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Elisa Gabbert, columnist for the book review on poetry, visits the podcast this week to discuss writing about poetry and her own forthcoming collection of poems, her fourth, “Normal Distance.”
“When I write what I would call nonfiction or an essay or just pure prose, I try to be really accurate,” says Gabbert. “I’m not lying, I’m really telling you what I think. There is a very minimal distance between my persona on the page and who I really am. And when I write poetry, that persona really weighs more. I definitely create more distance, and it really feels more like fiction or even more like theater I might say. I’m really more into creating a character that’s going to speak this monologue I’m writing.”
Ian Johnson visits the podcast to talk about his review of “Golden Age,” a novel by Wang Xiaobo recently translated by Yan Yan. Set against Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the novel made waves in China when it was originally published there in the 1990s.
“It was mostly controversial because of sex. There’s a lot of sex in the novel,” Johnson says. “The gender isn’t really described in graphic detail; this isn’t Henry Miller or anything like that. It’s more like they’re having sex to make a point: that they’re independent people and won’t be trampled on by the state. And it’s very humorous – he talks about sex with all sorts of euphemisms, like “making a great friendship,” stuff like that. It’s meant to be a kind of parody, a slightly absurd version of a romance.”
Also in this week’s episode, Elisabeth Egan and Dave Kim talk about what people are reading. John Williams is the landlord.
Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We Read”:
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