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A Completely Unpretentious Literary Podcast

Episode 48 – Leslie Jamison, Plus The Most Notable Twitter Rant of 2014

December 10, 2014 by karenshimmin
photo credit: Colleen Kinder

photo credit: Colleen Kinder

Today’s guest, Leslie Jamison is the author of a novel, The Gin Closet, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Prize, and an essay collection, The Empathy Exams, which was a New York Times Best Seller. Her work has appeared in the Believer, Harper’s Magazine, Oxford American, A Public Space, and Tin House. She is also a New York Times Book Review “Bookends” columnist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is completing a doctorate at Yale University. Find her at or @lsjamison.

When Leslie Jamison was in Chicago, Willy was out of Chicago, so we called in our friend and fellow writer Nathalie Lagerfeld to pinch-interview.

Nathalie and Karen talked to Leslie about the symbiotic relationship between her creative and academic work, disagreeing with a previous version of herself, and defending the right to indulge.Empathy Exams

In Leslie’s words:

“I really believe in the process of writing and thinking and feeling as a process of calibration and, at least for me, extending really far in one direction and pushing that limit and then coming back to another state, a kind of corrective state. So I think in defending going deep into sweetness or happiness or sadness, I understand each of those extreme states as a chapter in an unfolding process, rather than a permanent, monolithic state of being.”

We also talked to Leslie about her multimedia longform piece 52 Blue, which you can read at The Atavist.

Plus, it’s December, which means that year-end best-of lists abound. It can be a difficult time for writers with books that came out during the year – feelings can be hurt, egos can be bruised. Most writers suffer in silence, but last week Ayelet Waldman took to Twitter to vent when her novel was not chosen for the New York Times Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2014 list. Waldman’s rant drew the ire of many readers and writers alike, but we try to see where she’s coming from. Is there any point to those year-end lists? How should writers handle criticism on the Internet?

Leslie was in Chicago for the Chicago Humanities Festival. Full video of her event – a conversation with Jac Jemc – is available on CHF’s YouTube channel.

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