5 Questions with Jonathan Lee, Author of High Dive

high diveIn tandem with Electric Literature, City Lights presents author Jonathan Lee in conversation with Colin Winnette on Tuesday, March 29. The subject is Lee’s new book, High Dive: A Novel, published by Knopf. Jonathan answered our 5 questions. More about him, and his answers, below.

Event: Tuesday, March 29, 7:00PM at City Lights Bookstore. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About High Dive: In September 1984, a bomb was planted in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, set to explode on the day Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet would be staying there. High Dive takes us inside this audacious assassination attempt, and also into the hearts and minds of a group of unforgettable characters. Nimbly weaving together fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, the story switches among the perspectives of Dan, a young IRA bomb maker; Moose, a former star athlete gone to seed, now the career-minded deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter, trying to decide what comes after high school. A novel of laughter and heartbreak, this is an indelible portrait of clashing loyalties, doubt, guilt, and regret, and of how individuals become the grist of history.

About Jonathan Lee: Jonathan Lee is a British writer whose recent short stories have appeared in Tin House, Granta, and Narrative, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the U.S. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is an editor at the literary journal A Public Space, a contributing editor for Guernica, and a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily.

jonathan lee dark

About Colin Winnette: Colin Winnette is the author of several books, most recently, Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio) and the SPD best seller Coyote. He is the associate editor at PANK magazine. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, Lucky Peach, and numerous other publications. He lives in San Francisco.


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Jonathan Lee: I’ve been to City Lights a few times. The last time I came, I remember sitting upstairs and spending a long time looking at a beautiful hardcover book of Emily Dickinson poems that contained photographs of some of her manuscript pages–the jottings and erasures. I bought a copy of Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. I also spent some time looking at the beautiful collection of indie literary magazines.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?

JL: It would be this one!

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

JL: That’s such a good question. I think it was The Adventures of Arthur & Edmund: A Tale of Two Seals. As I got a bit older, I remember loving all of Roald Dahl’s books, and then getting very into Terry Pratchett’s stuff–Truckers, Diggers, and Wings, and then the Discworld books. When I was at university I read a lot of Martin Amis and Laurence Sterne, and studied Samuel Beckett and George Elliot, and then when I was working as a lawyer I became obsessed with Lorrie Moore.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

JL: As well as writing, I’m a part-time editor at Catapult, so I’d probably just be a full-time editor there or somewhere else. I love working on other people’s stories.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

An amazing British condiment called HP Sauce, to make all the bits of tree bark test better. Also lots of Dickens, a pair of sunglasses. Maybe also some kind of instrument for turning sunlight into bourbon.

Join us on Tuesday, March 28, 2016 for Jonathan Lee in conversation with Colin Winnette, co-sponsored by Electric Lit. For more info about Jonathan, go to his official site. For more events happening at City Lights this Spring, go to our complete calendar.

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