Episode 2: You Always Remember the First Time with Sloane Crosley, Keith Gessen, Julie Klam and Ceridwen Dovey

About this episode

Four first-time authors -- two novelists and two memoirists -- talk about their maiden voyages and the decision to write fact or fiction.

Featured books by authors in this episode

I Was Told There'd Be Cake
Sloane Crosley
» Buy
Please Excuse My Daughter
Julie Klam
» Buy
All the Sad Young Literary Men
Keith Gessen
» Buy
Blood Kin
Ceridwen Dovey
» Buy

Comments on this episode

Odile's picture

Neale, If you watch Episode

If you watch Episode 3, you will be rewarded!

Neale's picture

A center table is badly

A center table is badly required. The people look like they are sitting around waiting for drinks to be served. The setting needs a center of gravity.

Odile's picture

For more in-depth

For more in-depth conversations, register and join the discussions area of the site....;-)

Pale Ramón's picture

I don't like the gift giving

I don't like the gift giving at the end of each episode. I don't know if it's the hucksterism aspect or what, but I think it sounds an off note, especially since so much of the conversation has been stimulating. To switch gears like that all of a sudden just leaves me feeling duped.

I'll stay tuned.

Dan Menaker's picture

Thanks to everyone who has

Thanks to everyone who has watched these programs, thanks very much to all who have had some kind words to say (even about hairstyles), and thanks to everyone who has made suggestions for improving Titlepage. We take such suggestions very seriously; we realize that there's always room for improvement, especially in a venture as new--and we hope as innovative--as this one is. Our chief goal--to sustain and enhance and enlarge conversations about good books--remains constant. That's what lies behind our exhortation to "keep reading." Stick with us, dear readers, and we think you'll be glad you did.

--Dan Menaker

Anonymous's picture

This should be known as the

This should be known as the hair episode, even Menaker's hairline is remarkable. In fact the general grooming on this panel is excellent. However, when Dovey began to speak my irritation at the supreficiality and solipsism of these writers, and thus Menaker for hosting them, disappeared. She had a depth that sent a chill through the rest of the bright young things. Their discomfort with her seriousness seemed palpable as she spoke.

I think Menaker is terrific, but I would enjoy more general discussion: Nothing is more tedious than a long plot synopsis. The stringing together of events does not make literature. I would be interested in knowing something of each writer's life and how they became writers. I want to know about their personal connection to the page. Who he or she admires. What books servered as models or inspiration. Ask questions meant to make them squirm. Go deep, baby! I already anticipate the next episode.

Thank you.

Kevin Longrie's picture

Another great episode.

Another great episode. Unfortunately, due to the two finals I had yesterday, I couldn't watch it until tonight. I'm really excited to pick up some of these books.

Also, and I believe it may be because this one was filmed first, but please keep the episodes at an hour (or longer). We can take it. I was sad to see this one was only 45 minutes. I realize this has something to do with how long the writers themselves explain things, but yeah, the more the better.

Looking forward to the next episode.

knapper's picture

Nessa: Charlie Rose does


Charlie Rose does what he does incredibly well, but I disagree that it is "better," or that Titlepage has too many writers. Quite the contrary

In both episodes we have seen hints of what this show could be like when all four authors start talking with each other: That has been the consistent suggestion for improvement among supporters, and I think the reason is that we all sense how fantastic it will be when Dan gets that dynamic going.

Note: I am NOT talking about "Crossfire" bullshit, which some misguided bloggers have encouraged. I am talking about exactly what this site says it is about: passionate conversations about books.

Ball's in your court, Dan. We know you can do it.

Charles's picture

Fantastic episode ! I am

Fantastic episode ! I am hooked ! Smart conversations with authors that make you hungry to grab the books.

One suggestion : would be great to have authors read each other's books and be part of the discussions / debates with Mr Menaker.

bitsy's picture

It's interesting how boring

It's interesting how boring writers who write really interesting books can be.
I was thinking that when Julie Klam started speaking. It's like a light went on. She's so funny and self deprecating. The little throw away lines like being disappointed because even though she wasn't successful at her first job, they still expected her to get another one
Unfortunately noone on the panel laughed. That girl needs an audience, and a hip one!
I can't wait to read her book.

knapper's picture

How amazing this show is!

How amazing this show is! For someone who misses college more than he likes to admit (there’s no remedy), how wonderful that the Web finally is turning toward serious, accessible, intelligent content! While I welcome Big Think as well, I find Titlepage even more exciting and promising as it develops (I agree with those who have commented that Dan should encourage, and devote more time to, facilitating a group discussion between all the writers).

How fitting and compelling, then – on a show available to anyone on the planet with an Internet connection – were Ceridwen’s comments at 38:40 where she spoke about the interconnectedness of all people on the planet, the undeniable rise of globalization – and yet, at the same time, our alienation from “everything,” by which I took her to mean, perhaps incorrectly, at least the roots, identities, and functions of our own cultures, never mind, for the moment, other peoples’.

I may not know much about anthropology but I know my Lévi-Strauss (well, sort of), and her comments brought to mind one of the things he wrote, presciently in 1978, which speaks to the loss of our individuality in modern industrial society, that “[w]e are now threatened with the prospect of our being only consumers, able to consume anything from any point in the world and from every culture, but of losing all originality." [Myth and Meaning: Cracking the Code of Culture]

In addition, I don’t know if Ceridwen reads Chomsky, but he came to mind when she said, at 39:07, “we’re all complicit in these myriad of things every single day that we do and yet, those things have become invisible to us,” referring, perhaps, to those of us who don’t consider ourselves complicit because (it is true) “we are not doing anything” to [intentionally] harm the earth or other people on it. I think Chomsky’s point, which Ceridwen seems to endorse, is that it is precisely by “not doing anything” that we contribute to, for instance, the physical degradation of the planet or, politically, human suffering and death in places that seem very far off but, in a globalized 21st century perspective (of course, Chomsky began writing about this in the 1960s), in fact are not.

This admittedly is taking large guesses at what Ceridwen meant, since her comments were brief, but I think they are reasonable guesses. My point is that what I am experiencing is similar to what happens in a college classroom. There is no replacement for being in that classroom – but this is the first time I have ever had even close to such an experience on the Web. And, for me, the fact that I thought about these issues and posted a comment to try to foster conversation about what we all watched is the clearest evidence that this is indeed a great new program.

Anonymous's picture

Another appealing hour with

Another appealing hour with a glimpse of a diverse group of writers. As with previous comments, I was hoping to hear more conversation among the writers. Perhaps the narrator could pose a question and ask for response from the group?
The format is good and should promote interest in reading...and writing.

Anonymous's picture

Jackie: Very good point


Very good point about Dan's questions. Perhaps another problem : too many writers for any in- depth discussion and analysis given the time allowed. Charlie Rose does this better since it's one on one and the writers are given room to breathe.



Chris's picture

I loved this one. If I had

I loved this one. If I had one complaint it would be that I don't understand the mix here. I think the writers with the most in common here are Sloane Crosley and Keith Gessen. It sounds as if you changed Sloane's into a "boy" book and Keith's into a "girl" book you'd hit on a very similar topic -- funny NYC-based disspointment -- or whatever you want to call it. They both sound like great reads. Though it's hard to tell with Gessen because he's so darn deadpan and akward and Crosley might just out-charm him one-on-one.

The other writers seem very good, especially Dovey, but just forced a little. I still really enjoyed this!!!!!

Anonymous's picture

I was totally transfixed by

I was totally transfixed by Cerdiwen.

What did she say?

Anonymous2's picture

Anonymous: I hate to be the

Anonymous: I hate to be the one to say this because I think he's brilliant but I think it's Dan's questions that are causing the Oprah thing. The connections he makes between the writer's works are wonderful. But he is constantly turning to authors and asking them to summarize what's in their books, leaving it to the authors to then extrapolate meaning, thus doing their job AND his. I don't think he did that in the first one. Maybe more readings from the actual book would help eliminate that "why don't you retell me your whole book?" conundrum. They ALL looked pretty thrown by the questions to me and not in a good way -- considering, I think most of them handled it pretty well.


Allan Hunter's picture

Another splendidly

Another splendidly stimulating program, with truly interesting, inventive, and alert writers. This is sure to stir up readers to keep reading and exploring.

If I could make one suggestion it might be to have more brief readings from the books concerned, since that way we gain insight into the specific experience we can expect with each book. Daniel Menaker pulled out excellent examples in each writer's case, which showed us why these people deserve to be read. I'd have liked to hear more.

I also enjoyed the more general conversation at the end of the show, where the views about blogs and blogging were fascinating - and important for us old-style readers who happen to be watching using our computers. Perhaps the show should be longer to include these elements? I'd hate to cut any part of the conversations.

This is the best show I have seen in a very long time, and I'm thrilled its accessible on the web.

Respectfully, Allan Hunter
Author 'Stories we Need to Know: Reading Your Life Path in Literature' (Findhorn Press, 2008)

Anonymous's picture

Again, another nice

Again, another nice conversation with Mr. Menaker at the helm, and a nicely curated group of authors. however, you are not giving enough time for the authors to speak with each other. Why bring four authors together at the same time if you are essentially doing serial interviews with each? (It even appeared, at one point toward the end of his interview with Keith Gessen, that a comment by Sloane Crosley had been edited out.) This is a very appealing show, a winning format with an amiable host, but it would be a GREAT show if there was more time for the authors to mix up the conversation with each other. Mr. Menaker applies his considerable intelligence to making comparisons between the authors' works; however, he should also think about asking more questions to the entire group, fostering more dialogue -- or even debate -- among the participants, and not just in the final five minutes. He's got all the ingredients here for a lively and illuminating show, but the souffle has not quite risen. Please consider stirring the pot more. (or breaking more eggs -- whatever metaphor you prefer!)

Anonymous's picture

This episode is VERY

This episode is VERY disappointing. The level was quite mediocre. I was uninspired and bored. This felt like it was aimed at a "young," basically Oprah-ish, commercial audience. Unlike Episode 1 where all the writers had depth. I must thank you for Susan Choi. Thank you, thank you. I bought her book because of Titlepage and adored it. Brilliant.

Please. More interesting, challenging writers. Please.

Michaela's picture

I liked this programme,

I liked this programme, interensting, pleasure to listen to. It seemd to me much better than the previous one. Not retelling the content of the books but "just" discussing the topics, opinions, feelings, experience(s), structure, extracts,... Thanks.. M.

Anonymous's picture

I just love these

I just love these conversations. Bravo Titlepage. They're fascinating.

GaelickMan's picture

Fantastic! I loved Sloane's

Fantastic! I loved Sloane's charming story about the invisible friends -- she's sure to be a much-needed new David Sedaris -- and Julie's frankness and pop-up video history and Ceredwin's book sounds flat-out amazing. I was truly floored at how well-spoken and present she was when speaking about her work. Writers twice her age don’t have such poise. I would have liked more interaction between all of them but the focus on each author was also stimulating. It will be interesting to have this as a record of these four a year from now...

WmAnthony's picture

Sloan finally gets her cake.

Sloan finally gets her cake. What will happen to her essaying? Good episode, and the seam appears to be that none of these writers were first-timers, per se, but their work spoke of postmodern firsts, and gasps, and revelations.