Between the end of the Trump presidency and the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the globe are reeling from what feel like overlapping ruptures in historical time. All the while, daily routines and rituals continue to give life some degree of predictable regularity. It can be disorienting to constantly shift focus between mundane and world-historical events.
How do novels help us see the present in a broader historical perspective? In the fourth episode of Season 2 of Public Books 101, novelist Heidi Julavits and scholar Leah Price join our host, Nicholas Dames, to consider how novels like Ling Ma’s Severance represent the strange era we are currently living through.
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View a transcript of the episode here.
- Heidi Julavits is a founding editor of The Believer and the author, most recently, of the New York Times Notable book The Folded Clock: A Diary (2015). With Sheila Heti and Leanne Shapton, she edited the best-selling Women in Clothes (2014). She is the author of four novels, among them The Vanishers (2012), a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the PEN New England Fiction Award. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University.
- Leah Price is Henry Rutgers Distinguished Professor of English at Rutgers University and the author of The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel (2000), How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (2012), and What We Talk About When We Talk About Books (2019). She writes on new and old media for the New York Times Book Review, London Review of Books, and Times Literary Supplement, and edits the Print/Screen section at Public Books.
- Nicholas Dames, this season’s host, is an editor in chief of Public Books and the Theodore Kahan Professor of Humanities in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. His most recent book is The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction (2007). He has written on contemporary fiction, novel reading, and the humanities for the Atlantic, n+1, the Nation, New Left Review, the New Yorker, and the New York Times Book Review.
Mentioned in this episode
- Books: Alexander Welsh’s The Hero of the Waverley Novels, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote
- Authors: Joan Didion, George Saunders, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Donald Barthelme
- Film: The Devil Wears Prada
- Nicholson Baker, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (2001)
- Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (2010), “because history is the ultimate dystopia”
- Raven Leilani, Luster (2020)
- Ed Park, Personal Days (2008)
- Amaranth Borsuk, The Book (2018)
- The Enduring Book: Print Culture in Postwar America, edited by David Paul Nord, Joan Shelley Rubin, and Michael Schudson (2009)
- George Gissing, New Grub Street (1891)
- Raven Leilani, Luster (2020)
- Sheila Liming, Office (2020)
- Nikil Saval, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace (2014)
- Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington (1988)
This episode was produced by Annie Galvin and is licensed under a Creative Commons-Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0).