Notebook on Cities and Culture
(Formerly The Marketplace of Ideas.) Colin Marshall sits down for in-depth conversations with cultural creators, internationalists, and observers of the urban scene all around Los Angeles and beyond.
S1E32: Genuine New York Novelist with Joshua Henkin

Colin Marshall sits down in West Hollywood with novelist Joshua Henkin, author most recently of The World Without You, for their first conversation in four and a half years since his previous appearance on The Marketplace of Ideas. They discuss how the new book makes a space for characters to converge rather than occupying the space between two people, like his last one; the authorial balance between knowing too much and knowing too little, and the need to address the same question in fiction you would on Passover of "why this night is different from all other nights"; his bringing in a divorce, a death, the war in Iraq, and July 4th, and how much is too much; his tendency to throw away thousands of pages when refining each novel, observing the economist's principle of sunk costs; how character is plot, and how stories go wrong when character isn't plot; his ways of fictionally repurposing pieces of his own life that few readers would guess; the dangers of writing about recent-past events, and doing so while achieving the universal with a laserlike focus on the particular; the importance of writing no character as an authorial mouthpiece, especially when dealing with sensitive political and religious issues as The World Without You does; his use of teaching as a feedback look for his own writing, and how early in his career he managed to expose himself to a great amount of what doesn't work in fiction; his writer's life in Brooklyn, and why that borough has become such a writerly place; his childhood in and return to New York, and what that has to do with his characters existing in perpetual relationships to the place; the writer's need to hang out primarily with non-writers; his techniques for achieving a sense of place, and the American difficulty of having any sense of place at all about somewhere as distant as Iraq, which seems to have become a theme of the war itself; the press' eagerness and the author's wariness to discuss the "aboutness" of a book; and the irreducibility of fiction meaning that the easier you can summarize a novel, the worse that novel is.

(Photo: Matthew Polis)
Direct download: NCC_S1E32_Joshua_Henkin.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:10pm UTC