National Book Award finalist Jenn Shapland’s polyphonic essays explore interconnectedness.
On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Jenn Shapland joins us to discuss Thin Skin: Essays (Pantheon, Aug. 15). “A distinguished essayist explores the permeability of human bodies—including her own—to the modern world and its vagaries,” Kirkus writes in a starred review of Thin Skin, the highly anticipated follow-up to Shapland’s first book, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.
Shapland’s critically acclaimed debut was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award and winner of a 2021 Lambda Literary Award. The New Mexico–based writer holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin and works as an archivist for a visual artist. Her essays have appeared in New England Review, the New York Times, Guernica, and Tin House.
Here’s a bit more from Kirkus’ starred review of Thin Skin: “In her second book, Shapland transforms ‘systemic sensitivity’ into a lens through which to consider human fragility as it manifests via bodily ailments, considerations of gender, and excess consumerism. Her first piece muses on physical and psychological vulnerability. In ‘Strangers on a Train,’ [she] considers gender vulnerability, discussing the meaning of moving through misogynist society as a (white) female.…[She] expands her exploration of gender in ‘The Meaning of Life,’ in which she examines childbearing in post-Roe America…. Breathtaking in their sharp synthesis of a variety of ideas and experiences, Shapland’s essays are a truth-telling balm for mind, body, and spirit. An eloquent and vibrantly lucid collection.”
Shapland and host Megan Labrise discuss their shared affinity for the word undergirded; how the essay collection grew from a number of disparate ideas that didn’t seem all that connected at first; whether Shapland saw herself as looking for answers to the questions that spurred her essays; the daunting task of acknowledging our interconnectedness to every living thing; where they’re coming from (physically speaking); Cartesian dualism; The Invisible Kingdom by Meghan O’Rourke; coping mechanisms; self-care; the potential limitations of professional identities; Michel de Montaigne; incorporating other voices into one’s essays; living a meaningful life; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
Actually Super by Adi Alsaid (Knopf)
Stickler Loves the World by Lane Smith (Random House Studio)
The English Experience by Julie Schumacher (Doubleday)
Also mentioned on this episode:
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Open Throat by Henry Hoke
Head-Long by Michael Frayn
Skios by Michael Frayn
Thanks to our sponsors:
Atom Bomb Baby by Brandon Gillespie
What's Next? Short Fiction in Time of Change by Sharyn Skeeter