PODCAST

Episode 370: Alexandra Tanner

BY MEGAN LABRISE • April 30, 2024

A dark millennial comedy from a writer to watch: Alexandra Tanner’s ‘Worry.’

On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Alexandra Tanner discusses Worry (Scribner, March 26), a stunning novel starring two sisters who spend an unhinged year (2019) living together in a tiny Brooklyn apartment. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it a “dark millennial comedy starring testy, needy Floridian Jewish sisters who move in together in New York City and drive each other nuts.”

Tanner is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who earned an MFA at the New School. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Granta, the New York Times Book Review, DIRT, LARB, The Baffler, The End, and Jewish Currents. Worry is her first novel.

Here’s a bit more from our starred review: “This is the kind of book you will constantly be reading out loud to others, so forgive the abundance of quotes in the following. ‘My sister Poppy arrives on a wet Thursday, dressed ugly and covered in hives.’ Announcing itself with this sardonic opening line, Tanner’s debut is narrated by older sister Jules Gold, 28, who will have you laughing/horrified by page 2, where she explains that ‘to save fifty bucks on airfare, Poppy flew from the Palm Beach airport not to JFK or LaGuardia or even Newark but to MacArthur, on Frontier, then rode a shuttle from the airport to Ronkonkoma to catch the LIRR, then took a two-hour train that ended up taking three hours because someone jumped onto the tracks and died as it was pulling into Jamaica.’ On the edge of a breakup with a new boyfriend, Jules passive-aggressively both invites and discourages her sister, who not long ago attempted suicide, from staying on. Continually. For months.…Poor, miserable, hive-covered shoplifter Poppy expands their codependent household by adopting a three-legged rescue dog named Amy Klobuchar.… This hilarious, unremittingly jaundiced depiction of modern young adulthood hits rare extremes of both funny and sad.”

Tanner and I talk about the pre-publication jitters. She describes the painting that adorns the cover (“Sumertime” by Shannon Cartier Lucy) and calls the story within “a 300-page anxiety spiral [that] I hope people are going to find cathartic—at least a little bit.” We consider what it means to be a sister and to have a sibling; how different versions of our selves might exist in parallel universes; how to depict feeling overwhelmed in fiction; whether Worry might be the great American novel; and dark humor. We have a little fun discussing what reviewers talk about when they talk about books, including the phrase “four generations of women.” Returning to the subject of book covers, we consider whether we made too much fun of book designers circa 2021/2022, when they were hot and heavy with those “color blob” covers; and wonder if that’s why everyone has fine art covers now. Finally, we consider Tanner’s characters’ many forms of emotional expression and explore an archaic definition of the word worry.

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

 

EDITORS’ PICKS:

Made in Asian America: A History for Young People by Erika Lee & Christina Soontornvat (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins)

Muse of Fire: World War I as Seen Through the Lives of the Soldier Poets by Michael Korda (Liveright/Norton)

Clear by Carys Davies (Scribner)

 

ALSO MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE:

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang

 

THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

Hollis and Gray by J.P. Zeigler

The Sands Shall Witness by Walter Hurst Williamson

Soul Flowers by Cynthia Schumacher

 

 

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

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