The writer Cris Mazza and her siblings were blessed with remarkable parents. Her father, a World War II veteran who became a community college physics professor, was a forward-thinking man for his era, ensuring his girls had access to the same educational opportunities as boys. Her mother was not only college-educated, also unusual for her generation, but later returned for a second round of schooling so she could obtain a teaching credential and start a second career in elementary education. Together, the Mazzas made their children the center of their lives; they were rewarded by seeing their clan grow into vibrant, self-sufficient adults. Mazza chronicled these good times in Indigenous: Growing Up Californian, a critically acclaimed introduction into the “normality beneath the California myth that seems all the more dazzling and exotic with the passage of time,” as the Los Angeles Times said. While that book was fueled by memory, her new memoir, It’s No Puzzle: a memoir in artifact(Spuyten Duyvil Books), is powered by the questions that emerged as Mazza considered the objects that would amount to her parents’ legacy.
Six years ago, I spoke with Juan Martinez about his excellent collection Best Worst American, a genre-spanning work that encompassed a host of styles and tones, with a pronounced sense of the ominous. Now, Martinez is back with a new novel, Extended Stay. What begins as a novel about a brother and sister on the run from familial trauma gradually turns into something much stranger and more horrific. The Alicia, where both take refuge, turns out to have several qualities that distinguish it from other Las Vegas hotels — including more than a few suggestions that the hotel itself is alive. I spoke with Martinez about the genesis of this book, its connection to his earlier collection, and more.
Late last year, Inside the Castle published new editions of two novels by Robert Kloss: The Woman Who Lived Amongst the Cannibals and A Light No More. Describing either book isn’t easy — Kloss combines the hallucinatory history of acid Westerns with the linguistic experimentation of Caroline Bergvall’s Drift. The overall sensibility is both fragmentary and all-encompassing, unlike anything else out there today. With these new editions made more widely available, I chatted with Kloss about the process of putting them together and exploring what might be next for him.
Some of the first readings I ever did were with writer Todd Dills, who was and is one of the most engaging people to see read from their work in front of their audience. (I still have fond memories of watching Todd shaking an upside-down mic stand at an event at an Atlanta coffee shop.) The guy’s a fantastic writer as well, and when his latest novel Shining Man was published in 2019 — it’s a followup to his earlier Sons of the Rapture, which I also highly recommend — I eagerly read it and sent him some questions on it. And then the pandemic happened and the interview was paused for a bit. And now it’s complete — and features Dills discussing everything from the literary influence of Ralph Ellison to the role NASCAR plays in his work.
The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
A couple of years ago, while on a trip to a city I’d wanted to visit in ages, I ended up with an extra night there due to a canceled flight. At least, I nominally had an extra night in town — but instead, I stayed in my hotel room because I’d just started reading Paul G. Tremblay‘s The Cabin at the End of the World — and there was no way I was going to put it down before I knew how it ended. Since then, I’ve sought out more of his work, impressed by both his command of dread and his ability to sustain narrative ambiguity across the space of a novel. Knock at the Cabin, an adaptation of the novel that first drew me to Tremblay’s work, is now in theaters, and provided the perfect backdrop to talk to him about his work, the movies, and the places they intersect.
Every writer writes each book a little differently from the one before it. When authors collaborate on a novel, that sense of reinvention increases exponentially. For collaborators Andrew Hook and Eugen Bacon, creating the new book Secondhand Daylight involved challenges large and small. The two writers discussed their process for working together on a very distinctive novel of time travel, and shared an excerpt from it as well.
Benjamin Niespodziany’s debut book of poems, No Farther Than the End of the Street, limits itself to scenes set within the space of a single block. It is equal parts domestic and dream, love letter and daily grief. In lieu of a traditional review, what follows is a “review” limiting itself to text contained in the book. It is meant to replicate the sensory experience of reading Niespodziany’s book for the first time. As such, it is not singular, but one snapshot among the many possible illustrations of the book’s emotional resonance.