When Garth Greenwell came to Elliott Bay Book Company in February, his second book, Cleanness, had just been raved about on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. It had been excerpted three times in The New Yorker. In a glowing New York Times profile, he had said, "If there is a gay ghetto, then that's where James Baldwin is, and Thomas Mann is, and Virginia Woolf is, and that's the only place I would ever want to be."
I was lucky enough to get to interview Garth onstage at that event. His responses were so thought-provoking, so intense, so brilliant, that audience members begged Elliott Bay Books for a recording—but no one was recording the event. Now that we are re-staging that interview for you to watch from the comfort of quarantine, some of the questions will be the same (we will still talk about James Baldwin, we will still talk about S&M), but a lot of my questions from February are being tossed out the window (Iowa caucuses, Pete Buttigieg) and replaced with more pressing matters (Lindsey Graham, Matt Gaetz).
We will also talk about:
• writing sex scenes
• the relationship between masculinity and violence
• the part in Cleanness where one man says to another, "I want to be your faggot"
• James Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room
• the AIDS crisis versus the COVID-19 crisis
• sadness, sleeplessness, fear
• Black Lives Matter
• the purpose of art
• his life as an opera singer before becoming a novelist
• the future of the free world
The conversation will be broadcast live from 5 pm to 6 pm PST, and you should join us. Afterwards, Greenwell will be the *special guest* at the Silent Reading Party from 6 pm to 8 pm. Join us for that too. (The events are separate, and each require their own ticket.)
If you didn’t buy Cleanness back in February, you can get it here. If you don’t have What Belongs to You, what is wrong with you, get it already, it’s a masterpiece. The books are related, and you should begin at the beginning.