In search of an alternative to rewatching the same Netflix series? From London to New York City, these extended readings and conversations with Zadie Smith, Édouard Louis, Ocean Vuong, Min Jin Lee, and Joy Harjo possess a nearly cinematic quality. Videos might never replicate the magic of those bygone crowded halls—where the writer’s voice somehow managed to dispel the discomfort of the folding chair, or of standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers at the door—but they can provide some semblance of community while we continue to shelter indoors.
Zadie Smith on Swing Time (Penguin Press, 2016)
“I wanted to write about dance, really, and dance’s relation to Black life,” Smith says. “That was the first thought.” She appears in conversation with Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Édouard Louis on The End of Eddy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)
“When I started to write The End of Eddy, I felt that I wanted to say something true, something real,” Louis says. He appears in conversation with Tash Aw at the London Review Bookshop.
Ocean Vuong on On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press, 2019)
“Having written poems for over ten years, I got really good at getting out of the poem. I got really successful at ducking out the side door when things got too hot,” Vuong says. “The novel was the perfect antidote because it forces you to tend to bodies, day after day.” He appears in conversation with Darin Strauss at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House in New York City.
Min Jin Lee on Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing, 2017)
“I don’t believe in writer’s block,” Lee says. “But I do believe that your time is limited which means that we have to make choices about who we see, what we do, and how we spend our time.” She appears in conversation with Ken Chen at the Tenement Museum in New York City.
“Poetry doesn’t just emerge, it emerges from the soul of a community, from a community’s history,” Harjo says. She delivers her inaugural reading as the twenty-third U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.