A conversation on survival and style in American letters

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A conversation on survival and style in American letters

Recorded on April 1st, 2021

IN THE MARCH/APRIL/MAY 2021 ISSUE OF BOOKFORUM, Christian Lorentzen argues that careerism has become the dominant style in American fiction. Where once authors might have been radicals, shamans, recluses, or just plain cranks, today they spend as much time on public relations, jockeying for status, and literary good citizenship as they do on their work. Does this constant state of career management change the prose on the page? What comes after careerism?

Bookforum editor Michael Miller moderates a public conversation between Christian Lorentzen, Merve Emre, Jane Hu, and Karan Mahajan regarding professionalism, self-mythology, and how to make a living—and a life—as an author today.

Merve Emre is the author of Paraliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America, The Ferrante Letters, and The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Bookforum, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker. A professor at the University of Oxford, she is currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Jane Hu is a writer and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in Bookforum, the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Nation, The Ringer, and other publications.

Christian Lorentzen is a critic in Brooklyn. He’s a former editor at the London Review of Books, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Observer, and the New Leader.

Karan Mahajan grew up in New Delhi, India, and moved to the US for college. He is the author of the novels Family Planning and The Association of Small Bombs, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Awards. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and the New Republic.


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