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Interviews with writers, journalists, filmmakers, and podcasters about how they do their work. Hosted by Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff.


Episode 297: Elif Batuman, author of "Japan's Rent-a-Family Industry" and "The Idiot"

Elif Batuman is a novelist and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest article is “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry.”

“I hear novelists say things sometimes like the character does something they don’t expect. It’s like talking to people who have done ayahuasca or belong to some cult. That’s how I felt about it until extremely recently. All of these people have drunk some kind of Kool Aid where they’re like, ‘I’m in this trippy zone where characters are doing things.’ And I would think to myself, if they were men—Wow, this person has devised this really ingenious way to avoid self-knowledge. If they were women, I would think—Wow, this woman has found an ingenious way to become complicit in her own bullying and silencing. It’s only kind of recently—and with a lot of therapy actually—that I’ve come to see that there is a mode of fiction that I can imagine participating in where, once I’ve freed myself of a certain amount of stuff I feel like I have to write about, which has gotten quite large by this point, it would be fun to make things up and play around.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Google Play, and Pitt Writers for sponsoring this week's episode.

  • @BananaKarenina
  • Batuman on Longform
  • Batuman's archive at The New Yorker
  • Batuman's archive at Harper's
  • Batuman's archive at London Review of Books
  • [1:00] “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry” (The New Yorker • Apr 2018)
  • [10:00] The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 2010)
  • [10:00] The Demons (Fyodor Dostoevsky • The Russian Messenger • 1812)
  • [11:00] The Idiot (Penguin Book • 2017)
  • [14:00] Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (Lennard Davis • Columbia University Press • 1983)
  • [20:00] The Exception (Christian Jungersen • Anchor • 2008)
  • [21:00] The End of the Story: A Novel (Lydia Davis • Picador • 2004)
  • [27:00] Culture and Imperialism (Edward Said • Vintage • 1994)
  • [28:00] Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (Soren Kierkegaard • Victor Eremita • 1843)
  • [29:00] 38:00] <a href=" rel="nofollow">Scrivener
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