Extreme Choices: An Interview with Scott Alexander Hess, author of Skyscraper

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Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 | 162 views

Scott Alexander Hess with Skyscraper

Scott Hess loves to tantalize a reader. His gorgeous prose soars off the page like the symbolic building in his latest novel, Skyscraper—a story of art, lust, and unexpected transformation. His previous novel, The Butcher’s Sons, was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015, and in all of his books, Hess pushes boundaries while also pushing readers to the edge of their wildest fantasies. I caught up with Hess to learn more about Skyscraper and his unrelenting passion.

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Amy Dupcak: Another new novel, congrats! Your last book, The Butcher’s Sons, was historical fiction set in 1930s Hell’s Kitchen, but Skyscraper takes place in present-day New York. How do you choose the time period and setting for your novels? And how else does Skyscraper differ from The Butcher’s Sons?

Scott Alexander Hess: The dynamics of the story guide me to the time period. With The Butcher’s Sons, I wanted to tell a tale of three brothers in a butcher shop in Hell’s Kitchen, and the grit and intensity of that neighborhood circa 1930 made sense to me. Also, the brothers’ conflicts, which include an interracial relationship and a gay affair, were really amped up due to the danger surrounding these types of relationships in the 1930s. Skyscraper is a sharp, modern book of obsession and boundary pushing sex. As I began writing that novel, it demanded a bristling modern city scene.

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My Appalachia: Coming Home in a Changing America

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Monday, December 5th, 2016 | 3,002 views

It’s April and I’m on the road jumping across the country promoting my debut book, a story collection about the residents of an economically-challenged small town in West Virginia. A large number of the stories in the book focus on the sometimes hidden and sometimes exposed lives of the gay men who live in the little town. It was an interesting concept for me—to juxtapose the lives of those stuck economically against the lives of those stunted emotionally. I modeled the setting on my hometown, a once prosperous place built with the big money of coal, timber, and railroad barons who built mansions that towered over the boomtown downtown. In the book, everyone’s clamoring—to stay, to leave, for a reprieve. In the book, and in real life, there’s this beautiful past to which everyone clings. It’s the past where the downtown streets were filled with the friendly faces of people with things to buy, where the future seemed bright and open.

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Trapped In History

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Monday, November 28th, 2016 | 277 views

Roberto Garcia

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped inside them.”
—James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village”

On a recent trip to the Canary Islands I was reminded that none of the languages I speak are native to me. The flight departed from JFK in New York City, would arrive at Madrid, Spain, and connect to a shorter flight that would ultimately land in Tenerife, Canary Islands. A few hours into the flight I asked the flight attendant for two whiskeys. I can never sleep on a plane and since this was a red-eye I figured a couple of drinks might help. I asked for the drinks in Spanish and his surprise was evident. His expression changed for an instant. Almost as if he questioned the reality of what was happening. A part of me can understand that, but another part of me can’t. Part of me thinks he should be used to Latinos by now. That his experience as a flight attendant dealing with countless passengers from across the Latino diaspora would have educated him on enough of our differences as to not be taken off guard by me. Then I got to thinking about language.

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Mila Jaroniec Launched Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover with Chloe Caldwell

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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 | 261 views

Mila Jaroniec reads PLASTIC VODKA BOTTLE SLEEPOVER at POwerhouse Books in Brooklyn

Mila Jaroniec was back in Brooklyn last week for the launch of her debut novel Plastic Vodka Bottle Sleepover. The novel employs a fractured story about an unnamed female narrator. Jaroniec spoke with Chloe Caldwell, author of the essay collection I’ll You in Person, at Powerhouse Books.

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Schrodinger’s Racists

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Monday, November 21st, 2016 | 1,368 views

The first time it happened, I was in the first grade. My family is Catholic, and on Sundays we attended mass. Afterwards, I went to my CCD class—religious education, for the non-Catholics—for an hour. In each class, we read a Bible passage and discussed its meaning and waited impatiently to run into the hall to get cookies afterwards.

One Sunday, I was the last child packing my bag at the end of class. My teacher sat at her desk. Apropos of nothing, she said, “My brother was killed in Vietnam.”

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Sonya Chung Discussed The Loved Ones With Camille Bromley

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Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 | 443 views

Sonya Chung discusses THE LOVED ONES with Camille Bromley of Harpers at BookCulture in Manhattan

Sonya Chung was at BookCulture in Manhattan to discuss her novel The Loved Ones with Harper’s magazine editor Camille Bromley. The Loved Ones is Chung’s second novel published through independent press Relegation Books.

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Brit Bennett Discusses The Mothers with Angela Flournoy

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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 | 374 views

Britt Bennett and Angela Flournoy discuss THE MOTHERS at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn

Britt Bennett discussed her debut novel, The Mothers, about a young girl dealing with recent suicide of her mother. She was joined at Greenlight Bookstore by Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House.

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David Szalay discusses All That Man Is

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 | 782 views

David Szalay reads from ALL THAT MAN IS at McNally Jackson Books

David Szalay was read from his novel All That Man Is, a narrative that spans the perspectives of nine men over the course of nine months. He discussed the novel with Fiona McCrae, publisher at Graywolf Press.

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