Hanya Yanagihara dropped out of Seth Meyers’ late night talk show to discuss her new book, To paradise— and some strange feedback she got after her last one.
Yanagihara’s new novel looks at an alternate version of America over three centuries and tells the stories of three people dealing with love and loss. In a starred review, a critic of Kirkus called the book “gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying and full of mystery.”
Yanagihara said she wanted the novel to be different from her last book, a small lifea winner of the Kirkus Prize who became a literary sensation in 2015.
†[To Paradise] was really just the book I wanted to write next,” she said. “You work so long on a novel… it has to feel like something urgent, that only you can say, and it shouldn’t be a repetition.” The last part of To paradise takes place during a pandemic, Meyers noted, although Yanagihara started writing it before the onset of Covid-19.
“By the time we were all sent home on March 13, 2020, I was so deep in the pandemic part of this book… it felt very comforting, because out in the real world I was a citizen just as confused and scared and misinformed like everyone else,” she said. “But in the world of the book, I had to do exactly what I wanted. I had an ultimate sense of control.”
Yanagihara said she was honored to hear from readers connected with a small lifealthough some of the feedback was a bit on the odd side.
“A few times I’ve gotten these messages on DM via Instagram and it’ll just be a picture of a man – it’s always a man – with a copy of a small life about his mess,’ she said. And he looks a little sad. I don’t know who the audience is or what the message is. I always write ‘thank you’ back because it takes a lot of time to set up such an image. You have to adjust the ring lights, you have to get the angles… There’s a lot of art direction put into the shot, and I appreciate that.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and a regular contributor to NPR.