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Interview with Tom Lutz, author of Born Slippy: A Novel

Tom Lutz
Tom Lutz, author of Born Slippy: a novel

About the author

Tom Lutz is a writer of books, articles, and screenplays, the founder of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is now Distinguished Professor at UC Riverside. His books include American Book Award winner Doing Nothing, New York Times notable books Crying and American Nervousness1903, the travel books And the Monkey Learned Nothing and Drinking Mare’s Milk on the Roof of the World, and coming on January 14, 2020, Born Slippy: A Novel.

He has written for television and film, and appeared in scores of national and international newspapers, magazines, academic journals, and edited collections. He is working with a Los Angeles-based production company on a television show set in the 1920s, is finishing a third collection of travel pieces, a book on the 1920s (The Modern Surface), and is in the early stages of a book on global conflict along the aridity line.


– Can you share a little of your current work with us? (short synopsis)

My novel, Born Slippy, arrives January 14. A nonfiction book on aimlessness is coming later in the year, the third book in my travel series (after Drinking Mare’s Milk and And the Monkey Learned Nothing) is almost finished, and the sequel to Born Slippy is just underway. I like to have at least two going at any time so if one feels wutchy I can move to another.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I discovered a disease, called neurasthenia, that everyone who was anyone at the dawn of the 20th century had (Edith Wharton, Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, Theodore Roosevelt, etc.). It went extinct by the middle of the century, replaced by other, more specific syndromes, like anxiety, depression, neurosis, and eventually by things like Epstein-Barr virus and others. I also was a new professor then, and needed to publish or perish, so that was an inspiration, too.

Do you have a specific writing style?

No, it changes as my subject and sense of audience changes. At least that’s the way it seems to me—other people may find something recognizable from genre to genre….

How did you come up with the title?

I actually called the novel Sugarfish, which is the password for an account that gets set up in the middle of the book. It’s the name of a restaurant here in LA, and one character looks up, sees it, and uses it as a password. I liked it because it had referenced a lot of the book’s sweetness and my antagonist’s fishiness; it also sounded vaguely sexual to me. My British editor hated it, and Born Slippy was his suggestion—he liked it because the song has a Liverpool connection (my antagonist is from Liverpool, and it became famous in part because it was on the soundtrack for Trainspotting and because the lyrics, such as they are, make sense for the book.

What book are you reading now?

I’ve just finished Olga Tokarczuk’s amazing Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans, and Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay.

Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?

Well, those three aren’t exactly new, although Tokarczuk is new to most people in America—it’s the fourth book for Lalami and for Cha. Also not exactly new, but I love Leslie Jamison and Rachel Cusk. Ayesha Attah’s Hundred Wells of Salaga is a novel of the slave trade from the African side. I love Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, a few years old already…. Miriam Gurba is a new talent to watch, and Fatima Mirza.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A cowboy. By the time I was 14 or so, a rock star. Then, around 16, a writer.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Making it better than it is. It always ends up being only just as good as it is, and I always end up wishing it was better.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Yes, I’ve been to somewhere between 130 and 140 countries (including places like French Guiana, which is technically part of France). I say, to the IRS, that all of it is for my writing, and eventually it all will be, or most of it.

-Who designed your covers?

They were done in house by each of my publishers I like them all. The most recent is by Johnny Bull for Repeater/PRH. I really like Monkey (Iowa), Crying (Norton), Mare’s Milk (O|R Books), Doing Nothing (FSG), and American Nervousness and Cosmopolitan Vistas (both Cornell).

Book Details

Title: Born Slippy: A Novel

  • Author’s name: Tom Lutz
  • Genre: noir, thriller
  • Publish date: January 14, 2020
  • Publisher: Repeater/Penguin Random House
  • Page count: 296

Get your copy today at Amazon by clicking the cover image

ABOUT THE BOOK (blurb on Amazon):

A provocative, globe-trotting, time-shifting novel about the seductions of — and resistance to — toxic masculinity.

“Frank knew as well as anyone how stories start and how they end. This fiery mess, or something like it, was bound to happen. He had been expecting it for years.”

Frank Baltimore is a bit of a loser, struggling by as a carpenter and handyman in rural New England when he gets his big break, building a mansion in the executive suburbs of Hartford. One of his workers is a charismatic eighteen-year-old kid from Liverpool, Dmitry, in the US in the summer before university. Dmitry is a charming sociopath, who develops a fascination with his autodidactic philosopher boss, perhaps thinking that, if he could figure out what made Frank tick, he could be less of a pig. Dmitry heads to Asia and makes a neo-imperialist fortune, with a trail of corpses in his wake. When Dmitry’s office building in Taipei explodes in an enormous fireball, Frank heads to Asia, falls in love with Dmitry’s wife, and things go from bad to worse.

Combining the best elements of literary thriller, noir and political satire, Born Slippy is a darkly comic and honest meditation on modern life under global capitalism.


Website: https://www.tomlutzwriter.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.lutz.3591

Twitter: @TomLutz22 https://twitter.com/tomlutz22

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/115042.Tom_Lutz

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1912248646/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/born-slippy-tom-lutz/1131255086