“Proust tried to explain how we live in subjective time. Both our work is about the transformation of society, but he seems nostalgic about the time before. I’m not nostalgic for that period. I’m more interested in how societies reach their peak and then fall down.”
Charif Majdalani has been called the Lebanese Proust, thanks to his series of novels chronicling the modern history of his home country. He joins the show this week to celebrate the first American publication of his wonderful novel, Moving the Palace (New Vessel Press). We talk about the the dynamic of French and Arabic languages, Lebanon’s fixation on the eternal present and its sense of living under the volcano, his process of escaping his literary influences, why he needed to get away to France to gain perspective on home, and what he wants to do on his first trip to America. Give it a listen! And go buy Moving the Palace!
“Lebanon is living through repetitive history. Problems never find resolution, so we go from crisis to crisis.”
“The problem with New York is that everyone who comes here has an image or idea of New York that comes from the movies. We try to find it, but we have to adjust to the real New York.”
About our Guest
Charif Majdalani, born in Lebanon in 1960, is often likened to a Lebanese Proust. Majdalani lived in France from 1980 to 1993 and now teaches French literature at the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. The original French version of his novel Moving the Palace won the 2008 François Mauriac Prize from the Académie Française as well as the Prix Tropiques.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the home of New Vessel Press co-founder Michael Z. Wise on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Majdalani by me. It’s on my instagram. Photo of me & Charif by Michael Z. Wise.
“Photography has never been made coequal to the other arts. Yet, you might say it’s superior, because it’s more dangerous.”
Arthur Lubow‘s fantastic new book, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (Ecco), explores the life and death of a key figure in the history of photography-as-art. We talk about the evolution of photography from documentation to expression, the role Diane Arbus played in that transformation, her sensibility and intellect and how she expressed them both in her photography and her writing, Arbus’ collaborative method of portraiture, her fascination with and sympathy for “freaks”, why it’s counterproductive to look to Arbus’ photos for clues to her suicide, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer!
“What’s important is why and how she was able to produce these amazing photographs, not why she took her own life.”
We also talk about the perils of anhedonia, the missing pages of Arbus’ datebook, Arbus’ anxiety about commercial and critical success, the new sources that Arthur uncovered, who Arbus might have become had she not killed herself, the challenge of writing a biography about an artist, and whether Arbus “exploited” her subjects. It’s a fascinating conversation about a major artistic figure, so give it a listen!
“It was Arbus more than anyone else who helped instigate the change in the artistic status of photography.”
About our Guest
Arthur Lubow is a journalist who writes mainly about culture. He has been a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. About his previous biography, The Reporter Who Would Be King, on the turn-of-the-century war correspondent and novelist Richard Harding Davis, Naomi Bliven wrote in The New Yorker that “the biographer uses his documentation deftly and thoughtfully; we feel we know Davis intimately….Lubow’s work is impressive in every way, but his most impressive achievement is getting Davis’s charm on paper. Charm is always impalpable, and it’s highly perishable when the charmer has vanished. You don’t find Davis’s charm on every page of Davis, but you find it everywhere in Lubow.” The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library, Lubow is the winner of a James Beard Award and a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He lives in New York City and East Haddam, CT.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Arthur’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Lubow by me, portrait of him by Stephen Salmieri.
“I’m an enthusiast. I think that’s why I was a good editor. I fall in love with things and I get very enthusiastic and I boost them. Now I’m a Latin enthusiast.”
Why did former publisher and book editor Ann Patty start studying Latin at age 58? Find out in our conversation about her book, Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin (Viking). We talk about her deep dive into a dead language, the “Living Latinist” revival, her unceremonious exit from the NY publishing world, the terror of the blank page, the perils of groupthink, how her pursuit of Latin reconciled her to the memory of her mother, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Living with a Dead Language!
“This is going to sound grandiose, but I’m going to say it: I identified with Aeneas because I had to find a new homeland just like he did. My homeland was the publishing world and I was exiled.”
We also talk about where mainstream book publishing has gone wrong, what it was like to be the oldest student in the room by 40 years, how her experience as a publisher and editor helped and hurt her as a first-time author, how Abigail Thomas tricked her into writing a book, the benefits of inflection, her new career goal of Girl Latin Reporter, and more! Give it a listen! And become a patron of this podcast via Patreon or Paypal to get access to bonus conversation with Ann and a big ol’ list of all the books we talked about.
“Editors have been disempowered in favor of groupthink, and there’s nothing more horrible than groupthink. Any book I was ever successful with would not have been bought if it had been subject to groupthink. I include Life of Pi.”
About our Guest
Ann Patty worked in New York trade publishing for more than 30 years. She was the founder and publisher of The Poseidon Press and an executive editor at Crown Publishers and Harcourt. Her first discovery as an editor was V. C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. Other highlights of her career include the US hardcover debuts of: George R. R. Martin, Graham Swift, Mary Gaitskill, Patrick McGrath, Clive Barker, Frank Zappa, Michael Moore, Siri Hustvedt, and Kristin Hannah. She was the editor of Steven Millhauser’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, and Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi. In 2008 she became a freelance editor and began studying Latin, which she continues to do. She teaches Latin to teenagers at her local library in Red Hook, New York. Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin is her first memoir.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ann’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Ann by me.