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1Q1A Katherine Heiny Standard Deviation
July 19, 2017 12:18 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today we are happy to have as our guest Katherine Hein author of this her first novel Standard Deviation, published in May by Knopf.

We talked to Katherine last time about her short story collection Single, Carefree Mellow. Which was delightful, both the book and the conversation.

Katherine writes for the New Yorker and the Atlantic as well as well as other periodicals.

Standard Deviation. I have often wondered about what that really meant. What’s standard about deviation? And what is the standard off of which they calibrate this morbid abandonment by degrees.

I have yet to meet anyone who allows me to calibrate my wondering trek through life that took me out here and if I did I would probably be bored to tears.

But it is the title of this book. And what I think it means is that we have four people, Graham, Audra, Matthew and Elspeth. They’re all different and they’re all wonderful and unique in their own ways, not that they don’t have their problems. But it is their intereaction, that’s what it is, that allows us to see the standard deviation that they veer away from each other at tangent.

So I guess unless you have a relationship with someone who is different than you, unless you interact with those who don’t share your mindset your life view, your personality then you wouldn’t get to see and experience the wonderful thing that a standard deviation can actually be.

Matthew Klam Who Is Rich
July 19, 2017 12:13 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Matthew Klam whose new book and first novel Who is Rich was just released this month by Random House.

Matthew’s first book was Sam The Cat and Other Stories. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, GQ and the Times Magazine. He’s taught at Johns Hopkins, St Albans, American and Stockholm University. And numerous workshops!

Who is Rich?

I don’t know whether I can really answer that question but I am going to do my best to find out. Rich is a middle aged paunchy cartoonist whose annual trek to a writers and artist workshop sets the stage for all kinds of raucous, embarrassing and life changing scenes.
Rich’s art, his marriage, his affair his life are stuck in a rut, no more a downward spiral. The question is before the book runs its course is Rich going to be able to extricate himself from all of this, but then the reader eventually ask the question is that what this is all about. Does he really need to extricate himself? It gives one pause. And it is that pause that makes this book so unforgettable.

Do we like Rich, do we despise him. Do we sympathize with his plight or wonder how anyone could get himself in such a mess.

In any event it makes for a wonderful ride and we leave still reeling from a situation that that we’re glad we’re not in but happy to have been a part of.

1Q1A Matthew Klam Who Is Rich
July 19, 2017 12:10 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Matthew Klam whose new book and first novel Who is Rich was just released this month by Random House.

Matthew’s first book was Sam The Cat and Other Stories. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, GQ and the Times Magazine. He’s taught at Johns Hopkins, St Albans, American and Stockholm University. And numerous workshops!

Who is Rich?

I don’t know whether I can really answer that question but I am going to do my best to find out. Rich is a middle aged paunchy cartoonist whose annual trek to a writers and artist workshop sets the stage for all kinds of raucous, embarrassing and life changing scenes.
Rich’s art, his marriage, his affair his life are stuck in a rut, no more a downward spiral. The question is before the book runs its course is Rich going to be able to extricate himself from all of this, but then the reader eventually ask the question is that what this is all about. Does he really need to extricate himself? It gives one pause. And it is that pause that makes this book so unforgettable.

Do we like Rich, do we despise him. Do we sympathize with his plight or wonder how anyone could get himself in such a mess.

In any event it makes for a wonderful ride and we leave still reeling from a situation that that we’re glad we’re not in but happy to have been a part of.

Akhil Sharma A Life of Adventure and Delight
July 19, 2017 12:07 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid reader. Today our guest is Akhil Sharma, author of A Life Of Adventure and Delight, just released by Norton this month.

Akhil’s first novel An Obedient Father won the 2001 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His second, for which I interviewed him a couple of years ago, Family Life, won the 2015 Folio Prize and the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. He is an assistant professor in the creative writing MFA program at Rutgers.

A Life Of Adventure and Delight as David Sedaris says is a book filled with duality. We meet characters that burn us to the heart and those that make us want to laugh out loud. Some we take an immediate dislike to and others we wish we could emulate. But each projects a longing for something, a different way of life, love, or perhaps a life of adventure and delight. All goals we all can identify with.

What is different about this book is that we are encountering from across two oceans, characters that are like us yet whose history, religion and culture make us so different from them. And it is the differences that allow us to see more clearly, almost like gravitational lensing, the similarities that flow beneath the skin throughout all races and all cultures.

1Q1A Akhil Sharma Life of Adventure and Delight
July 19, 2017 12:05 PM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid reader. Today our guest is Akhil Sharma, author of A Life Of Adventure and Delight, just released by Norton this month.

Akhil’s first novel An Obedient Father won the 2001 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. His second, for which I interviewed him a couple of years ago, Family Life, won the 2015 Folio Prize and the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. He is an assistant professor in the creative writing MFA program at Rutgers.

A Life Of Adventure and Delight as David Sedaris says is a book filled with duality. We meet characters that burn us to the heart and those that make us want to laugh out loud. Some we take an immediate dislike to and others we wish we could emulate. But each projects a longing for something, a different way of life, love, or perhaps a life of adventure and delight. All goals we all can identify with.

What is different about this book is that we are encountering from across two oceans, characters that are like us yet whose history, religion and culture make us so different from them. And it is the differences that allow us to see more clearly, almost like gravitational lensing, the similarities that flow beneath the skin throughout all races and all cultures.

Sycamore Bryn Chancellor
June 12, 2017 10:35 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of the Avid Reader. Today our guest is Bryn Chancellor author of Sycamore, her debut novel published in May by Harper. Bryn’s short story collection is When Are You Coming Home? and her short fiction has also appeared in Gulf Coast, Blackbird, The Colorado Review and other magazines and reviews.

Sycamore is a novel with a piece missing. The funny thing is, that missing piece drives the force of the entire narrative. In a little town, a town some would rather not even be in, the memories, the ghost of an event that happened years before haunts many of the residents who had a relationship with the missing girl, Jess who is the absent star of this novel.

What’s interesting and thought provoking is how important closure is when something like this happens. People ripple and Jess’ history and her personality ripple through the town and through the lives and shaped personalities of the people with whom she came in contact in her short relationship with them.

Sycamore is scary and thought provoking and forces the reader to place himself in a hypothetical similar position. “What would I do?” resonates throughout the book.

1Q1A Sycamore Bryn Chancellor
June 12, 2017 10:33 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of the Avid Reader. Today our guest is Bryn Chancellor author of Sycamore, her debut novel published in May by Harper. Bryn’s short story collection is When Are You Coming Home? and her short fiction has also appeared in Gulf Coast, Blackbird, The Colorado Review and other magazines and reviews.

Sycamore is a novel with a piece missing. The funny thing is, that missing piece drives the force of the entire narrative. In a little town, a town some would rather not even be in, the memories, the ghost of an event that happened years before haunts many of the residents who had a relationship with the missing girl, Jess who is the absent star of this novel.

What’s interesting and thought provoking is how important closure is when something like this happens. People ripple and Jess’ history and her personality ripple through the town and through the lives and shaped personalities of the people with whom she came in contact in her short relationship with them.

Sycamore is scary and thought provoking and forces the reader to place himself in a hypothetical similar position. “What would I do?” resonates throughout the book.

1Q1A Exile Osama Bin Laden
May 31, 2017 06:54 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today our guest is Catherine Scott-Clark co-author with Adrian Levy of The Exiles: The Stunning Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda In Flight.

Catherine is an award winning investigative journalist who worked as a staff writer and foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times in London then joined The Guardian as senior correspondent. She and Adrian have published The Amber Room: The Fate of the World’s Greatest Lost Treasure and The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret of Imperial Green Jade.

For ten years Osama Bin Laden avoided capture by all of America’s combined might. Hunter killer squads, drones, Special Forces and all of our intelligence services.

The Exile fills in the gaps of the decade long lacuna. How. Through the voices of those who witnessed the events themselves. Bin Laden’s four wives, his many children, his deputies and military attaches, his religious gurus, the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI and lot of other well-documented sources.

Stunning? Why? Because the stories we were told, as is oft the case wasn’t exactly the case. The fact for example that the Bush White House knew the whereabouts of bin Laden’s family and Al Qaeda’s military and religious leaders, but simply refused the opportunity to capture them. Yes I find it hard to believe as well.

But the book is so copiously researched and convincing that your opinions of Osama, Bush, Seal Team Six and the entire Pakistan Military will be changed dramatically upon a careful reading of this thoroughly researched and well presented work of investigative reporting.

1Q1A Weike Wang Chemistry
May 31, 2017 06:51 AM PDT
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Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today we are pleased to have with us Weike Wang author of Chemistry, her first novel, published in May by Knopf.

Weike is a graduate of Harvard where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University and her fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and Redivider.

Chemistry is an academic novel of sorts. It’s a love story too and a life journey as well, but it is the academic side of it that I really like because it is really really funny.

I learned that a Chinese proverb dictates that a mastery of math, physics and chemistry leads to fearlessness anywhere in the world. I also learned that our unnamed narrator who tutors science students feels that they want the mastery of this knowledge delivered through a tube, uploaded by the tutor at their weekly sessions.

I learned that the triangle is the strongest of shapes. As Weike says, when you think geometry think triangles. What is so strange about this book and so enchanting is that that sentence is followed with a desire to design apartments that do not echo. A revocation of sound’s ability to echo in the first place. Strange. But cool.

Whether I am learning that there is a mineral 58 percent harder than diamonds. Lonsdaleite which can only be made by smashing meteorites together (kinda) or that there is something called an argon box that chemistry students use to do their experiments or when the experiments go wrong want to put their heads inside of, I was always learning.

The key to this book, is that each little factoid, aphorism or hint from Steven Hawking is also a hint at our narrator’s life situation. And it is a pretty gnarly one.

She has a great boyfriend, a pretty horrible academic career going on and a seeming inability to decide pretty much anything. She is also a bit of a drunk.

So the question is, as we learn and read, where is she going to end up. Which I can’t tell you and I don’t even know for sure where she does end up.

But the trip is lots of fun, and even though we feel for I’ll call her Samantha, we also are able to laugh out loud through the whole of this short but jam packed first novel.

Weike Wang Chemistry
May 31, 2017 06:49 AM PDT
itunes pic

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to another edition of The Avid Reader. Today we are pleased to have with us Weike Wang author of Chemistry, her first novel, published in May by Knopf.

Weike is a graduate of Harvard where she earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctorate in public health. She received her MFA from Boston University and her fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and Redivider.

Chemistry is an academic novel of sorts. It’s a love story too and a life journey as well, but it is the academic side of it that I really like because it is really really funny.

I learned that a Chinese proverb dictates that a mastery of math, physics and chemistry leads to fearlessness anywhere in the world. I also learned that our unnamed narrator who tutors science students feels that they want the mastery of this knowledge delivered through a tube, uploaded by the tutor at their weekly sessions.

I learned that the triangle is the strongest of shapes. As Weike says, when you think geometry think triangles. What is so strange about this book and so enchanting is that that sentence is followed with a desire to design apartments that do not echo. A revocation of sound’s ability to echo in the first place. Strange. But cool.

Whether I am learning that there is a mineral 58 percent harder than diamonds. Lonsdaleite which can only be made by smashing meteorites together (kinda) or that there is something called an argon box that chemistry students use to do their experiments or when the experiments go wrong want to put their heads inside of, I was always learning.

The key to this book, is that each little factoid, aphorism or hint from Steven Hawking is also a hint at our narrator’s life situation. And it is a pretty gnarly one.

She has a great boyfriend, a pretty horrible academic career going on and a seeming inability to decide pretty much anything. She is also a bit of a drunk.

So the question is, as we learn and read, where is she going to end up. Which I can’t tell you and I don’t even know for sure where she does end up.

But the trip is lots of fun, and even though we feel for I’ll call her Samantha, we also are able to laugh out loud through the whole of this short but jam packed first novel.

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