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Episode 285: Ling Ma

BY MEGAN LABRISE • September 13, 2022

Kirkus Prize winner Ling Ma returns with a ‘haunting and artful’ story collection.

On this week’s episode, Ling Ma joins us to discuss her story collection, Bliss Montage (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 13). Ma, a Chicago-based writer hailing from Fujian, China; Utah; and Kansas; specializes in mastering and mashing up genres, as she did in her 2018 Kirkus Prize–winning coming-of-age novel, Severance, an apocalyptic satire. In the delightfully varied stories in Bliss Montage, she once again incorporates “elements of the fantastic but grounds them in a reality that is more recognizably our own.”

Here’s a bit from Kirkus’ starred review of Bliss Montage that introduces the collection’s opener and longest story, respectively: “The narrator of ‘Los Angeles’ lives with her husband, their children, and the children’s au pairs in the east and west wings of their home. Her hundred ex-boyfriends live in the ‘largest but ugliest wing.’ While the narrator takes these past lovers on outings to Moon Juice and LACMA, the husband works at an investment firm. The husband’s dialogue is rendered in dollar signs. This piece feels uncanny in the Freudian sense—as if it is peopled not by actual humans but by ghosts or automata.…The ideas of home and belonging recur throughout the collection. In ‘Returning,’ the narrator meets the man who will become her husband when they are both on a panel for immigrant authors. A trip to his native country to participate in a festival—a trip that is an attempt to salvage their marriage—ends in a macabre, desperate rite. Ma also writes about motherhood and academic life and abusive relationships. These are rich themes, and the author explores them with the logic of dreams.”

Ma and host Megan Labrise discuss the surreal experience of receiving the Kirkus Prize in 2018; the fact that Severance started out as a short story; opening story “Los Angles”; themes of conformity and iconoclasm; fearlessness in writing; the story “Returning”; why she loves writing in first person; and much more.

Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.

 

EditorsPicks:

Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends)

The Circles in the Sky by Karl James Mountford (Candlewick Studio)

Victory Is Assured: Uncollected Writings of Stanley Crouch by Stanley Crouch, edited by Glenn Mott (Liveright/Norton)

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

 

Also mentioned on this episode:

Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong by Georgina Lawton (Perennial/HarperCollins)

 

Thanks to our advertisers:

Toofer & the Giblet by Paulette LeBlanc

Still, the Sky and The Sandpiper’s Spell by Tom Pearson

The T Room by Victoria Lilienthal

Robert Morris: Inside the Revolution by Robert M. Morris

The Newlyweds’ Window by Mukana Press

 

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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