The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 172 with Robert Lopez, Expert Craftsman of Understatement and Braided Narrative and Author of 2023’s Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere

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Episode 172 Notes and Links to Robert Lopez’s Work


    On Episode 172 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes  Robert Lopez, and the two discuss, among other things, growing up on Long Island, his renewed vigor for, and focus on, reading and writing in his early 20s, his inspirations in writers like Hemingway and Carver, John D’Agata, Eula Biss, ideas of erasure and assimilation that populate the book, his Puerto Rican heritage, his love of tennis as a sport and as metaphor, the idea of "dispatches" and how they inform his book, and his writing style of understatement and braided narrative.


   Robert Lopez is the author of three novels, Part of the World, Kamby Bolongo Mean River —named one of 25 important books of the decade by HTML Giant, All Back Full, and two story collections, Asunder and Good People. A new novel-in-stories, A Better Class Of People, was published by Dzanc Books in April, 2022. Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere, his first nonfiction book, was published by Two Dollar Radio on March 14 of this year. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has appeared in dozens of publications, including Bomb, The Threepenny Review, Vice Magazine, New England Review, The Sun, and the Norton Anthology of Sudden Fiction – Latino. He teaches at Stony Brook University and has previously taught at Columbia University, The New School, Pratt Institute, and Syracuse University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Buy Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere


Robert Lopez's Webpage


Sara Lippman Reviews Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere for Chicago Review of Books



At about 7:15, Robert describes the experience of having a book recently out in the world


At about 8:20, Robert discusses his adolescent reading habits 


At about 9:50, Robert gives background on how a TV production class senior year of college inspired him to become an ardent reader and writer


At about 11:20, Robert responds to Pete’s questions about Long Island and its cultural norms


At about 14:15, Pete asks Robert about writers and writing that inspired him to become a writer himself; Robert points out a few, especially Raymond Carver and Ernest Hemingway


At about 16:25, The two talk about their shared preference for Hemingway’s stories over his novels


At about 17:00, Pete shouts out Robert’s paean to Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”


At about 18:05, Robert speaks to the book’s background and seeds for the book in response to Pete’s questions about what it was like to write nonfiction/memoir


At about 21:20, Pete cites a blurb by Eula Biss that trumpets the book’s universality and specificity, leading Robert to define “Puerto Nowhere”


At about 23:20, Pete and Robert connects a quote from the book to Robert’s comment that the book is more in search of questions than answers/conclusions 


At about 26:05, Pete posits Sigrid Nunez’s work as an analogue to Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere


At about 27:15, Vivían Gornick, Maggie Nelson, Eula Biss, Ander Monson, John D’Agata are referenced as writers whose work is “in conversation” with Robert’s


At about 28:35, Pete asks about the structure/placing of the dispatches, and Robert describes how the book was put together with some sage advice from Eric Obenauf at Two Dollar Radio


At about 30:50, Pete aska bout Robert’s understanding of “dispatches” and what it was like to write in first-person/personally


At about 32:25, Pete references two important lines from the book-the book’s opening line and its connection to forgetting, and an important quote and its misquote from Milosz, which Robert breaks down


At about 36:00, Pete and Robert highlight and analyze key quotes from the book dealing with Spanish language loss and forced and subtle assimilation and connections to cultural erasure


At about 40:40, Robert discusses the parallel storyline from the book that deals with his grandfather, about whose journey to the States


At about 42:20, Pete wonders if Robert still has designs ongoing to Puerto Rico and doing family research after the pandemic 


At about 43:40, Tennis references in the book are highlighted, and Robert talks about how and why he made connections to important topics in the book, like police violence and racism and loss in the family


At about 51:35, Robert describes a good friend referenced in the book who is a great example 


At about 52:35, the two discuss second-generation Americans and forward and the realization that often there are many more creature comforts as the generations go in


At about 55:10, Pete compliments the book’s powerful understatement and a resonant image involving Robert’s grandfather eating

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  Please tune in for Episode 173 and 174, TWO episodes dropping on March 28, celebrating pub days for Rachel Heng and Allegra Hyde. 

   Rachel Heng is author of the novels The Great Reclamation-her new one-and Suicide Club, which has been translated into ten languages worldwide and won the Gladstone Library Writer-In-Residence Award. Her short fiction has been recognized by anthologies including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.

   Allegra Hyde is a recipient of three Pushcart Prizes and author of ELEUTHERIA, named a "Best Book of 2022" by The New Yorker. She’s also the author of the story collection, OF THIS NEW WORLD, which won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, and her second story collection, THE LAST CATASTROPHE, is her new one.

   The episodes air March 28.

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