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Author Archive: "Emily St. John Mandel"

Powell’s Q&A: Emily St. John Mandel

Describe your latest book.
My new novel is called Station Eleven. It's about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America. The book moves back and forth in time between the years just before a devastating flu pandemic brings about the collapse of civilization as we know it, and a time 20 years after the collapse when a company of actors and musicians travels between the settlements of the sparsely populated new world. It's also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, what remains when everything is lost, comic books, and knife-throwing.

If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Typing Responses to Interview Questions One-Handed on iPad on the Subway: The Emily St. John Mandel Story

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a part-time janitor for a while when I was 20, which was interesting because I was cleaning the massive renovated former church in Toronto that houses Toronto Dance Theatre, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and the Winchester Street Theatre, and it was a beautiful old building with a ...


The Festivals

When it happens, it feels like winning the lottery. An email arrives out of the blue, from one of my publishers or a festival director or a member of a festival's staff: Would I like to come to a festival? In Canada, in Australia, in France? The answer is always yes because, the obvious pleasures of traveling to these places aside, this is what they're offering: a week, sometimes longer, when I don't have to be anything but a writer.

÷ ÷ ÷

It probably goes without saying by now that this is not a glamorous life. There are glamorous moments, but they cause a certain psychic whiplash because they're followed so rapidly by non-glamour. The most glamorous photo of me ever taken, for example, was at a charity ball in Toronto in 2010 or 2011, shot for one of those "here are pictures of people at a fancy event!" pages in one of Canada's national newspapers. In the photograph I am smiling in a long silk gown, identified by profession and by my first and middle names. ("Author Emily St. John." In all fairness, my ...


Last Night in Montreal

Some years ago, I was immigrating illegally to the United States by train in the wintertime. At least, I thought I was immigrating illegally — it was a few months before I found out I'd actually been an unknowing American citizen since birth, by virtue of the convenient fact that my father had been born in California — and I remember being struck on the train by how unsettled my life had become. Travel is inevitably an experience of dislocation, and in those days the dislocation was extreme: I'd been in motion for precisely a year, having set out from Toronto 12 months earlier. This was the second February in a row that I'd immigrated to New York City by train, with an eight-month stop in Montreal between Februaries, and even though the sheer volume of cross-border migrations was beginning to seem a little excessive, I had to admit a certain pleasure in the ability to travel well. I was aware that it probably wasn't a great idea to keep hopping from city to city indefinitely, but I felt that I was getting ...


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