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Wallace Shawn and Rachel Kushner: A Conversation

Wallace Shawn and Rachel Kushner in conversation on the occasion of the launch of the paperback edition of Night Thoughts: An Essay, Shawn's probing, honest, and self-critical take on civilization and its discontents.

In a gloomy hotel room, after reading compulsively about murders, Shawn tries to sleep but is troubled by meandering thoughts and memories that follow one another in an apparently random chain. Ultimately a point of view begins to emerge. In a world dominated by privileged killers, how should we live? What world do we want?


Wallace Shawn is an Obie Award–winning playwright and a noted stage and screen actor. His plays The Designated Mourner and Marie and Bruce have been produced as films, as has his adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Master Builder. He is co-author of the movie "My Dinner with André" and the author of the plays The Fever, The Designated Mourner, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and Grasses of a Thousand Colors, as well as the nonfiction books Essays (featuring the essay “Why I Call Myself a Socialist”) and Night Thoughts (Haymarket Books). His latest play, Evening at the Talk House, premiered at the Socialism conference in Chicago and was performed at The National Theatre in London and The New Group in New York. His plays The Designated Mourner and Grasses of a Thousand Colors will soon be available as multipart podcasts.

Rachel Kushner’s latest novel, The Mars Room, was Time magazine’s #1 fiction title of the year and a New York Times Notable Book of 2018. Kushner is also the author of The Flamethrowers, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and a New York Times Top Five Novel of 2013. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. A collection of her early work, The Strange Case of Rachel K, was published by New Directions in 2015. Her fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, and the Paris Review. She is the recipient of a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2016 Harold D. Vursell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. More at