Bookbanter Episode 26 with David Grann



In this new episode of Bookbanter, I had the chance to interview David Grann. Grann is a staff writer for the New Yorker and last year published his first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, about one of the world’s last explorers, Percy Fawcett, and his expeditions into the Amazon in search of a lost civilization. In the interview, you learn of David Grann’s history: how he became an article writer, how he ended up working for the New Yorker, and how he comes up with his incredible ideas for articles. Grann also talks about his new book due out in March 9th, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, collecting a number of his articles. We concluded the interview with discussion on whether Grann ever plans to return to the Amazon in light of some recent evidence of archaeological excavations that are being made there.

This episode also features my reviews for The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, Altar of Eden by James Rollins, and The Lost City of Z by David Grann:

This episode of BookBanter is brought to you by East Bay and Footlocker, leading world suppliers of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment, featuring top athletic brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Nike.  Go to East and use the code AFBOOK15 to receive 15% off your order, or the code AFBOOK20 to receive 20% off your order of $75 or more.  Or go to and use the code AFBOOKFL to receive 15% off your order.

For more updates and news, as wells as thoughts and comments about books and writing, be sure to check out the BookBanter Blog.

Please join me next time, in Episode 27 on March 1st, where I will hopefully be interviewing Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and his new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

See you next time,

Alex C. Telander.


“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books, 1999)

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This collection of nine short stories won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1999.  The author, Jhumpa Lahiri, is of Indian descent, born in London and currently lives in New York, so each story is a look into a different part of Indian culture or into Indian people and their way of life.  The first three stories were great and the title story was my favorite.  The man literally is an interpreter of maladies, who works at a hospital translating patients’ symptoms to the doctor and in this it is revealed he has a lot of power and obligation in telling the doctor exactly what the patient is suffering from so the correct diagnosis can be given.  After this story, I found the rest of book slow, kind of boring, and the stories just weren’t as engaging.

What started to annoy me as a I progressed through the book was that here you have a no doubt rich and well educated Indian woman who went to very good schools, lived in a good home in England, went to a good writing school for her MFA – probably in New York – and proceeded to publish her work in prestigious magazines like the New Yorker, and yet she is writing about Indian life and how hard it is for most people, especially those not as well off, and it just really got to me that she had succeeded in this way writing about a way of life she’d never experienced.

Now, having finished the book, my thoughts towards Lahiri have changed a little.  For with her upbringing she was never able to experience Indian culture as an Indian living in India.  This was no doubt a big deal to her, and is to Indian culture.  A friend at work, who is of Indian decent, but born here, told me the other day that Indians don’t consider him Indian because he was born here.  I realize now that this was probably the very thing that changed my mind about this book.  It helped me realize that in writing these stories, Lahiri is living the lives of these people, getting the experiences that she was never able to, and in doing so is helping her to define her Indian heritage better.

The result is a collection of interesting and unique stories – perhaps not quite deserving of the Pulitzer — about Indian people trying to live ordinary Indian lives.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on September 16th, 2006 ©Alex C. Telander.