Jake Bonner, the protagonist of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s “The Plot,” writes a novel based on someone else’s idea. The book becomes a big hit, but Jake has a hard time enjoying it because he’s worried about getting caught. On this week’s podcast, Korelitz says that Jake’s more general anxieties about his career as a writer are relatable, despite her own success (this is her seventh novel).
“Jake is all of us,” Korelitz says. “I used to regard other people’s literary careers with great curiosity. I used to have this little private parlor game: Would I want that person’s career? Would I want that person’s career? And those names have changed over the years as careers have faltered, disappeared. I’ve been publishing for a very long time, and my contemporaries in the 1990s were people with massive successes who have not been heard of now for 10, 15 years. So it’s very much a tortoise and hare kind of thing, in my own case.”
Elizabeth Hinton visits the podcast to discuss her new book, “America on Fire,” a history of racial protest and police violence that reframes the civil rights struggle between the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and the widespread demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Hinton writes about major uprisings, but also focuses on lesser-known examples of systemic violence against Black communities in places like York, Pa., and Cairo, Ill.
“Part of the reason why the violence in both of those cities was so extreme was the deep entanglement between white vigilante groups and white power groups and the police department and political and economic elites in both cities,” Hinton says. “So in many ways, what happened, in Cairo especially, is a warning to all of us about what the consequences are when officials decide to use the police to manage the material consequences of socioeconomic exclusion and poverty.”
Also on this week’s episode, Elizabeth Harris has news from the publishing world; Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary this year; and Gregory Cowles and John Williams talk about what they’ve been reading. Pamela Paul is the host.
Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:
“Dispatches” by Michael Herr
“The Emigrants” by W.G. Sebald
“Lenin” by Victor Sebestyen