Eula Biss considers the trappings of American affluence in a new essay collection.
On this week’s episode, sponsored in part by Amazon Crossing, poet and essayist Eula Biss discusses Having and Being Had (Riverhead, Sept. 1), an exquisite essay collection that interrogates her comfort—and discomfort—as a White upper-middle-class artist, teacher, wife, mother, and homeowner in Evanston, Illinois.
Kirkus: “‘My adult life, I decide, can be divided into two distinct parts—the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after,’ writes Biss. She means it: Acquiring a home and its attendant creature comforts has radically changed her relationships to money, labor, and domesticity. In the same way her previous books explored the hidden social contracts around racism (Notes From No Man’s Land) and vaccination (On Immunity), her latest interrogates capitalism’s relationship to upper-middle-class living, particularly hers. Most of the brief, potent essays consider particular objects and actions and the questions they spark about value” (starred review).
In a wide-ranging conversation, Biss and host Megan Labrise discuss the NBA strike, belonging to an artistic community, the idea that “we are one another’s economy,” the divergent fortunes of Biss and her next-door neighbor (who lived in an identical house), why we credit hard work for our success, and what it means to be a moral agent in the face of increasing inequality.
Then editors Eric Liebetrau, Laurie Muchnick, and editor-in-chief Tom Beer share their reading recommendations for the week.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Milkweed)
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia Univ. Press)
Also mentioned in this episode:
Poet and essayist Ross Gay
Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan Novels”
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.