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A cross-genre discussion featuring best-selling authors Claire Messud (Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography in Essays) and Lydia Millet (A Children’s Bible, finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Fiction), in conversation with Alexander Chee (How to Write an Autobiographical Novel).
Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet’s new novel, A Children’s Bible—her first since the National Book Award long-listed Sweet Lamb of Heaven—follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside. A Children’s Bible is a prophetic, heartbreaking story of generational divide—and a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.
In her fiction, Claire Messud “has specialized in creating unusual female characters with ferocious, imaginative inner lives” (Ruth Franklin, New York Times Magazine). Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on Messud’s own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature. Together, these twenty-six intimate, brilliant, and funny essays show the inner workings of a dazzling literary mind. Crafting a vivid portrait of a life in celebration of the power of literature, Messud proves once again “an absolute master storyteller” (Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times).
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Lydia Millet has written twelve works of fiction including, most recently, A Children's Bible. She has won awards from PEN Center USA and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her books have been longlisted for the National Book Award, shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and named as New York Times Notable Books. Her story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She lives outside Tucson, Arizona.