Tag Archives: interview


In Manchuria: A Q & A With Author Michael Meyer

By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

As I wrote back in December when we at the LARB China Blog were suggesting titles for holiday shopping lists, my 2015 recommendation for a must-read China book is In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, by Michael Meyer. A former Peace Corps volunteer and freelance journalist in China, Meyer now teaches English at the University of Pittsburgh (and is also, full disclosure, a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program I co-direct at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations). While Meyer’s first book examined life in Beijing’s narrow and twisty hutongs, or alleyways, as they faced demolition, In Manchuria moves north, to the vast expanses of China’s northeast. Using the village of Wasteland as his home base, Meyer criss-crosses the region, stopping in major cities and forgotten hamlets as he explores Manchuria’s history and reflects on the changes underway in the Chinese countryside today. I recently interviewed Meyer by email; if you’d like to see him discuss In Manchuria in person, check out his book tour dates here. Continue reading

larb blog dinah

The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Dinah Lenney

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. They’re an eclectic bunch, each with their own projects and day jobs. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, they rely on the donations of our readership, and we hope you’ll consider giving this month. This one is with Dinah Lenney, our Senior Creative Nonfiction Editor. 

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

So let’s see — it was over a year ago now. I was in the middle of writing a piece for LARB, working with Tom’s notes and having a blast with the revision — as I recall we were on the phone, fussing and tweaking, when he asked if I’d consider editing some nonfiction. I wasn’t sure at first, but Tom is very convincing, isn’t he? He made it sound like it would be fun — and so it is. Fun and fascinating and addictive in its way. And what do I do? Well, I assign and edit under the “creative nonfiction” umbrella — not the best term, I don’t suppose, but the one most people sort of understand, right? And I should say, too, there’s so much of it out there — memoir, long and short form essay, hybrid forms — just no way to cover it all — no way to know about it all. Continue reading

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JSTOR will be familiar to many readers as the repository of academic papers from which Aaron Swartz performed his fateful download at MIT. But many may not realize that JSTOR, a nonprofit, was already planning to make the public domain portion of its immense scholarly archive accessible to the public, as it has since done.

Furthering this project of making the informational wealth of the academy more accessible to the public, JSTOR recently launched JSTOR Daily, providing public access to the strange and fascinating world of the academy in a beautiful, eclectic and intelligent publication. It’s still in beta, but it is great. Recent articles include “Outbeat: America’s First LGBT Jazz Festival”, “Chess Grandmastery: Nature, Gender, and the Genius of Judit Polgár,” and “Is Marijuana Good for Public Health?”

Editor Catherine Halley speaks with us about JSTOR Daily in a fun, freewheeling conversation.


The LARB Intern Interview

Editor’s Note:  Each year, the Los Angeles Review of Books hosts a summer internship program that features the LARB Publishing Course: a weekly seminar series on how to edit, design and ultimately publish a magazine. As part of the Course, the interns take over LARB‘s tabloid print magazine and publish their own edition. It is a real world experience: the interns acquire content, edit and copyedit the articles, solicit art, and ultimately bring it to press. 

The internship program is over now that it’s November, but the LARB Intern Magazine is finished and has just been sent out to our members. I corresponded with three of the interns most involved with producing the magazine: Steven Williams, the Managing Editor, Cypress Mars, the Deputy Managing Editor, and Zach Mann, the Layout Editor and Copy Desk Chief.  Continue reading

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China’s Forgotten World War II: A Q&A with Rana Mitter

By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham

As my last China Blog column was on China’s forgotten World War I, I decided that an examination of the country’s involvement in World War II would make for a logical follow-up post. There’s no one better to discuss this topic than Oxford historian Rana Mitter, author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937–1945, newly out in paperback. In this sweeping but highly readable history, Mitter traces the story of China’s eight-year battle against the Japanese—a conflict that continues to resonate in Sino-Japanese relations today, yet which has been largely forgotten on the global stage. I sent a few questions to Mitter, who responded by email. Continue reading

larb blog the dog

Finding One’s Own Way Through the Woods: A Q & A with Short Story Writer Jack Livings

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

One of the best works of fiction I’ve read in recent months is The Dog: Stories by Jack Livings, who taught English in China in the 1990s and sets all of the short stories in his collection in that country. The book’s longest story, “Crystal Sarcophagus,” is set in the immediate wake of Mao’s death and follows the lives of people set the seemingly impossible task of producing, in record time, a glass coffin for the Chairman’s corpse that would be superior to those already occupied by deceased Communist leaders in Moscow and Hanoi.  Several other stories deal with politically charged issues as well, such as tensions between Han and Uighur residents of Beijing, but some focus on totally different things, such as a day and a night in the life of a friendless and not especially likable American exchange student. The Dog has been been getting enviable reviews, such as one by Michiko Kakutani that begins by calling it a “stunning debut” collection and later praises Livings for his ability to evoke the “predicaments” of varied kinds of individuals “with an emotional precision that is both unsparing and oddly forgiving.”  In interviewing Livings, I steered clear of “why set these stories in China when you’re an American who lives in the U.S.” sorts of questions, in part because he’d answered these well in earlier interviews for the China Real Time blog, for which Brittany Hite asked the questions, and for The Nervous Breakdown blog, where the person quizzing him was, well, Jack Livings. Continue reading

larb blog night heron

Tricks of Two Trades: A Q&A on Writing News Reports and Spy Novels with Night Heron Author Adam Brookes

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I’ve known Adam Brookes since 1999, when we met in Beijing where he was covering China for the BBC, and I’ve followed his career with interest ever since.  When I learned that Adam, whose latest reporting assignment has been the Pentagon, was trying his hand at a spy novel, I was intrigued. Then, after reading an advance copy of Night Heron, I was impressed. I found it a gripping read, well deserving of the strong reviews its been getting in varied periodicals.  (In his review of the book for this publication, Paul French aptly described the book  as a “genuine page turner” by an author who is “excellent at describing contemporary Beijing” and knows how to “grab us from the start” with clever plotting.) I recently caught up with Adam and asked him a series of questions about his shift from working in journalism to writing fiction, which he was good enough to answer via email in a thoughtful and detailed way: Continue reading

larb blog opium

The Opium War Comes to America (the Book, That is): A Q & A With Julia Lovell

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

This week’s China Blog interview is with Julia Lovell, a British specialist in Chinese studies who teaches in London, lives in Cambridge, and has made her mark in several distinctive arenas.  She’s a distinguished translator of fiction (e.g., Zhu Wen’s short stories); she writes lively reviews and short essays for leading newspapers and literary reviews (including this one); and she pens scholarly yet accessible books about China’s past.  I caught up with Julia by email this summer, after talking with her in Cambridge, to ask her some questions about her activities wearing the third of those hats.  More specifically, her book about the Opium War, which came out in other countries beginning in 2011 and which Isabel Hilton described as telling the tale of the events in question “lucidly and compellingly”, is due out next month in its first American edition.  Here below are her answers to my question about a book that was short listed for the Orwell Prize and won France’s Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in 2012. Continue reading

Marginalia Radio Interviews Randall Balmer on Jimmy Carter

This interview is from LARB Channel Marginalia, and is number 13 in their ongoing radio series. 

Art Remillard talks with Randall Balmer about his new book, Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter. Balmer is the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth College, and author of more than a dozen books, including Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America


A Tale of Two First Books: A Conversation with NPR’s Louisa Lim and The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos

In 2008, I wrote in the Guardian that there had recently been a “notable acceleration” in the frequency with which “illuminating books of reportage” on China had been appearing. It had become routine, I explained, after writers like Peter Hessler and Ian Johnson had come onto the scene, for two or three engagingly crafted books a year to come out that were by journalists who had spent considerable time in China and had sharp insights to share about the country’s recent past and current situation.  Still, the year of the Beijing Games was special, since it saw Factory GirlsThe Last Days of Old BeijingOut of Mao’s Shadow, and Smoke and Mirrors all published within a single twelve-month stretch.  I continue to admire that quartet of books, but the proximity of their publication dates no longer seems so striking.  Why? Because we are mid-way through a three-week period that, when it ends, will have seen the appearance of not just one but two major additions to the list of powerful books on China by talented journalists. I mean, of course, Evan Osnos’s Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (just out from FSG and garnering very strong reviews, such as this one in the Washington Post) and Louisa Lim’s The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited (which is officially published by Oxford on June 4, but is already available as an e-book, and getting positive assessments as well, such as this write-up in Kirkus Reviews).*

I caught up by email with Osnos and Lim — both of whom will be speaking in Southern California soon and both of whose books are reviewed, in the same article, in this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review — and they generously agreed to not only answer a question from me, but also to play interviewer as well as interviewee and ask each other one question apiece.  My query for each of them is simple: What is in your book that you are proud of having there, but that you had no idea you would deal with when you started writing or planning the project?

Here, in the order in which they will be coming out this way are their answers, with Evan Osnos (who’ll be doing two events at UC Irvine on May 27) weighing in first, and then Louisa Lim (who will be speaking at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica on June 12) going next.   After that will come Evan’s question to Louisa and her answer; and then, closing out the interview, Louisa’s question to Evan and his reply. Continue reading