Gary Shteyngart: ‘As a Queens boy, Trump was very impressive’

As a Russian immigrant to the US, the author grew up looking up to Gordon Gekko and Donald Trump – now, he hopes his satire about a hedge-fund manager stops people from becoming bankers

In June 2016, Gary Shteyngart got on a bus. It was a cross-country Greyhound of a kind romanticised by those who don’t have to use them, and that he would describe in Lake Success, his fourth novel, as emanating from a depot in central Manhattan that “smelled like someone had eaten a fish sandwich”. The 46-year-old’s notion was to travel for a few months through the country he had entered in 1979 with his parents, from the Soviet Union, and elements of which he was failing to recognise. “At that point,” he says, “Trump was already a candidate and I didn’t think he would win when I got on the bus.”

Like many New ...

Meg Wolitzer: ‘You go for what feels human, and it transcends a political moment’

After 12 novels and two film adaptations, is Meg Wolitzer about to become a household name? She talks the long game – and her timely new bestseller

The Female Persuasion is Meg Wolitzer’s 12th novel and it is deft and funny, with the kind of sweep that one has come to expect from the author of The Wife and The Interestings, two of her career-defining novels, each spanning decades of their heroines’ lives. In this case, the story is about a years-long relationship between a young woman and her mentor, a famous feminist. It is also a book that in the first instance might best be described via the things it is not: it is not a social history; it is not a response to #MeToo or Time’s Up. It is not, Wolitzer says with a laugh, even “a penetrating look at our moment”. “These issues around female ...

Sheila Heti: ‘There’s a sadness in not wanting the things that give others their life’s meaning’

Her deeply personal first novel divided critics, her new one explores the choice not to have children. Sheila Heti talks about self-belief and the joy of failure

When Sheila Heti’s novel, Motherhood, was published in the US, many of the reviews opened with personal experiences. The book, which describes a female writer in her late 30s (in many ways indistinguishable from Heti) reaching a decision not to have children, is a sometimes frenzied, sometimes laconic, often very funny meditation on the ambivalent state in which many women find themselves in their late 30s, and has been received in a way that rather grimly underscores the themes of the novel: that a great many women take other women’s decisions about motherhood as a direct rebuke to their own. If a review starts along the lines of “when I had my first child … ” you know Heti is in for ...

Lorrie Moore on political correctness, writing and why she’s not worried by Trump

As her new essay collection is published, the author and critic talks about her conservative upbringing and why she has 19 years left to write

Lorrie Moore enters a restaurant on a hot day in New York, glamorous in shades and limping slightly after twisting her ankle. It seems absurd that the short story writer and novelist is 61; there is a perennial springiness about Moore that in person, as on the page, comes across as youthful energy. She is in Manhattan for a few months while researching a novel, after which she will divide the rest of the year between an academic post in Nashville, Tennessee, and her home in Madison, Wisconsin. “I sometimes look out and just don’t know what city I’m in,” she says, her voice tremulous with her signature style, a sort of suppressed and sardonic amusement.

See What Can Be Done is a collection of ...

Hanya Yanagihara: influential magazine editor by day, best-selling author by night

It’s enough to make your head spin, but the New York Times journalist and novelist wouldn’t have it any other way. Emma Brockes meets her in New York

When Hanya Yanagihara was 10 years old, her father let her visit a pathologist’s lab. He was a doctor and an artist, twin interests his young daughter shared so that when the pathologist opened the cadaver, she whipped out a sketch pad and started to draw. “I was always interested in the disease, not the human,” she says of that early fascination with medicine, a forensic interest that foreshadowed the themes of her fiction and, 30 years later, found Yanagihara in an unusual life: writing acclaimed novels at night, with a day job as a senior editor at the New York Times. Fiction, says the 43-year-old, “is a completely other realm that’s untouchable and unknown”. Editing a magazine – in this case, ...

Colm Tóibín: ‘There’s a certain amount of glee at the sheer foolishness of Brexit’

The author talks about his Enniscorthy childhood, the inspiration behind Brooklyn – and why Boris Johnson is right about the Irish border

The last thing Colm Tóibín does every night in New York before turning in is read the Irish Times: “There’s really nothing I don’t know about what’s going on in Ireland,” he says. The 62-year-old is in his overstuffed office at Columbia University, and although he has been coming to the city for years, he has only recently started writing about it: “What the sunset looks like on the Hudson. In the winter, you get this really extraordinary red, and if there’s ice on the river, it looks like the American sublime.” But every night, in his head, he returns home to Ireland.

Home is one of Tóibín’s great themes. It’s an interest most explicitly explored in Brooklyn, his breakout novel of 2009, and to which ...

Punk poet Eileen Myles, on her dog memoir: ‘We were regarded as an unruly pair’

Lauded by Lena Dunham and the basis of a character in TV show Transparent, the poet discusses newfound fame, dogs and a ‘screwy memoir of queerness’

Afterglow is described on the jacket as a “dog memoir”, and by Eileen Myles as “a weirdo, Kafka-type book” that is also a “screwy memoir of queerness”. For those familiar with Myles’s work, these descriptions shouldn’t surprise; for the past 40 years, Myles has lived in accordance with the principle, expressed in the 1991 poem “Peanut Butter”: “I am absolutely in opposition / to all kinds of / goals”. The book, like the life, defies categories. What is surprising, perhaps, is that at 68 Myles has been taken up by the mainstream, featuring in a New York Times magazine shoot last year, lauded by Lena Dunham and Maggie Nelson, and providing the basis for a character in Transparent. The world of ...

Hilton Als: ‘I had this terrible need to confess, and I still do it. It’s a bid to be loved’

The critic and author of White Girls on the ‘endlessly fascinating and tiresome race subject’ and taking Rachel Weisz as his date to pick up his Pulitzer prize

Since winning his Pulitzer prize for criticism, Hilton Als has risen more visibly to the role of public intellectual, one that he plays particularly well: droll, genial, grand in the old-fashioned style, with occasional asides redolent of famous writers in less media-trained times. (“Derek,” he says casually of the late poet and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, a writer whose work he admires, “was a terrible person; awful man”). He is also, perhaps, instinctively at home in areas of apparent contradiction, the bon vivant who, as he puts it in White Girls, his most recent book of essays, believes in “half living life so I can get down to really living it by writing about it”.

In Als’s case, a life ...

Colson Whitehead: ‘To deal with this subject with the gravity it deserved was scary’

The author of The Underground Railroad on slavery, privilege and why he took 15 years to tackle the idea that won him a Pulitzer prizeColson Whitehead was six months into writing a novel about the digital economy when he was seized by the ghost of an old idea. The 47-year-old, who was a reviewer for the Village Voice in his 20s and had since published five novels and two non-fiction books, was in, as he puts it, the perennially gloomy mood that is his baseline when writing. “I usually have two or three ideas floating around,” he says. “When I have free time, the one I end up thinking most about is the one I end up pursuing.” Reluctantly, he put aside the nascent novel, on the basis that a satire about digital media was something “a 27-year-old hipster would be better equipped to deal with”, and turned to the other ...

Let me count the ways to hate Amazon’s new bookstore | Emma Brockes

It sells doggy bags and pushes books to the back, but at least there is a human sensibility at work in this New York outletAmazon’s first “bricks and mortar” bookstore in New York, which opened last week, poses an exciting question for journalists: how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. It pushes books to the back to foreground electronics. It transposes some of the features of digital Amazon to the material store in ways that don’t make a great deal of sense. And it doesn’t know anything about books. This last point has been made repeatedly by reviewers of the bookshop, and it’s true there is a whiff of WH Smith about the place. If this store was in mid-90s Britain, Ian Botham’s biography would take up a whole window. Continue reading...

I do not like that Dr Seuss | Emma Brockes

Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in The Hat are revered as American classics. I found them cheap and creepyIf I live in America until the end of my days, there will still be things I don’t understand. Saturday Night Live, for example. Unless you grew up watching it, it is almost impossible to find funny, except in very short bursts. Or the appeal of Hershey’s chocolate, which to non-Americans smells like vomit. And then there is Dr Seuss. The works of this “beloved children’s author”, as he is inevitably described, are considered unimpeachably brilliant in the US, all whimsy and fun, as magical as Lewis Carroll but with the free spirit of Tom Sawyer. Until last week, I had never read them, but I assumed, as everyone said, they were sheer delight. Continue reading...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot?’

The novelist has been accused of making equality mainstream: isn’t that the point? Plus an extract from her new book Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Lagos last summer, teaching a writing workshop as part of an annual schedule that sees her time divided between Nigeria and the US. For much of the year, Adichie lives in a town 30 minutes west of Baltimore, where her Nigerian-American husband works as a medic and the 39-year-old writes in the quiet of a suburban home. When Adichie is in Nigeria, where her parents and extended family still live, she has a house in the vast city she regards with the complicated love and condescension of the part-time expat. It’s an ambivalence with which many Nigerians regard her, too; last year, the workshop ended in a question-and-answer session, during which a young man rose to ask the famous novelist a question. “I used to ...

Gloria Steinem interview: ‘Activism is addictive’

She’s been at the forefront of the feminist movement since the 60s. What’s changed? Gloria Steinem talks about Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton – and the new threats to women’s rights

The pope is in town the morning I visit Gloria Steinem, staying a few blocks from her on the east side of Manhattan, a fact that tickles the 81-year-old activist. She is, needless to say, unimpressed by the pontiff’s liberal window-dressing. “I’m very glad that he cares about the environment,” she says drily. “And poverty. And dogs.” He has also relaxed the language around abortion, urging “forgiveness”, as opposed to damnation. Steinem, who is the nearest thing we have to a grande dame of feminism – a mantle she abhors – laughs. “Excuse me? Are you kidding me? Forgiveness?”

It is not easy to be an old hand in ...

Jackie Collins: my power lunch with the panther in a pantsuit

She gave a generation of schoolgirls a very Hollywood sex education. But there was so much more to her than big hair, sharp shoulderpads and poolside seductions

I don’t know what the boys were reading, but for girls in the 1980s, the two great sources of sex eduction were Jackie Collins and Judy Blume, one thoughtful, realistic, educational; the other thrillingly depraved. (I missed out on Jilly Cooper; I was still young enough to mistake the jodhpurs and riding crop on the cover of Riders as advertisements for pony club primness).

There was no mistaking Jackie Collins. Her books, emblazoned with gold embossed lettering, became pop icons in themselves, thumping great tomes in which the characters were called things like Sadie LaSalle or Lucky or Angel and were forever being kidnapped by paedophile rings or forced into prostitution. There was ...

Jonathan Franzen interview: ‘There is no way to make myself not male’

The American novelist has upset everyone from Oprah Winfrey to bird lovers to women writers. Is he sorry? Far from it: Franzen’s arguments with young people, social media and feminism fuel his latest book

Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, is partly set in Santa Cruz, a Californian town 70 miles south of San Francisco, where the novelist lives with his partner, Kathy. Their house is in the U-bend of a crescent, on the edge of a suburban housing estate, overlooking a wooded conservation area to the Pacific Ocean beyond. It is, for one of America’s foremost literary novelists, a modest property, overlooked on three sides by neighbours in a way that, say, Philip Roth’s grand pile in Connecticut is not. However, it affords good views from the deck (the novelist is an avid birdwatcher) and the low overheads that permit Franzen to let five years go by ...