GC: There are several different storylines running throughout the book, some even on different timelines, yet you weave them in and out through each other. Did they evolve at the same time as you were crafting the story, and how did you decide on their intersection points?
NP: This is the formal experiment of the novel—to present the historical past, the recent past, and the present all in the present tense. This written form is the analog to the city’s mounting layers, which collect and store all of it.... Yet because the time fields shift naturally (at least I hope) they come to form a dreamscape to mirror the cityscape and Nicholas’s inner life.
GC: On one level this is a story about avoiding truths as much as digging them up (or realizing them). Why does avoiding something in front of your face seem to also trigger another discovery? Is it nature that eventually brings a person around full circle?
NP: Oh yes, repression never really works does it? You can’t really erase or avoid or ignore. Whatever’s lurking there will find a way to make itself known—because you need it to. Nicholas needs to deal with his own personal memory, his own sense of shame. But I don’t believe in the full circle. Who knows where it will take him? Maybe not full circle.
GC: Anarchy plays a significant role in this book. How did you come upon the story of the anarchist Moskowitz (I’m assuming he’s real) and why did you choose to build a story around him and that movement?
NP: I came upon the story of the anarchist Moskowitz in the same place Nicholas does—the history book by Harry Boonin.... This led to a significant thematic exploration of the book, between anarchists who in popular imagination tear down and architects who in popular imagination build up. In the world of this book if not in real life, though, anarchists espouse a philosophy of building organic community without state interference—almost in exact opposition to conventional wisdom—and architects all too often are the ones, out of ego or desires of the marketplace, to tear down.
In a new interview at Cleaver Magazine, Grant Clauser talks with Nathaniel Popkin about the many explorations of theme and form in Everything Is Borrowed. Some excerpts:
In his latest podcast, Norman B. gets right to the sensational part of Miriam Seidel's novel The Speed of Clouds. In his lead he mentions "intimate relations with a cyborg."
Well, yes, that's in the book, but it's actually not the most fun part of the novel. Play Norman's Life Elsewhere podcast and see what you think. It's show #287, 8/26/18, with multiple options for listening.
Before dealing with cyborgs, Norman interviews Craig Unger, author of House of Trump, House of Putin, about a certain individual's ties to the Russian mafia. After that, you'll definitely be ready for romance with an alien.
While Nathaniel Popkin is on tour, speaking for America along with other contributors to the anthology Who Will Speak for America? (Temple University Press), reviews continue to come in for his novel Everything Is Borrowed. Here's an excerpt from the most recent:
Popkin’s eye for detail leads to many resonant vignettes of Philly in the summer, like the bus driver who wears a rolled-up white towel on the back of his neck, or the parking-lot attendant’s shack with its “cheap desk fan” that “rocks back and forth, letting out a tiny wail each time it turns.” The author’s sense of sound is acute. In the library, he writes, “my chair against the polished floor lets out a trumpet note, slashing the silence of the reading room.”