On Being Unmoored: Chang-rae Lee Charts Fiction with Anne Anlin Cheng

“If you’re going to write in a worthwhile way about something, you have to really understand why you care.”

We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with Novel Dialogue, a podcast where a novelist and a literary critic talk about novels from every angle: how we read them, write them, publish them, and remember them. We’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks, starting today.

Originally founded and hosted by Aarthi Vadde and John Plotz, Novel Dialogue is introducing some fresh new voices into the mix. This season, John and Aarthi welcome Chris Holmes, Emily Hyde, Tara Menon, and Sarah Wasserman as guest hosts. And they have brought a series of scintillating conversations with them!

In our series premiere, Sarah sits down with acclaimed novelist Chang-rae Lee and Anne Anlin Cheng, renowned scholar of American literature and visual culture at Princeton. The conversation goes small and goes big: from the shortest short story to the totalizing effects of capitalism.

Chang-rae is no stranger to such shifting scales: his novels sweep through large stretches of time and space, but their attention to detail and meticulous prose make for an intimate reading experience. Chang-rae’s latest novel, My Year Abroad, fuels a discussion of how we can form meaningful bonds in current conditions (hint: it’s often around a table), and of the specters of other, better worlds that haunt Chang-rae’s fictions. He discusses his relationship to his own work and the benefits of taking an “orbital view” on his writing. Chang-rae also offers a tantalizing glimpse into his current project, a semi-autobiographical novel about Korean-American immigrants in 1970s New York. In response to a brand-new signature question for the podcast this season, Chang-rae reveals the talent he wishes he could suddenly have… one that Anne already possesses!



Subscribe to Novel Dialogue on Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher to listen and to be notified when new episodes are released.


View a transcript of the episode here.


Mentioned in this Episode