Novelist, short story writer, poet, and critic Lucy Ives’ new novel Life Is Everywhere has been heralded by some of our most formally inventive and playful writers today, from Jesse Ball to Alejandro Zambra to Percival Everett. No wonder as Life Is Everywhere, a book that contains other books, is hard to categorize. Some have called the structure like that of Matryoshka dolls but its inspiration comes directly from an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin called “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” an essay that reaches toward a different future for the novel. In Ives’ book we spend just as much time reading the things inside our protagonist’s bag as we do with the protagonist herself. At any moment what we are reading might seem like a #MeToo novel, a book of fictional history, a book of real history, a fantastical adventure of magical statuary, an autofiction, or a “systems novel,” one that looks at how individuals act and are acted upon within structures and institutions, whether a marriage or a university. As Percival Everett says “If Lucy Ives is as smart as her novel Life Is Everywhere, then I am in complete awe. . . . How many books in one and yet one book. This is great writing.” And Jesse Ball aptly adds about this erudite and sly invention, Ives “slays enemy and friend alike.”
For the bonus audio Lucy Ives contributes a reading of a five-part writing exercise called “Exercises for Writing from Memory.” This joins contributions from writers as varied as Ted Chiang, N.K. Jemisin, Dionne Brand, Arthur Sze, Max Porter, and more. To learn about how to subscribe to the bonus audio and the other many potential benefits of joining the Between the Covers community as a listener supporter head over to the show’s Patreon page.
Finally here is the Bookshop for today’s conversation.