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Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown,” which won the National Book Award for Fiction in November, is a satire about Hollywood’s treatment of Americans from Asia. It shows an actor named Willis Wu who plays a very small role on a TV show. On this week’s podcast, Yu, a television writer and writer himself, discusses the book and why he wrote it.
“The original thing that got me excited about telling the story this way was giving life to someone – inner workings, subjective consciousness – who usually doesn’t get that treatment,” says Yu. “Willis is an Asian-American and especially an Asian-American man. During my greatest life as a kid, I didn’t see much of this type of person on screen. And when you did, it was usually in one of those few forbidden roles, and they were often as props. They were a punch line or fulfilled a very specific role, such as “Here is your food”. So it was really exciting to write a character like this from the inside out. “
David S. Brown attended the podcast to discuss his new biography of Henry Adams, “The Last American Aristocrat”. Adams was the great-grandson of John Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, and the author of The Education of Henry Adams, a posthumously published treatise widely considered one of the greatest non-fiction books of the 20th century.
“His approach to thinking about change – not just in the US but around the world – was very attractive to me,” says Brown of his subject. “One of the things he talked about was the speed of historical time and the industrial process and how that industrial process gave us these wonderful things, but it also took some things away. We have lost our sense of spirituality and transferred it to a new form of spirituality embodied in what he called “the dynamo of industrial development”.
Also later this week, Alexandra Alter answers questions from listeners about the world of publishing. and Andrew LaVallee and John Williams talk about what they read. Pamela Paul is the host.