Interview with Craig Brown author of “Hello, Goodbye, Hello”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Craig Brown author ofHello, Goodbye, Hello.

From “one of the funniest writers in Britain—wise, clever, hilarious, and a national treasure” (Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary) comes this delightful book of “101 ingeniously linked encounters between the famous and the infamous” [The Observer (London) Best Books of the Year]. Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan; Tsar Nicholas II and Harry Houdini; Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe? They all happened. Craig Brown tells the stories of 101 such bizarre encounters in this witty, original exploration into truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.

“Captivating… . A glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation… . Mr. Brown constructs portraits that have all the immediacy of reportage, all the fanciful detail of fiction. He has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad.”  —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.” —Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”

Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989 and is a columnist for London’s Daily Mail. He has also written parodies for many publications, including the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times, and The Guardian. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, he lives in London.

Interview with Justin Torres author of “We The Animals”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Justin Torres,  author of We The Animals.

Three brothers tear their way through childhood – smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn – he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white – and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

We the Animals [is] the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world…An affecting story of love, loss and the irreversible trauma that a single event can bring to a family. ~The New York Times

A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt.~O, The Oprah Magazine

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Glimmer Train, and other publications. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Justin on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Vaddey Ratner author of “In The Shadow of the Banyan”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Vaddey Ratner, author of In The Shadow of the Banyan.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.

Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

“The humanity…shines through…in the author’s depiction of a pure, unbroken love between daughter and father and in Ms. Ratner’s portraits of the human will to survive.” ~ Howard French, The Wall Street Journal

“By countering the stark and abject reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of Cambodia and its people, Ratner has crafted and elegiac tribute to the Cambodia she knew and loved.” ~Booklist

Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped while many of her family members perished. In 1981, she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee not knowing English and, in 1990, went on to graduate as her high school class valedictorian. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. In recent years she traveled and lived in Cambodia and Southeast Asia, writing and researching, which culminated in her debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Vaddey Ratner on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.


Interview with Don Lee, author of “The Collective”

In 1988, Eric Cho, an aspiring writer, arrives at Macalester College. On his first day he meets a beautiful fledgling painter, Jessica Tsai, and another would-be novelist, the larger-than-life Joshua Yoon. Brilliant, bawdy, generous, and manipulative, Joshua alters the course of their lives, rallying them together when they face an adolescent act of racism. As adults in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three friends reunite as the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective together negotiating the demands of art, love, commerce, and idealism until another racially tinged controversy hits the headlines, this time with far greater consequences. Long after the 3AC has disbanded, Eric reflects on these events as he tries to make sense of Joshua ‘s recent suicide. With wit, humor, and compassion, The Collective explores the dream of becoming an artist, and questions whether the reality is worth the sacrifice.

“Heartbreaking, sexy, and frequently funny.”
—Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly

Don Lee is the author most recently of the novel The Collective. He is also the author of the novel Wrack and Ruin, which was a finalist for the Thurber Prize; the novel Country of Origin, which won an American Book Award, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and a Mixed Media Watch Image Award for Outstanding Fiction; and the story collection Yellow, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Members Choice Award from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. All of his books have been published by W. W. Norton.

He is a third-generation Korean American. The son of a career State Department officer, he spent the majority of his childhood in Tokyo and Seoul. In Tokyo, he attended ASIJ—the American School in Japan. He received his B.A. in English literature from UCLA and his M.F.A. in creative writing and literature from Emerson College. After graduating, he taught fiction writing workshops at Emerson for four years as an adjunct instructor, then began working full-time at Ploughshares. He was an occasional writer-in-residence in Emerson’s M.F.A. program and a visiting writer at other colleges and universities.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Don on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Peter Heller author of “The Dog Stars”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Peter Heller, author ofThe Dog Stars.

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life–something like his old life–exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return–not enough fuel to get him home–following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face–in the people he meets, and in himself–is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

“One of the most powerful reads in years.” — Playboy

“Gripping…Heller’s surprising and irresistible blend of suspense, romance, social insight, and humor creates a cunning form of cognitive dissonance neatly pegged by Hig as an “apocalyptic parody of Norman Rockwell”—a novel, that is, of spiky pleasure and signal resonance.” – Booklist

“Fresh … quiet, meditative … it’s the people [Hig] meets when he least expects to who change everything, proving a truth we know from our everyday nonfictional lives: Even when it seems like all the humans in the world are only out for themselves, there are always those few who prove you absolutely wrong—in the most surprising of ways.” – Oprah.com

Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, and a contributing editor at Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure. He is an award winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction.  He lives in Denver. Heller was born and raised in New York. He attended high school in Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he became an outdoorsman and whitewater kayaker. He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru.  At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received an MFA in fiction and poetry, he won a Michener fellowship for his epic poem “The Psalms of Malvine.”  He has worked as a dishwasher, construction worker, logger, offshore fisherman, kayak instructor, river guide, and world class pizza deliverer. Some of these stories can be found in Set Free in China, Sojourns on the Edge.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Peter on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Happy Labor Day – Rebroadcast of Interview with Adam Johnson

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am Sam will interview Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son.

An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.

Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.

Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best American Short Stories. His other works include Emporium, a short-story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us. He lives in San Francisco.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Alexis on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Interview with Charles Yu author of “Sorry Please Thank You Stories”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Charles Yu author of Sorry Please Thank You Stories.

The author of the widely praised debut novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe returns with a hilarious, heartbreaking, and utterly original collection of short stories.

A big-box store employee is confronted by a zombie during the graveyard shift, a problem that pales in comparison to his inability to ask a coworker out on a date … A fighter leads his band of virtual warriors, thieves, and wizards across a deadly computer-generated landscape … A company outsources grief for profit, their tagline: “Don’t feel like having a bad day? Let someone else have it for you.” Drawing from both pop culture and science, Charles Yu is a brilliant observer of contemporary society, filling his stories with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and piercing insight into the human condition. He has already garnered comparisons to such masters as Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, and in Sorry Please Thank You, we have resounding proof of a major new voice in American fiction.

Charles Yu is  is the author of the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short story collections Third Class Superhero and his latest Sorry Please Thank You.

How to Live Safely was ranked the year’s second best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award.

His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and literary journals, including Oxford American, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Mississippi Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review, and cited for special mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology XXVIII. He received the 2004 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award for his story, “Class Three Superhero.

If you miss an interview you can always catch it at Wellington Square Books or on the Avid Reader at iTunes.