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


episode 8: Mark Polanzak talks Pop and metafiction

This episode features Mark Polanzak, author, writing instructor, Draft journal co-founder, and grad school classmate of Isaac’s. We talk about his book Pop! and its blend of fiction, non-fiction, and metafiction, and about receiving threads of story by chance. It’s a great conversation. Mark is a great guy, a great writer, a great teacher. We know this because he listens to our podcast.

This episode also features some swooping vocals. This is not because we were running past the mic while talking. It’s because Isaac and Michelle were sharing a mic and had to swoop in close to be heard and sometimes Michelle failed to do this as well as we’d all prefer, and sometimes you are thinking about the conversation and not huddling up to the mic, and you only remember mid-sentence. Plus, you are trying not to spit on each other.

Books we reference

Pop – Mark Polanzak
Oblivion: Stories – David Foster Wallace
Martin Dressler – Steven Millhauser
Enchanted Night – Steven Millhauser
Edwin Mullhouse – Steven Millhauser
A Brilliant Novel in the Works – Yuvi Zalkow
Not on Fire, But Burning – Greg Hrbek
Destroy All Monsters – Greg Hrbek
The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
Freedom – Jonathan Franzen
Etiquette – Emily Post
Pricksongs and Descants – Robert Coover
Black Wave – Michelle Tea
We the Animals – Justin Torres
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
Golden Delicious – Christopher Boucher

Stories we reference

“How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)” – Junot Diaz
“Velvet” – Stacy Richter

Writers we mention

Philip Roth
Denis Johnson
Martin Amis
Kurt Vonnegut

What we’re reading now

The Isle of Youth – Laura van den Berg
Find Me – Laura van den Berg
The Lost City of Z – David Grann

Black Wave – Michelle Tea

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles – Ron Currie Jr.


episode 7: Laura Stanfill is hooked on publishing

Laura Stanfill talks with us about running Forest Avenue Press. She loves her job, and she loves all the writers she works with. She is funny and enthusiastic and more than a little crazy about books. At some point she mentions metadata. We were charmed. You will be too.

Books we reference

Brave on the Page – Laura Stanfill
A Simplified Map of the Real World – Stevan Allred
The Gods of Second Chances – Dan Berne
Landfall – Ellen Urbani
Froelich’s Ladder – Jamie Duclos-Yourdon
The Hour of Daydreams – Renee Macalino Rutledge
City of Weird – Gigi Little, ed.
The Remnants – Robert Hill
Geek Love – Katherine Dunn
Tinkers – Paul Harding
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
The Gentleman – Forrest Leo
Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum
Big Fish – Daniel Wallace

What we’re reading

The Alaskan Laundry – Brendan Jones
Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century – Travis Kurowski, Wayne Miller, and Kevin Prufer

Problems – Jade Sharma

Black Wave – Michelle Tea


episode 6: Kevin Sampsell, part 2

In part 2 of our conversation with Kevin Sampsell, we dish on famous people who’ve come into Powell’s. And reading guilt. Always the reading guilt.

A melange of writers, books, musicians, and politicians we mention

Cheryl Strayed
Laura Stanfill
Forest Avenue Press
Lydia Yuknivich
Karen Russell
William Vollmann
Colson Whitehead

Franzen — Freedom
Marie Kondo
Bill Clinton
Jimmy Carter
Patti Smith
Stephen Malkmus
Regina Spektor
Yo La Tengo
John Darnielle
Martin Amis
Jane Austen
Barry Hannah

What we’re reading

So Sad Today – Melissa Broder
Liar: A Memoir – Rob Roberge
Eileen: A Novel – Ottessa Moshfegh
The Heavenly Table: A Novel – Donald Ray Pollack

Problems – Jade Sharma
Black Wave – Michelle Tea

The Last Samurai – Helen Dewitt


episode 6: Kevin Sampsell, part 1

Kevin Sampsell, author, publisher, and Portland literary institution, joined us this week for such a good, long conversation that we made it a two parter. In part 1, we talk about his books, endings, writing about real Portland locales, and small press life.

Please enjoy our improved recording quality.

Books we reference, or sort of reference

This is Between Us – Kevin Sampsell
My Struggle – Karl Ove Knausgaard
The Department of Speculation – Jenny Offill
Portland Noir – Edited by Kevin Sampsell
City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg
A Common Pornography – Kevin Sampsell

The Folly of Loving Life – Monica Drake
Starvation Mode – Elissa Washuta
Being – Zach Ellis
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
Click” story – John Barth
Excavation – Wendy C Ortiz
Bruja – Wendy C Ortiz
Mickey – Chelsea Martin
The Book of Freaks – Jamie Iredell
Sing the Song = Meredith Alling
A Partial List of People to Bleach – Gary Lutz
Assisted Living – Gary Lutz

Small presses we talk about

Akashic Books
Future Tense Books
Instant Future
Civil Coping Mechanism
Hobart: Short Flight, Long Drive
Lazy Fascist Press
Two Dollar Radio
Curbside Splendor
Publishing Genius
Tin House
Atelier26 Books
Forest Avenue Press

Other writers we mention

Stuart Dybeck
Aaron Gilbreath
Blake Butler

Diane Williams
Amy Hempel
Ben Marcus
Katherine Dunn
Tom Spanbauer
Walt Curtis
Blake Nelson
Rick Moody
Margret Malone
Matthew Simmons


episode 5: funny (and not)

We don’t want to get dramatic, but we’re pretty sure the reason our conversation with Scott Rogers, aka Big Ed Barnham, was so pleasant is because at one time or another, Isaac, Michelle, and Scott were busy growing up along a 100 mile stretch of Interstate 75.  There’s maybe an understanding that arises when you come from the same general place.

In this episode, Scott discusses his two web series, Summer America Barnham’s Book Club for Ladies, and Big Ed Barnham’s One of a Kind Big Find of the Week, and we talk books that are funny and books that are trying to be funny. We like some better than others.

There is not much ambient noise, except for the sound of three humans perspiring inside an only mildly air conditioned office building during the hottest weekend of the summer. Also the corking and uncorking of a Tequila bottle.

Books (and plays) we reference, or sort of reference

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

The Ask – Sam Lipsyte

Portnoy’s Complaint – Phillip Roth

99 Ways to Fuck a Swan – Kim Rosenstock

All the Way – Robert Schenkkan

The Doubter’s Almanac – Ethan Canin

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace

Birds of America – Lorrie Moore

Which is More Than I Can Say for Some People – Lorrie Moore

Willing – Lorrie Moore

Homeland – Cory Doctorow

Wake Up, Sir – Jonathan Ames

The Extra Man – Jonathan Ames

The Blazing World – Siri Hustvedt

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamotte

Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

Windows 97 User Guide

Pond – Claire-Louise Bennett

Eve’s Hollywood – Eve Babitz

Slow Days, Fast Company – Eve Babitz

The Devil All the Time – Donald Ray Pollock

The Heavenly Table – Donald Ray Pollock

Knockemstiff – Donald Ray Pollock

The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

IQ84 – Haruki Murakami

Authors we mention in a general way

Shalom Auslander
Marcel Proust
Neal Pollack

Also: Isaac wishes he would have brought up Terry Southern. He also may be making up the details of the Lorrie Moore story.


episode 3: lists & the Millions.com Great Book Preview

If you don’t keep a book list, how do you know you’ve read them? Melissa Amos joins us to talk about the satisfactions of a good spreadsheet, and then we dish our top five from The Millions hotly anticipated Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.

This episode features a phone ding, hound bark, ice clinking, the caws of 1000 crows.

Books we reference, or sort of reference

Melissa’s Top Five
1. White Nights in Split Town City – Annie DeWit
2. Here I am – Jonathan Safran Foer
3. The Fortunes – Peter Ho Davies
4. Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple
5. The Unseen World – Liz Moore

Michelle’s Top Five
1. Problems – Jade Sharma
2. Black Wave – Michelle Tea
3. White Nights in Split Town City – Annie DeWit
4. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma – Ratika Kapur
5. Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Isaac’s Top Five
1. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
2. The Insurrection – Rion Amilcar Scott
3. The Gambler’s Anatomy – Jonathan Lethem
4. Pond – Claire Louise-Bennett
5. Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

Melissa: The Wangs vs. The World – Jade Chang
Michelle: The Terranauts – T.C. Boyle
Isaac: The Nix – Nathan Hill

Also mentioned:

Special Topics in Calamity Physic – Marisha Pessl
NW – Zadie Smith
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg
Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple
Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Letham
Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Letham
Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Drop City – T.C. Boyle
The Lord of the Flies – William Golding
The Secret Place – Tana French
The Dark Tower series – Stephen King
The Red Parts – Maggie Nelson

Bunch of writers we discuss without mentioning their books

Joy Williams
Steve Almond
Annie Dillard
Celeste Ng
Thomas Pynchon
Michael Chabon
Ben Lerner
Ben Marcus

Errata and mea culpas

We kind of collectively slaughtered Marisha Pessl’s name and book title.

What we’re reading

Melissa: just finished Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, starting Elligible – Curtis Sittenfeld
Isaac: The Border of Paradise – Esme Wang
Michelle: The Sellout – Paul Beatty



episode 2: a trip through time

In episode 2, we learn about Isaac’s early years as a beat, and Michelle uses the word “formative” excessively. Throughout, we talk about our evolution as readers.

This episode features chicken clucking, light traffic noise. Michelle’s pen was banned.

 Books we reference, or sort of reference

  • Metamorphoses – Ovid
  • Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories – Florence Sakade
  • Peanuts Treasury – Charles Schulz
  • Life Before Man – Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
  • The Thorn birds – Colleen McCullough
  • Flowers in the Attic – V.C. Andrews
  • The Shining – Stephen King
  • Howl and Other Poems – Allen Ginsberg
  • On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  • Naked Lunch – William S. Burroughs
  • Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  • Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
  • The Bible
  • Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Long Secret – Louise Fitzhugh
  • London Fields – Martin Amis
  • Portrait of a Lady – Henry James
  • Tigers Are Better Looking – Jean Rhys
  • A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
  • My Friend Leonard – James Frey
  • Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; Rabbit at Rest – John Updike
  • Maus – Art Spiegelman
  • Cruddy – Lynda Barry
  • Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
  • The World According to Garp – John Irving
  • Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

Bunch of writers we discuss without mentioning their books

  • Dean R Koontz
  • Lynda Barry
  • Charles Bukowski
  • Richard Ford
  • Jo Nesbø
  • Louise Penny

Errata and mea culpas

Michelle slaughtered the reference to Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and is embarrassed.

What we’re reading

  • Isaac: HHhH – Laurent Binet
  • Michelle: The Sellout – Paul Beatty