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The Remains of the Day with Simon Jacobs

The Remains of the Day with Simon Jacobs

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 Simon Jacobs, whose latest novel String Follow is a haunting look at Midwest suburbia and the inherent isolation of being a teen. String Follow tracks a sprawling cast of characters and their growing fascination with the bizarre and occult. Narrated by the collective ‘we’ of a controlling force, the novel takes us into the inner minds of scared, lonely teenagers seeking guidance and belonging in a fraught, isolated world. The result is truly shocking, but in a larger sense, not as surprising as we think.

Jacobs deviates from his horror/thriller genre to highlight a favorite book from his Anglophile days, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This 1988 classic is the simple tale of Stevens, a longstanding English butler who ties his innate self-worth to his service and performance. Slowly, Stevens’s self-concept erodes as he takes a trip to the countryside and examines the course of his life, as well as the decisions and indecisions he’s made through the years. There are spoilers in this episode, so if you have not read the book, please skip minutes 36:45 through 42:30

Jacobs shares his insight on everything from writing the modern teen to interpreting this book in a capitalist system to further reading recommendations. It’s a lively episode and certainly worth a listen.

See Also

Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World) Your Favorite Book

Our guest this week is Saeed Jones, the acclaimed memoirist and poet, whose recent collection ALIVE AT THE END OF THE WORLD takes on both individual and collective grief in the midst of a nation in crisis. Spanning topics from the legacy of Black artists and entertainers to visions of the end of the world as a chaotic rave, Saeed brings every feeling to the forefront and never turns his back to the hard questions. Saeed chose a book stemming from his adolescence and one that continues to generate deeper meaning for him, Toni Morrison's SULA. This book, hardly two hundred pages in length, delves deep into what it means to be a Black girl, and to be both in and out of a community, and the complicated social dynamics it takes to perpetuate said community. The book is luminous at a prose level and never ceases to shock at every turn. There are some spoilers for this episode, but none that take away from the integrity of the novel. Together we chat about all things crafting a poetry collection, why the United States struggles with creating a grief culture, the triumphs and pitfalls of high school literary opinions, and so much more. Books discussed: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz, Magical Negro by Morgan Parker Buy Saeed's book: Follow the show on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
  1. Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World)
  2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (with Joe Meno, Author of Book of Extraordinary Tragedies)
  3. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (with Adam Levin, Author of Mount Chicago)
  4. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi (with Belinda Huijuan Tang, Author of A Map for the Missing)
  5. A Death in the Family by James Agee (with Jean Thompson, Author of The Poet's House)

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.

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