The Shakespeare and Company Interview
👨❤️👨On Love, Grief and Male Friendship, with Michael Pedersen👨❤️👨
This week’s guest is Michael Pedersen, whose new book Boy Friends is a profoundly personal, searingly honest examination of grief, inspired by the death of Scott Hutchison, the author’s dearest friend, and artistic co-conspirator Although heartbreaking at moments, Boy Friends is by no means a depressing book. In fact it’s funny, and tender, and insightful, as well as an authentic and touching quest to give voice to the maelstrom of emotions such a devastating loss provokes. It’s also an examination of male friendship, and the difficulties many of us have expressing the love that underpins them, having been brought up in societies that minimise or mock such emotions.
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Michael Pedersen is a prize-winning Scottish poet and author. His second collection, Oyster, was published in 2017 and was illustrated by and performed as a live show with Scott Hutchison (of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit). Pedersen has been named one of Canongate’s Future 40; was a finalist for the 2018 Writer of the Year at the Herald Scottish Culture Awards; was awarded the 2014 John Mather Trust Rising Star of Literature Award; and won a 2015 Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship. Pedersen also co-founded Neu! Reekie!, a prize-winning arts collective that has produced cutting-edge shows around the world for over ten years.
Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. Buy a signed copy of his novel FEEDING TIME here: https://shakespeareandcompany.com/S/9781910296684/feeding-time
Listen to Alex Freiman’s Play It Gentle here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4gfkDcG32HYlXnBqI0xgQX?si=mf0Vw-kuRS-ai15aL9kLNA&dl_branch=1
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🥘On Eating through the Endtimes, with C Pam Zhang🥘45:09Set in a near future in which a mysterious smog has enveloped the world, devastating crops and biodiversity, the narrator of Land of Milk and Honeytakes a job as a chef at an isolated mountain colony, run by a wealthy entrepreneur and his daughter, a visionary scientist. However, what she first takes to be little more than a decadent end-times holiday camp for the perennially wealthy, she soon discovers is much more ambitious, and potentially much more sinister.Buy Land of Milk and Honey: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/land-of-milk-and-honey-3Born in Beijing, C Pam Zhang is mostly an artifact of the United States. She is the author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold, winner of the Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award and the Asian/Pacific Award for Literature, nominated for the Booker Prize, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year. Zhang’s writing appears in Best American Short Stories, The Cut, McSweeney’s Quarterly, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree.Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-englandListen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w
🐕On Life, Art and the Line Between the Two, with Jo Ann Beard🐕45:58Jo Ann Beard’s essays are surprising, insightful, thoughtful, and contains something new in each and every sentence. Recently published in the UK as The Collected Works of Jo Ann Beard they combine the stylistic flair and pace of fiction, with the ineffable weight of the factual, creating in the reader a rare and profound sense of empathy. 'Too good... You should read her and not look away' Anne Enright, Guardian'The stories are essays, the essays are stories. Even when they are not literally true, they contain the kind of truth that great fiction thrives on' The Times'Literature's best kept secret' IndependentBuy The Collected Works of Jo Ann Beard: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/the-collected-works-of-jo-ann-beardBuy Cheri: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/cheri-3Jo Ann Beard is the author the collections Festival Days and The Boys of My Youth, and the novel In Zanesville. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Essays, and others, and has received a Whiting Foundation Award, fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2022 Award in Literature. She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-englandListen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w
👁️Sandra Newman on Julia, her re-imagining of George Orwell’s 1984 👁️57:35If you thought life on Airstrip one was tough for Winston Smith, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Because in JULIA, Sandra Newman’s reimagining of Orwell’s nightmare, if men have it hard, you can bet women have it harder. Taking the roughly sketched character of Julia—Winston’s love interest and possible betrayer—Sandra Newman gives her a surname, a history, a life of her own. In short, she breathes a soul into her. And in doing so, not only does she allow readers to revisit 1984 with new eyes but creates a novel that stands tall in its own terrifying pair of jackboots.Buy Julia: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/julia-3SANDRA NEWMAN is the author of The Country of Ice Cream Star (Longlisted for the Women's Prize), The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done (shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award), Cake, The Heavens and The Men. She is a graduate of the University of East Anglia Creative Writing programme and lives in New York.Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-englandListen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w
⛵Bidding adieu to a literary journal, with John Freeman (Feat. readings from Sandra Cisneros, Aleksandar Hemon, Rebecca Makkai, and Mieko Kawakami read by translator Hitomi Yoshio)⛵01:08:13This episode Adam is joined by John Freeman to bid farewell to his game-changing literary journal Freeman’s. They discuss the pleasures and challenges faced in setting up and running a magazine John’s editorial philosophy, some of his favourite events, and why the final issue’s theme of “Conclusions” offers up more surprising avenues than readers might expect. The episode also features readings from Sandra Cisneros, Aleksandar Hemon, Rebecca Makkai, and Mieko Kawakami read by translator Hitomi YoshioBuy Freeman’s Conclusions: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/freemans-conclusionsFeaturing new work from Rebecca Makkai, Aleksandar Hemon, Louise Erdrich, Mieko Kawakami and more, the tenth and final instalment of the boundary-pushing literary journal Freeman's explores all the ways of coming to an end.John Freeman was the editor of Granta until 2013. His books include Dictionary of the Undoing, How to Read a Novelist, Tales of Two Americas, and Tales of Two Planets. His poetry includes the collections Maps, The Park, and Wind, Trees. In 2021, he edited the anthologies There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love with Tracy K. Smith, and The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story. An executive editor at Knopf, he also hosts the California Book Club, a monthly online discussion of a new classic in Golden State literature for Alta magazine. His work has appeared in the New Yorker and the Paris Review and has been translated into twenty-two languages.Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-englandListen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w
🛏️On Not Sleeping, with Marie Darrieussecq🛏️40:32This week, Adam was joined in the writer’s studio by Marie Darrieussecq, whose latest book Sleepless (translated by Penny Hueston and published by Fitzcarraldo) is one writer’s attempt to describe, understand, and perhaps overcome her insomnia. The passages in Sleepless that take us into the mind of the insomniac are somewhat like the experience of insomnia itself— at times fragmented and hynopgogic, at others dazzlingly alert and perceptive—while those that investigate the potential cures are captivating in their detail, description and weirdness. For those whose lives have never been blighted by insomnia, Sleepless will be a fascinating insight into this strangest and most psychologically traumatic of conditions, while those who have suffered it will find in these pages solidarity and solace.Buy Sleepless: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/sleepless-5Marie Darrieussecq was born in Bayonne in 1969 and is recognized as one of the leading voices of contemporary French literature. Her first novel, Pig Tales, was translated into thirty-five languages. She has written more than twenty books. Text has published Tom Is Dead, All the Way, Men, Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker, Our Life in the Forest, The Baby and Crossed Lines. In 2013 Marie Darrieussecq was awarded the Prix Médicis and the Prix des Prix for her novel Men. She has written art criticism and journalism for a number of publications, including Libération and Charlie Hebdo, and is also a translator from English and has practised as a psychoanalyst. She lives in Paris.Adam Biles is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company. His latest novel, Beasts of England, a sequel of sorts to Animal Farm, is available now. Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-englandListen to Alex Freiman’s latest EP, In The Beginning: https://open.spotify.com/album/5iZYPMCUnG7xiCtsFCBlVa?si=h5x3FK1URq6SwH9Kb_SO3w
🐖On Populism, Post-Truth, and Piggybacking George Orwell. Adam Biles in conversation with Rob Doyle.🐖01:07:40This week our host switches chairs to discuss his new novel, Beasts of England, a state-of-the-farmyard novel about back-stabbers, truth-twisters and corrupt charlatans.Buy a signed copy here: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/beasts-of-england*Manor Farm has reinvented itself as the South of England’s premium petting zoo. Now, instead of a working farm, humans and beasts alike areinvited (for a small fee) to come and stroke, fondle, and take rides on the farm’s inhabitants.But life is not a bed of roses for the animals, in spite of what their leaders may want them to believe. Elections are rigged, the community is beset by factions, and sacred mottos are being constantly updated. The Farm is descending into chaos. What’s more, a mysterious ‘illness’ has started ripping through the animals, killing them one by one…In Beasts of England, Adam Biles honours, updates and subverts George Orwell’s classic, all the while channelling the chaotic, fragmentary nature of populist politics in the Internet age into a savage farmyard satire.*Adam Biles is an English writer and translator based in Paris. He is Literary Director at Shakespeare and Company, from where he hosts their weekly podcast. In 2022, he conceived and presented Friends of Shakespeare and Company read Ulysses—an epic, polyphonic celebration of James Joyce’s masterwork. Feeding Time, his first novel, was published by Galley Beggar Press in 2016, and was chosen by The Guardian as a Fiction Pick for 2016 and was a book of the year for The Observer, The Irish Times, The Millions and 3:AM Magazine. It was published by Editions Grasset in France in 2018 to great critical acclaim. His second novel, Beasts of England, will be published in September 2023 by Galley Beggar Press, and in 2025 by Editions Grasset. It was selected as a "2023 highlight" by The Guardian. A collection of his conversations with writers, The Shakespeare and Company Book of Interviews, will be published by Canongate in October 2023.Rob Doyle was born in Dublin. His first novel, Here Are the Young Men, was chosen as a book of the year by the Sunday Times, Irish Times and Independent, and was among Hot Press magazine’s ‘20 Greatest Irish Novels 1916-2016’. Doyle has adapted it for film with director Eoin Macken. Doyle also has a published collection of short stories; This is the Ritual. Doyle is the editor of the anthology The Other Irish Tradition and In This Skull Hotel Where I Never Sleep. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Vice, TLS, Dublin Review, and many other publications, and he writes a weekly books column for the Irish Times. His newest book Threshold will be published in 2020. He teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.Listen to Alex Freiman’s Play It Gentle here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4gfkDcG32HYlXnBqI0xgQX?si=mf0Vw-kuRS-ai15aL9kLNA&dl_branch=1
💎Sunday Poetry: Emilie Moorhouse reads from Emerald Wounds, her new translation of the poems of Joyce Mansour💎15:23Buy Emerald Wounds: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/emerald-woundsJoyce Mansour was a Syrian Jewish exile from Egypt whose fierce, macabre, erotically charged works gave André Breton’s Surrealist group a much-needed jolt after the ravages of the Second World War. Among new adherents, only Mansour wrote poems commensurate with those of Robert Desnos, René Char, Benjamin Pêret, and other poets from the movement’s heyday.Emerald Wounds: Selected Poems by Joyce Mansour is a compact yet career-spanning, bilingual anthology of this incendiary poet. With a biographical introduction by translator Emilie Moorhouse, who was drawn to Mansour’s tough, take-no-prisoners stance during the societal reckoning of the #MeToo movement, Emerald Wounds showcases the entire arc of her trajectory as a poet, from the at-once gothic and minimalist fragments of her first collection in 1953, Screams, to the serpentine power of her final poems of the 1980s. Juxtaposing the original French poems with their English translations, Mansour’s voice surges forward uncensored and raw, communicating the frustrations, anger, and sadness of an intelligent, worldly woman who defies the constraints and oppression of a male-dominated society that sees women as superficial objects of desire rather than multidimensional, autonomous subjects. Mansour is a poet the world needs today.
🧠On Making Sense of a Murderer, with Mark O’Connell🧠57:08Mark O’Connell’s new book A Thread of Violence is the writer’s attempt to understand Malcolm MacArthur, the figure at the centre of one of Ireland’s most notorious crimes, and — to quote Taoiseach Charles Haughey — the “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented” events that led to the perpetrator’s eventual arrest in the home of the Irish Attorney General. It is a crime that has haunted O’Connell for decades and which leads him to meeting and getting to know the now elderly, long-freed MacArthur. As this unlikely acquaintance grows, however, O’Connell not only comes to question the possibility of ever coming to any conclusion about what actually drove this previously law-abiding local eccentric to murder two strangers in the summer of 1982, but also calls into doubt his own motivations for embarking on the project in the first place, and the risks he is taking in his own life to complete it.Buy A Thread of Violence: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/a-thread-of-violenceMark O'Connell is an award-winning Irish writer. His first book, To Be a Machine, won the 2018Wellcome Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize. In 2019, he became the firstever non-fiction writer to win the prestigious Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His second book,Notes From an Apocalypse was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize. He is a contributor to the NewYork Review of Books, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker.Listen to Alex Freiman’s Play It Gentle here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4gfkDcG32HYlXnBqI0xgQX?si=mf0Vw-kuRS-ai15aL9kLNA&dl_branch=1
🗞️On Power, Pamphlets, Parties and Possible Worlds, with Adam Thirlwell🗞️55:51Set, ostensibly, in revolutionary France, The Future Future follows Celine from young womanhood as she navigates the shifting landscape—which is being transformed as much by new media, new ways of doing business, and the discovery of new territories, as by the various political insurrections. It is a novel about how women survive in a world wrought by male violence, about language—how it shapes us and how we’re shaped by it—about friendship, about power, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the title: about time.Buy The Future Future: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/books/the-future-futureAdam Thirlwell was born in London in 1978. The author of three previous novels, his work has been translated into thirty languages. His essays appear in the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, and he is an advisory editor of the Paris Review. His awards include a Somerset Maugham Award and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2018 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has twice been selected by Granta as one of their Best of Young British Novelists.