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Your Favorite Book: 1984 with Said Sayrafiezadeh

Your Favorite Book: 1984 with Said Sayrafiezadeh

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

This week’s guest is Said Sayrafiezadeh, author of new collection American Estrangement. These stories explore the insidiousness of boredom, apathy, frustration, and alienation while navigating day to day life in America. Some stories thrive in the mundane, such as a reception desk at an art museum. Others explore a nation just outside the realm of current reality, imagining borders between states as stifling as those between countries. All are detailed, incisive stories that do not span genres, but at times press at their delineations in new and intriguing ways.

Said cites George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, or 1984, as an all time favorite book, dating back to an initial reading experience as a young teen. But this book, read in classrooms all over the western world, has garnered polarizing opinions. Are the ideas of Big Brother, Newspeak, Doublethink, and Orwellian regimes just too saturated in popular culture? Or are there new and overlooked insights that can be gained from Nineteen Eighty-Four, years after its publication?

Said reflects on his upbringing in the Socialist Worker’s Party and how it influences his reading of the book. In his own work he discusses turning to fiction and how he discerns what to render as real or unreal. How can we convey boredom without being boring? How does a decades-old book continue to influence works to come? All these are discussed, and more, in this week’s episode of Your Favorite Book.

See Also

Short Story Book Club: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (with Anna Johnson) Your Favorite Book

In light of recent events, for the first week of airing, my guest and I will be donating a dollar to local abortion funds across several states for every listen this episode gets. You can feel free to spread the word or join me in the fundraising. If you'd like to match a portion of the listens, please reach out to me on instagram or twitter @yfbpodcast We're chatting about one of the most famous American short stories ever written, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Anna and I chat about how unfortunately timely this story feels, some wonderfully unexpected moments while reading this story, our grievances against long-held American traditions, and so much more. Everything is spoiled, so consider yourself warned! There are also some lighter reading recommendations at the very end, so stay tuned for those.
  1. Short Story Book Club: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (with Anna Johnson)
  2. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (with Kristina Forest, author of Zyla and Kai)
  3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (with Jesmeen Kaur Deo, Author of TJ Powar Has Something to Prove)
  4. The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh (with Joseph Han, author of Nuclear Family)
  5. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (with Grace Shim, Author of The Noh Family)

Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above, and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms.

*Note: Spoilers for the ending of Nineteen Eighty-Four are discussed from minutes 41 to 47 of the show

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