On June 8th at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, Eugene Lim launched his novel Dear Cyborgs, about which the New Yorker raved, “[Lim’s] writing is confident and tranquil; he has a knack for making everyday life seem strange . . . There’s an intoxicating, whimsical energy on every page.” Eugene spoke with author (and FSG editor) Jeremy Davies about hopelessness, capitalism, Asian-American lit and more. Check out an edited version of their conversation below.
Jeremy Davies: So, as one bag of anxiety talks to another, the book is full of, as everyone’s heard, a lot of funny stuff, a lot of comic book-y stuff. But one of the things that stood out to me, especially on the second go through, was how well you delineate the anxieties that a lot of us are feeling at this point in time, and perhaps always should be feeling, at this juncture in our culture, politically, as well as in other ways. And the book doesn’t feel angry; it’s more like describing a cage that we’re in and can’t get out, and those are the bars, and that’s the situation. And there’s a line later in the book after a description of what sounds like a Jonas Mekas performance, where one of the characters says just apropos of the performance: “This is what true death would say: not ‘I’m coming for you,’ but ‘You always dwell within me.” So—instead of talking about fun comic book-y stuff, let’s talk about hopelessness and despair.
EL: Well, you know, it’s funny, I was surprised that I was writing a somewhat political book, but that particular line is—
JD: It’s more existential, I know, but it’s part and parcel with the character of the book, which is sort of a deadpan acceptance of hopelessness.
EL: Well, acceptance is tougher, but on the very first page of the book there’s this hidden quote from Gramsci, though I am not a well-read leftist, on the leftist theory, but Gramsci, who many of you know, had these prison notebooks, and he wrote this famous quote: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” I don’t think that’s his original quote, I actually think he was somebody who made that famous. But that idea of this duality where, you know, he wrote in prison, it wasn’t the best times, and he was a realist, so he was accepting of the despair and the hopelessness, and yet he recognized that he had to be hopeful. And so it’s that contradiction that we live with. A lot of times the left will say, “don’t admit to despair, don’t admit to hopelessness,” because there’s some kind of fear there that the troops will give up and not show up or something. But what I don’t see so often is just an admission of this really hopeless feeling that is in the air, has been in the air. So I think in politics or when you’re actually debating things, you may not be able to admit your despair. But I think in fiction it’s important to confront it; so that’s one accept of it.
Mike Roberts is the author of Cannibals in Love, a novel published by FSG Originals in September. Mike spoke with Will Chancellor, the author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, at BookCourt in Brooklyn about the sense of paranoia and youth that drives the post-9/11 novel. Conversation then ranged from the import of physical movement in fiction to the underappreciated pitfalls of allegorical novels about cattle.
Maryse Meijer is the author of Heartbreaker, out today from FSG Originals. In an inversion of the prototypical author interview, here she asks her twin sister, Danielle Meijer, about fantasy, escapism, and finding the perfect reader. Welcome to the Twinterview.
Clay Byars is the author of Will & I, out today from FSG Originals. Here he talks with Drew Broussard about twinship as collaboration, his reluctance to sugarcoat, and what it’s like to be irrevocably changed by an event.
The first book of The Tale of Shikanoko arrives on US shores today, and Emperor of the Eight Islands comes on waves of praise. During its Australian publication a few weeks ago, it was hailed in the mainstream press—The Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “It is easy to let the book sweep the reader away, to engage with strange events, but very compelling characters…there is huge imaginative vitality.”—and the, um, geek media, too—here’s The Geek of Oz: “Emperor of the Eight Islands is masterstroke for Lian Hearn…you’ll want the next book in front of you right now.”
For the record, we’re doing our very best to get the next book in front of you right now. The first book comes out today; the second, Autumn Princess, Dragon Child, will be out the first week of June; and the whole series—all four books—will be available by the end of September. (Yes, in true FSG Originals fashion, it’s not just the books themselves that are an adventure, it’s the publications, too.)
In the meantime, we have more waves or praise to share with you.
We’ve known that Eli Horowitz is some kind of storytelling genius for a while now—as Miranda July says, “Everyone who knows him thinks of him as their secret weapon”—but we’re glad the secret is finally out (we’ve been trying to tell people for years!) thanks to this terrific profile in Buzzfeed by Anne Helen Petersen.The piece perfectly captures much of what makes us so happy and proud to publish Eli. As Petersen writes, “It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true: He’s radically rethinking the boundaries of narrative and our expectations for the technology that surrounds us.”
Yes, we can confirm: True.
Over the course of the profile, Horowitz opens up to Petersen about his days at McSweeney’s, about the surprise benefits of his carpentry skills and the shortcomings of his homemade dumbwaiter, about the specialness of Sonoma County’s newest socialist restaurant, Russia House Number #1, and about his new book, The Pickle Index, which, she notes, “aims to effectively reconceptualize the book—in its digital and printed forms alike.”
The printed book! That’s where we come in!
We heartily recommend the whole piece to you, not least for the animated GIF of the aforementioned dumbwaiter.
In a world of short attention spans and instant updates it’s remarkable when you come across something on the internet that stays with you, sitting in your brain, waiting to be digested. But that’s the specialty of FSG Originals author Robin Sloan.
“The Counselor” is a piece of fiction he wrote for the “Intelligence & Autonomy” project, hosted by “the think/do tank” Data & Society. Initially intended exclusively for the participants of the “I&A” forum, who gathered to (hang on, it’s a mouthful) “identify the core set of challenges that consistently arise in deploying intelligent systems regardless of arena,” it has now been published by Vice’s Motherboard.
At least as we read it, the story does just what Data & Society was after: It grabs onto a fantasy, mixes it with a strong taste of reality, and lets your imagination do the rest. Hungry for more, we tracked Sloan down on the World Wide Web to ask him a few questions about the project…
On the eve of the release of the movie version of Spare Parts this Friday, the Diane Rehm Show brought together author Joshua Davis with three of the main characters from his book: Oscar Vazquez , the motivated jROTC cadet who became the de facto leader of their land-locked (in a desert!) high school’s underwater robotics team (played by Carlos PenaVega in the movie); Lorenzo Santillan, the auto shop underachiever whose ingenuity saved the day more than once as their jerry-rigged robot took on high-cost machines from team MIT and others (played by José Julián); and Fredi Lajvardi, the unorthodox high school science teacher who came up with the idea that what a group of undocumented, impoverished high school kids needed was to enter a NASA-sponsored robot-building competition (George Lopez, obviously). It’s a remarkable hour of radio. Give it a listen here.