelle Tea
“Mothers Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying” – Alice Sola Kim

Writers we discuss

Amanda Bullock
Helen Phillips
Jonathan Letham

What we’re reading

White Nights in Split Town City – Annie DeWitt
The Nix – Nathan S. Hill




episode 10, part 2: Wordstock…Margaret Malone

Margaret Malone’s People Like You was a Pen/Hemingway Award finalist this year. We talk about that book’s trajectory from small, local press to the national stage, getting a blurb from Jim Shepherd, getting back in the writing saddle, accidentally writing a novel, and more. Our recording ends abruptly, as we got into a bunch of logistics, but our conversation with Margaret was a delight.

Books we discuss

Teacher – Michael Copperman
A Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin
The Girls – Emma Cline
The Book of Aron – Jim Shepherd
Project X – Jim Shepherd
The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra

Writers we discuss

Amy Hempel
Dana Spiotta
Charles D’Ambrosio
Les Plesko




episode 10, part 1: Wordstock…Lit Crawl

Early this month, before the world flipped irrevocably, we had Wordstock, Portland’s annual book festival. It’s a one-day extravaganza of readings, book fair, workshops, the whole shebang. We went out with digital recorder and optimism; these posts feature lots of ambient noise. Our dispatches come in three parts.

The night before Wordstock, there’s Lit Crawl, a large batch of readings hosted in bars around downtown. We made it to three Lit Crawl events: the launch of Opossum, A Literary Marsupial; a City of Weird reading, and a combo reading featuring University of Hell Press and Anvil Press writers. We didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone from Opossum, but the venue was packed, the readers were great and a couple even sang a little. We really wanted one of their tote bags. At City of Weird, we talked to the collection’s editor Gigi Little, and contributor and recent mayoral candidate Sean Davis. We capped the night with readings and a chat with Eve Connell, managing editor of University of Hell Press.


episode 9: Jason Gurley and the benefits of a day job

Author Jason Gurley joined us to talk about his job as a software designer, self-publishing compared to traditional publishing, seatbelt clicks, designing books, self-promotion, marketing algorithms, giving away books, reader enthusiasms, maintaining a writing/working/family balance, palate cleansers, e-readers, and eating and reading.

We had a great time talking to Jason. He’s a voracious reader and a gracious coworker. Find him at http://www.jasongurley.com/.

Books we reference

The Dark Tower series – Stephen King
Eleanor – Jason Gurney
The Martian – Andy Weir
My Friend Leonard – James Frey
Tenth of December – George Saunders
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Moonglow – Michael Chabon
Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple
Ulysses – James Joyce
Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld
Rum Punch – Elmore Leonard
Walt Longmire Mysteries – Craig Johnson
Transmigration of Bodies – Yuri Herrera
So Sad Today – Melissa Broder

Writers we mention

Alice Munro
Margaret Atwood
John Sandford
Gillian Flynn
Erik Larson
Michael Chabon
Edgar Allen Poe
Louise Penny

What we’re reading now


White Nights in Split Town City – Annie DeWitt


Iron Lake – William Kent Krueger
Playing Dead – Elizabeth Greenwood


The Only Ones – Carola Dibbell