MacArthur Fellow Ben Lerner discusses his third acclaimed novel, The Topeka School, winner of the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award and a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2020 Pulitzer Prize. The fiction writer and poet was interviewed at the Kansas City Public Library as the fall 2019 UMKC Cockefair Chair Writer-in-Residence. A previous program featured a long reading from the novel; in this half of the presentation, he discusses his craft and some of the rich thematic elements of The Topeka School, including his exploration of masculinity, voice, autofiction, and the decline of public speech. He also talks about the surprising number of renowned poets from his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, and reveals his thoughts on writing poetry vs. fiction. A 2007 interview and more from this 2019 program with Ben Lerner are also available in our audio archive.
(Photo by Catherine Barnett)