Robin Sloan: “Sourdough” @ Talks at Google (Full Transcript)

SPEAKER 1: Good afternoon Today at Google we're delighted to welcome Mr

Robin Sloan Mr Sloan grew up in Detroit and attended Michigan State, where he co-founded a literary journal called "Oats" After college, he went to work at the intersection of media and technology, first in St Petersburg, Florida, at the Poynter Institute, and then in San Francisco at current TV and Twitter

His first novel, "Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore," went on to become a "New York Times" best seller And it was called by George Saunders a "tour de force," after which Mr Sloan has politely requested that no further commentary on his writing be offered Ever

He's here today to discuss his second novel titled "Sourdough" Please join me in welcoming to Google, Mr Robin Sloan [APPLAUSE] ROBIN SLOAN: Thanks Hey, everybody

Thanks for coming for this, for getting out It's a nice intimate crowd here in the flesh But I understand there are some more people watching virtually, and of course, more people online later So here's what I would like to propose– I want to tell you a couple of stories about this book One about where the idea came from in the first place

And one about where this book kind of ended up for me Kind of like where I ended up maybe after writing it And then, I want to offer something else It's actually pretty Googley This is something that I do all over– at bookstores and reading festivals

But in a way, it's even more apropos here And it's something that I don't think you've ever heard at a book reading before And then, of course, I'll have time to answer some questions if you have them and we'll wrap it up Does that sound like a good plan? OK So this new book "Sourdough" came about shortly after I had wrapped up the manuscript for my first novel, which was titled "Mr

Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" And I was in that state of mind that follows– I think only a first novel can kind of put you in this space Because– you guys might have heard this before There's sort of a saying or a cliche about first novels, which is that an author just opens up their head and pours in everything– every thought they've ever had, every dream of a book they've ever dreamt Because you're not sure you're ever going to get to write another one, so like this is your chance

And you put it all in That was definitely the case with me and my first novel And so then my brain was empty I had kind of put it all out there and I had to figure out what I was going to fill it up again with to write this next book Of course, I am sure this is true for a lot of the folks in the audience here, you're not struggling to be interested in something

You're actually interested in too many things And so the challenge for me, at that point, as I was beginning to contemplate this next book, was what of all these different paths am I going to choose? And at that point, nothing had really grabbed me in that irresistible way So I'm thinking about this stuff I'm sort of struggling with the decision, looking at all these interesting things in the world and all the different ways a novel could go, when I went wine tasting I was up in Booneville

Has anyone here ever actually been to Booneville up in Anderson Valley? Yeah For those of you who haven't been, well worth the trip It's about three hours north It's just this lovely little green fold of rustic wineries and breweries and parks and all sorts of things like that I was up there tasting wine at one winery in particular– tiny little place, like a one-room schoolhouse sort of

They were very serious A little bit severe, actually, in their whole approach to wines Sort of unsmiling and like, you should enjoy this and take it very seriously And so they're pouring one wine after another, and they get to one somewhere in the middle of this flight And the person who is helping us set out those largest wine glasses, the ones that are like the big sort of globular forms with their really sharp, skinny edge

And as she pouring this wine– which was a red wine– inky dark Just dark, dark red She leaned forward a little bit and her voice was full of conspiracy– I just remember this so well– as she said to us, very meaningfully, "You know, this one is a suitcase clone" I see some looks sort of confusion and consternation in the audience I don't know if anyone here had ever heard those two words juxtaposed before

I had not But I really liked the sound of it– "suitcase clone" So I actually, at that time, whipped my notebook out of my back pocket, my ever present notebook, into which I put all interesting words and phrases I ever run across Street signs or people's names or little things you overhear in cafes I whipped it out

I said, hold on Say that again Suitcase clone? OK What does that mean? And so this is what she told me This is a real thing, by the way

This is totally just documentary truth from the history of California wine Turns out, decades ago, especially around the time when California wine was starting to take itself seriously as kind of a peer to the wine makers of the Old World– you know, France, Italy, and all the rest– in terms of quality, kind of global reputation There was this thing that people would do So let's say it's me Let's say I'm up there in Anderson Valley

Pages: First | 1 | 2 | 3 | ... | Next → | Last | Single page view