Marlon James Gets Nerdy with Kevin Young

By NYPL Staff
June 9, 2019

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Marlon James is a Jamaican novelist and winner of the Man Booker Prize. His recent book Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first in a epic trilogy that blends myth, fantasy, and history—what James has described as "African Game of Thrones." He spoke with fellow fantasy and comic book fan, Kevin Young, who is a poet and the Director for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. They talked about James' two years of research for the series, map making, Afrofuturism, and books they love, while unleashing their inner nerd.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

[ Music ]

>> You're listening to Library Talks, from the New York Public Library. I'm your host, Aiden Flax-Clark. Today on the show is a conversation between Marlon James and Kevin Young. Marlon James is a Booker Prize winning novelist, and this year he published the book Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which is the first in the trilogy of fantasy novels. Kevin Young is a poet, the poetry editor of the New Yorker, and also the director of the Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and he's a huge comic book fan, a huge fantasy fan, and so he had a lot to talk about with Marlon James and his new book. They discussed ancient epics, African mythology, oral traditions, and how Marlon James used all of those in the writing of his book. Here's their conversation.

>> Kevin Young: So, I'm here with Marlon James at the library, thanks for coming.

>> Marlon James: Thanks for having me.

>> Kevin Young: It's great to have you. I want to talk about so many things about this wonderful book Black Leopard, Red Wolf, but also talk to you about your process and work. So, tell me a little bit about what life's been like for you after the Booker Prize.

>> Marlon James: Um.

>> Kevin Young: Which you won for a brief history of [inaudible].

>> Marlon James: I don't know, it's a combination of complete normalcy because I have friends who were so unimpressed with what I do that they haven't even read the book, and that kind of keeps me grounded, but it's also been totally surreal and ridiculous. It's been, the book's been translated in nearly 30 languages, I think. So, it's interesting hearing Jamaican [inaudible] or Bosnian or Ukranian or [inaudible] or Russian for that matter. But it also is, there is a greater scrutiny, and I know this because every time I put up a Facebook post, it becomes a headline in the Guardian or something. Like, people, fights I would never have gotten into four years ago seem to start every day now.

>> Kevin Young: Right, right. And there's other opportunities, I presume. I mean did you know instantly or had you known for a long time you were going to work on this trilogy, what's now called the Dark Star Trilogy?

>> Marlon James: I knew it before I won the Booker. I knew I was going to work on this. I didn't know what it was going to be. I didn't even know it was a trilogy. But I knew it was going to be a fantasy novel, and I knew it was going to be a novel with me at least trying to get as far away from Europe as I possibly can. Because, I remember going to my agent and saying I have two ideas, and one makes a lot of sense and the other makes no sense at all, and the one that made a lot of sense was me writing a novel about Jamaican immigrants adrift in New York, which I probably will write one day.

>> Kevin Young: Sure, yeah.

>> Marlon James: And [inaudible] had monsters. And I think even my agent picked up that the one with the freaky stuff is one I really wanted to write.

>> Kevin Young: Right, and what good monsters you've given us.

>> Marlon James: Well, thank you.

>> Kevin Young: And what a great figure and tracker, I think, fascinating figure, who I want to talk about more, but I was wondering, too, about the landscape of the book in a way of saying the background of a book.

>> Marlon James: Right.

>> Kevin Young: You know, how did you--

>> Marlon James: Years and years of research.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, that's what, that's the question, we love research here at the library.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, oh good [inaudible] research.

>> Kevin Young: And at the Schomburg Center.

>> Marlon James: I spent two years researching this before I even wrote, before a wrote a single sentence.

>> Kevin Young: Wow.

>> Marlon James: And researching everything. But in particular, the Omo Valley which is sort of lower Ethiopia, Upper Kenya, going straight across, going across west. Looking at the ancient kingdoms like first Ghana, and second Ghana, and Sungai [phonetic] and Malai [phonetic], and all those great kings like [inaudible] Mohammed and Sunjara [phonetic] and Mansamusa [phonetic] and all of that. And also though, going through a lot of history of places that the British burnt down. When I started researching this book, I wasn't even researching to write a book. I researched it because I didn't know. And like, I'm, having written a slavery novel, I think I also fall into the trap of thinking ground zero for any black person on this side of the world is slavery. As if there is no origin narrative. And earlier this year, I did the J.R.R. Tolkien lecture, and one of the things I talk about is the privilege of taking your mythology for granted. That in the UK, for example, they need King Arthur.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum. Absolutely.

>> Marlon James: For a lot of reasons, one being Arthur is proof that they were always civilized. They're a bunch of, you know, cave-dwelling, dung-eating, backward-ass people you know, did sacrifices at Stone Age. They were a quite primitive bunch, but that's why Camelot is necessary. It proves that Britannia was always a great idea. Robinhood is necessary because a huge part of their independent, rebellious spirit comes from that. So, what happens when you grow up in a [inaudible] and you don't have [inaudible]. You know, you don't have these sort of systems that take for granted. For me, I can speak for any other black person in the [inaudible], I always felt like kind of disconnectedness, which is not to say that African American and Jamaican folklore isn't powerful.

>> Kevin Young: Right and has African traces.

>> Marlon James: Absolutely. You know, we all know [inaudible] and we know Brer Rabbit was African regardless of what Beatrix Potter wants to tell you. [laughter]

>> Kevin Young: Or Uncle Remus has to say about it.

>> Marlon James: Yes. But I still think there is a certain aspect of history, let's call a mythological history, say the story of Vikings, the way a Viking would tell you. Or the story of ancient, hell, Britain, the somebody [inaudible] would tell you. I know this story of Africa the way researchers would tell me, and I know it the way historians would tell me, but I don't know how the story of the Congo would be told to me by a [inaudible] priest.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And I think that's what I went out looking for, that sort of mythological history. And then after that, the story just started writing itself. You know, the sufficient I was finding out, you know, finding out that [inaudible] city had streetlights. You know, or that [inaudible] had plumbing. And so on, and that's, I mean I'm ultimately a geek, and that's the stuff I geek over.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: Damn, flowing water, let's talk about this.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And so, and the world, the world became so real and so palpable, I mean, I could see it, I could smell it, I could touch it, I had to write about it.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, well you feel that in the book. It's very visceral as a book. From the first page, it's so visceral, and it's fantastical, but I also started thinking about is this realism from another point of view? Like is this the kind of fantasy that you're mentioning, is this just another way of saying this is how I view the world in a different part of the world.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, it's funny you should say that, because one of the books I read, I reread when I was writing this was Wolf Hall [inaudible], which is a very sort of realistic inhabited book, so inhabited it's present tense. And I wanted that. I wanted it to be, I wanted it to flow almost like it's a social realist novel, but this is our social reality, because I got issues with the whole term social realist now.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, let's hear one of them, let's hear one--

>> Marlon James: Well, because--well, just that the realism, it isn't real. Somehow we always have these fishing towns in Nantucket where nobody black lives. Women have no [inaudible], I don't know where they work. Fifty-five-year-old white men somehow don't need Viagra, and it's just--

>> Kevin Young: It has its own fantasy--

>> Marlon James: And everybody just [inaudible] good day on UE, I'm like wow. And this, and flying woman is fantasy? It's like come on.

>> Kevin Young: And what about the other side of it, which is the sort of downtrodden, urban, you know, novel of, you know, scraping by existence, kind of--

>> Marlon James: But I mean, [inaudible] I'm not saying the social realist novel or the urban novel or the novel [inaudible] shouldn't exist. I think, I don't think there is no such thing as a stale story.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum.

>> Marlon James: I think it's how you tell it and how you bring, what life are you bringing into it.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: But for me with this novel, I had to remember at all times as much as it's fantasy for me, it's not fantasy for the characters.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: It's very easy when you're playing with speculative stuff to come across like a tourist in your own novel.

>> Kevin Young: Yes, I can see that.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. And it's like, wow, look at that magical thing that just happened. Whereas a character in the book would be over it. So, I had to remember that, that the character, that this is real life for the people in the book, and real-life people, even if they are creatures and witches and demons and goblins, real-life people are still buying food and they're still cheating and they're still doing terrible things to each other and they're still lying behind your back.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And they're still also doing good things, and they're still coming through for their friends, and they love and they hate and they die. And, you know, and they try to move on as best they can. And I think that to me is what makes human, makes a novel human, that's the humanity in the novel, and most of my characters are not even human. But, they have to have, a novel has to have humanity.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah. Even within the magic or--part of it, I think, is the moment I open the book and I hear, I saw a map, you know. And it's the first thing. I was like we heard, we must have read the same books growing up, you know.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: I love a good map. How fun was it to do those maps and image the physical qualities of this pictured world?

>> Marlon James: I mean it was, I mean it was the greatest fun I could possibly think of.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: Drawing maps. Because, yeah, one of the reasons why I think I like fantasy more than, a little more than sci-fi is that fantasy always had maps.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And I'm a total nerd. I want to know, I don't just want to know where middle Earth is. I want to know where Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters is.

>> Kevin Young: Absolutely. At Westchester I was like, where is Westchester. It might as well have been middle Earth to me when I was reading in the Midwest and Kansas.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, that is, I mean, that is a lot minor geek, but I also, I mean I, I was drawing maps as I was writing it. Most of those maps don't end up in the book, but again, it goes back to what I originally was saying, if I want to write a novel with fantastical creatures that feel like people are living there, then I have to know is this South Southwest or North Northeast.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: Would they make a right turn down that street or a left turn. And when I finally finished drawing those maps, I have to go back and re-write quite a bit.

>> Kevin Young: Of course, yeah.

>> Marlon James: Just things that wouldn't, you know, make sense. If the sun is over there and there is such and such, then the view would be different and so on, and I mean, the maps I drew myself, which was funny, because I haven't been, I mean I used to make money as an illustrator.

>> Kevin Young: Oh, I didn't know that.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, back in the grand old days when I was a graphic artist.

>> Kevin Young: Really?

>> Marlon James: Yeah, I was a graphic artist, so you can imagine the grief I give the designers at a publishing house. Well, I had to reteach myself Photoshop and all of that.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, so you drew it not by hand but on a rendering.

>> Marlon James: I drew it by hand and then scanned it in and all this other Photoshop stuff, which I have not had to use since the '90s.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: But it's--

>> Kevin Young: It's part of the imagining, you know.

>> Marlon James: It's part of the imagining. It's a huge part of the imagining, and then writing the book influences the maps, and then drawing the maps now influences the books.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: Because it, to me it did for me what say looking at a map of New York does if I'm writing a New York short story.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: There is just so much more. I remember when I was writing a brief history, and I had a map of the Bronx. And because I can now actually literally follow a character down [inaudible] Avenue where, you know, it links up with Fenton and goes to Gunnell Road, I can then talk about the character walking. Because there are some things, and I talk about this when I'm teaching my class about setting, there is something about placing somebody in specifics that makes a character come alive in ways that all the dialogue in the world can't do.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: It's something saying, you know, I was a park or saying I was in Haven Park, and this is the first, and you know things are different because there's no dead body here.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, yeah.

>> Marlon James: Which [inaudible] Haven Park like me. That's a big deal. But it's proof, it's in, let's call it realistic fiction or novels about, or social novels, it's proof that the character was there, that they know it's 42nd Street.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And it still works that way in fantasy. It's proof that they were there, that they just went through the, you know [inaudible] Omo Valley and so on, and they know what it is and that it's due west.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And they have to go east, and it will take--I mean I sat down. And you can't just draw a map. You have to know how maps work.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: So, if I know that a horse rides a safe distance for a horse every day is 20 miles, you know, and I can say, you know, it's five days by horse, and you get to this kingdom.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, moons, I love using the moons and the suns, yeah.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: You have to know that and have to get it right rendered.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, or you have to build a [inaudible] as opposed to, again, as we were saying, you don't want to come across like a tourist in your own novel.

>> Kevin Young: Are there other books for you that had built such a world and that you felt like you were thinking about? I mean there are things that came to mind for me, but--

>> Marlon James: You know, some of them weren't even fantasy books. Like in one novel [inaudible] I thought build a whole world, that was very familiar and absolutely strange is The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, is a novel he wrote after Watership Down. Everybody knows about the rabbits.

>> Kevin Young: Of course, the rabbits are--

>> Marlon James: [Inaudible] book. Plague Dogs, Plague Dogs, I mean Plague Dogs made me cry, you know, because Plague Dogs is about two dogs who escape a research facility. It opens with scenes of dog torture. And--

>> Kevin Young: I mean he gives, he's given many nightmare to those of use trying to, you know, those rabbits were not like the bunnies of yore.

>> Marlon James: No. Plague Dogs got you though. Because, I mean they escape, they can't be, they just can't be tortured anymore, and one, you know, one of the dogs is completely obsessed with being free and destroying anybody who will break it, and the other dog has been so brainwashed by his torturers that he can't imagine why would a dog want to be without a human regardless of what the human does.

>> Kevin Young: Right, right.

>> Marlon James: You know, and then they end up befriending a fox.

>> Kevin Young: It sounds amazing.

>> Marlon James: But [inaudible] it also had a map. But it's a map based on how the dogs saw rural England. So you still, the thing about all of these books, whether it's Plague Dogs or whether it's Dune or so on is that you have to commit.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, 100 percent.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, you have to commit because it's, no matter how familiar the world is, it's something completely different, and you're going to lose your bearings if you don't commit.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: In terms of other maps and so on, I remember, I think the tie-in novel for Empire Strikes Back, and there was a map in it.

>> Kevin Young: I remember the Hans Solo one.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: What was the map in--

>> Marlon James: I'm trying to remember if it was a map it would have probably been Hoth or, it may have been Hoth. Hoth is where the rebellion was, right?

>> Kevin Young: Hoth is the ice planet.

>> Marlon James: Yes, with the, with [inaudible] who was leading the resistance. God, we're such nerds.

>> Kevin Young: You got to get it right though, you know.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: You go to know your Hoth.

>> Marlon James: You have to know your Hoth.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: It's not Tatooine. It's definitely not.

>> Kevin Young: And are you, are you fans with some of the more recent, like Game of Thrones?

>> Marlon James: I am. So I'm a very [inaudible] appreciative of sci-fi and fantasy. A lot of it was just whatever I could get in Jamaica.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: So, a lot of the big books on sci-fi and fantasy, I didn't read until I was an adult. I didn't read Dune, in fact I'm still trying to finish Dune.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah. I think a lot of folks are.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, I didn't read Lord of the Rings until after the movies.

>> Kevin Young: Wow.

>> Marlon James: And it's just that, you know, in Jamaica, a lot of those books are basically what rich kids read.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: You know, it's what uptown kids and uptown Jamaica is rich. I mean I grew up pretty middle class, but there are a lot of those things that just wouldn't have been available. What was available for me is whatever was being sold in the pharmacy.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: So, this is kind of a funny and slightly pathetic story. I'm watching, this is the days of superstation TBS, Google it children, and Empire Strikes Back come on, I'm like, oh God, I'm going to watch this movie for the ten millionth time. I'm going to sit down and watch it because I love it.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And I'm watching this thing, and halfway through it, I'm like, I have never seen this. But I knew everything about it. I knew everything about Empire Strikes Back. I had the Cloud City Daram over my bed. And I realized, I did not see this movie. I read the Italian novel.

>> Kevin Young: How interesting.

>> Marlon James: And then I realized, I never saw Star Trek Wrath of Kahn either. I was reading so much, I read Superman 3. Nobody in the universe has read that book.

>> Kevin Young: Wow.

>> Marlon James: But I read it.

>> Kevin Young: Is Superman 3 the nuclear warhead?

>> Marlon James: Yes.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, and Richard Pryor is in the movie?

>> Marlon James: Richard Pryor is in it and so on.

>> Kevin Young: That's a tough one.

>> Marlon James: And I realized between reading the novel and in the center are all these pictures of clips from the movie.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, uh huh.

>> Marlon James: And I realize, even my sci-fi fantasy literary history, literary background is till reading [inaudible] the movie.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: So, a lot of the movies I thought I saw I actually didn't see.

>> Kevin Young: Huh.

>> Marlon James: So, what I'm getting to is that, again, as a sort of very pop, whatever was available in the pharmacy drugstore, whatever they felt they could dump onto the third world, that was [inaudible] yeah. I mean I remember reading The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: I remember that, but for me, my fantasy world was comics.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah. I heard you, I read something about that [inaudible] too, and I felt reading your novel that there was so much, I mean not so much Leopard, thought he's a character that I think I can see, but the Minji [phonetic] and there's a mutant quality to--

>> Marlon James: It's very [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, so tell me about that.

>> Marlon James: Well, I mean Chris Claremont [phonetic] is one of the Gods of my life.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: Chris Claremont [inaudible] Marv Wolfman, Trina Robbins.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah. Were you a Frank Miller guy?

>> Marlon James: I was a major Frank Miller guy, particularly, not even Elektra's story, the one where King Pin finally beats the crap out of him and destroys his life.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, Daredevil.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. But X-Men was at the top, X-Men and Teen Titans.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: And the thing about X-Men, reading X-Men was a lot like being an X-Man, for me. Because I was a nerd, I was a, you know, I was a school, I was a nerd, I was a freak, I was, you know, the art gay, and I remember I used to, because I really wanted to be, the cool kids to be my friends, I'd do their homework for them.

>> Kevin Young: Oh, no.

>> Marlon James: The worst part, which can probably still get me in trouble, is that we had an external exam, this was a British exam, and we'd send the examiner out, and I would do their exams for them. This is how hard I wanted to be these guys' friends, and within the same day, they'd be screaming out, there's the faggot taking the bus.

>> Kevin Young: Oh, my gosh.

>> Marlon James: And I was like, you know, I am fighting to uphold a world that's trying to destroy me. I'm a flipping mutant.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, right.

>> Marlon James: I was like here am I trying to, you know, what's the line in X-Men? Sworn to protect, what is it again? Feared and hated by the world they are sworn to protect. I'm like I'm being feared and hated by the people I'm protecting their grades.

>> Kevin Young: Right, right.

>> Marlon James: I am an X-Men.

>> Kevin Young: Well, I think that's the genius of the X-men, you know, motif or metaphor, is that you can feel, and you come to it often as a teenager when they're getting their powers and all that, you know, just, and they've done pretty well with the movies, especially the recent ones.

>> Marlon James: Um-hum and I'm going to plead the fifth on that.

>> Kevin Young: Oh, okay. No, I think [inaudible].

>> Marlon James: But is, to talk about, the thing is, even in the novel, I can think, as much as I'm influenced by sci-fi and fantasy novels and so on, I really think that [inaudible] influence in this are Marvel team comics. Certainly the [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: It's still very much X-men, new mutants, Teen Titans.

>> Kevin Young: Thinking about the trilogy idea, when did that come to you as a trilogy?

>> Marlon James: It came to me almost by accident. All my best ideas happen [inaudible] me having random conversations with a woman. Night Woman happened because I met, actually I knew her for years, [inaudible] and she mentioned, you know, African societies are matriarchal, and I just go, whoa. What if I had somebody set up a matriarchal society on a slave plantation, and so that happened. Brief History happened because my friend Rachel heard me going, I don't know whose story it is, and she goes, why do you think it's one person's story. So, Black Leopard, the trilogy idea happened because my friend Malina, Malina Mansoukas [phonetic], she was directing Insecure when we were talking, and she mentioned this TV show, The Affair, and the basic idea of how it does storytelling, where the guy tells a part of the story, and the woman tells a part of the story, and they're telling the same story, but it doesn't add up. Like even Scurtland [phonetic] and his version is above the knee and in hers it's below the knee. And when she was saying that's a good idea for a TV show, I went, no that's a good idea for a novel. That's a good idea for a series of novels. Because I knew that I was going to tell more than one, it was going to fit in more than one novel, but I didn't know how. I thought it was going to be a part one, part two, part three, and I realized no, it's three different versions of the same story. Because, yeah, if, you know, if you and I walk into a room and somebody is like in the middle of eating a bag of Fritos, you know, you might think, you know, he's a glutton, and I might think he's starving. We're both getting the same info. So, the idea that these three characters would tell three totally different versions of what the hell happened to this boy and why is he dead.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: I mean that was the first time I actually felt kind of electrified by my own story. I was like, oh, now I know what to do. Because I think for me, it's very nerve-wracking for me when I'm coming up with a story, because I'm still waiting for the spark and researches and spark and knowing what to do is in spark and having characters is in spark is something, and to this day I have yet to get that spark on my own. It's always some conversation with somebody, and I'm like, oh, that's it.

>> Kevin Young: Well, but did you know you were going to tell a story and then you did the research or the story came and then you started researching?

>> Marlon James: Sort of both. Again, remember, I was researching just to know.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum, yeah.

>> Marlon James: I was researching just to find out maybe there is something there, maybe not. I didn't wan to put the pressure on myself like you must find a story, because that would kill it.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: I didn't want to do a total kind of geek book. And I knew I wanted to write a novel that you had to commit to. Because if you're not going to commit to a fantasy novel, you might as well, you can't read a fantasy novel with one foot in and one foot out.

>> Kevin Young: No, I felt that in the book.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. You have to commit. And I know I wanted to write a type of novel that you had to, you had to dive deep in with it.

>> Kevin Young: Do you think the other ones, because one of the powerful things is the voice, and this person speaking to us, telling stories about stories.

>> Marlon James: Um-hum.

>> Kevin Young: Telling, you know, it's to me a story about storytelling.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

>> Kevin Young: And sort of Tracker's position in this prison, you know, starting the book. His captivity as it were, sort of gets us going, but then the book starts--I read somewhere that someone was talking about it tells a kind of orphan tale. But I didn't feel that. I felt like he was not an orphan but an exile.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, he wasn't an orphan.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, yeah. And in fact he, it seems he killed who starts off as his father.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. I can see why they would say it's an orphan tale though, because even though he has a dad, he's looking for one.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and he says, the day I learned my dad, I lost my dad.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, you know, and especially when he finds out the truth about his father and so on. So, he is kind of, he is kind of an orphan, even though he's surrounded by these father figures.

>> Kevin Young: Well, I'm sorry. Let's see if I can find how it's put. Yeah, this is a part toward the beginning where he even addresses this orphan idea. Would you read this a little bit?

>> Marlon James: Okay, because let's start with the, he says, [foreign language spoken]. I am not an orphan in the world. But you lived the difficult life of a boy no man will claim, I hear your father is dead and your mother is dead to you. What does that make you? As for your grandfather, I swear by God, which one? I tire of your verbal sport. You sport like a boy. You have been here more than one moon. What have you learned? I'm in silence between us. She still has not shown herself. She was in my head. I knew all this time the witch was far away and through a voice to me. Maybe the leopard had finally eaten his way to the heart of the antelope and promised it to her. Maybe the liver too. Something gentle hit my head, and someone giggled, a pellet hit my hand and bounced, but I didn't hear it before it hit the floor, and now that it hit my arm and bounced again, bounced high with no sound, too high. The floor looked clear. I caught the third just as it hit my right arm. The child giggled again. I opened my hand, and a small clump of goat shit leapt from it. Jumped high and did not come down. I looked up. Somebody had shined [inaudible] with graphite. The woman was hanging from the ceiling. No, standing on it. No, attached to it, looking down, but her robe staying in place even with a gentle wind, and the children, all the children were lying on the ceiling, standing on the ceiling, chasing after each other over and under, around and around, hissing and screaming, jumping but landing back on the ceiling. And what children? Twin boys, each with his own head, his own hand and leg but joined at the side and sharing a belly. A little girl made of blue smoke, chased by a boy with a body as big and round as a ball, but no legs. Another boy with a small shiny head and here curled up like little dots, a little body but legs as long as a giraffe, and another boy, white as a girl from yet, but with eyes big and blue as a berry, and a girl with a face of a boy behind her left ear. And three or four children who look like any mother's children, but they were standing upside down on a ceiling, looking down at me. The witch moved towards me. I could touch the top of her head. Maybe we stand on the floor and you stand on the ceiling, she said.

>> Kevin Young: I love that. And that crew, that motley crew--

>> Marlon James: Laminga [phonetic] children.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, what a great--because there's this kind of quality of them being taken care of and then quite the opposite.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. And also because of who they are. I mean Mingi is still a problem and certainly in Omo Valley.

>> Kevin Young: Tell us more.

>> Marlon James: And I forgot, that there are still children who are being killed or are certainly being abandoned because of things like just, you know, the wrong [inaudible] front teeth grew first. I [inaudible] somebody who works with that, commented on the book as well, and talk about the progress that has been happening, but a lot of these tribes, particularly in Omo Valley, are still, you know, rejecting kids, albino kids, you know, kids with deformities and so on. So it's still, it's still going on.

>> Kevin Young: Right. And to make them, you know, the girl that smokes one of my favorite, to make them, you know, extraordinary, which is how in some places they were viewed, both who were born differently. It's really, I think, and interesting touch. How does Tracker who has this nose that leads him through the novel and the leopard, who, you know, is a shape shifter, is also other things, how do they sort of fit into this pantheon for you? And which came first?

>> Marlon James: Leopard or wolf?

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.>>

>> Marlon James: Actually, I think Tracker came first, but Tracker was a main character.

>> Kevin Young: Really.

>> Marlon James: Oh, yeah. Tracker, Tracker was just somebody running round tracking.

>> Kevin Young: No.

>> Marlon James: That's, so most of my--

>> Kevin Young: You're blowing my mind.

>> Marlon James: No, almost all my books have like three or four false starts.

>> Kevin Young: Right, sure.

>> Marlon James: And but each, I learn from each of them. And one of the false starts, the big villain of the book, [inaudible] was actually a hero, and Tracker was like some pet of his that he usually carry around who track down people. And I think that changed because one of the first roadblocks I ran into writing this book is trying to write it like a lot of the fantasy I was reading, and a lot of the fantasy out there is really about the fall of a royal house. It starts in the king's court. It starts about the princess and the rebellion and then blah blah blah, and that's fine. That's absolutely fine. But, I wasn't getting anywhere writing that way. And this is what happened. So I have a list of--

>> Kevin Young: I mean black panther has that quality too, right.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, yeah. So, I had a book where I was like, in one of my notes where I literally had plots written out, and then this is exactly what I did, I just turned it upside down. And I was like, oh, let's start in the street and then eventually end up in the palace as opposed to starting in the palace and filtered down into the street. I literally turned the book upside down, and that's when it started to make sense to me. And it doesn't even start in the street. It starts in the prison cell.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And when I realize that I was more interested with whoever I would find in a prison cell, that's when Tracker made sense to me.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And it made sense to tell the story through his point of view as opposed to finding some queen or king or princess to tell it. Because I tried.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: I tried and was failing left, right, and center.

>> Kevin Young: What an interesting character. I mean, there is that tradition of the orphan telling the tale, but I feel like the orphan in many of these narratives, it just occurred to me when I was reading, are innocent. You know, Luke Skywalker is a knife. You know, he doesn't know, what huh? And Tracker is not. Tracker is a, he's often arguing that he is a man, you know. And at the beginning of the book, he's wrestling with manhood and ritual sexuality, I think, is a very powerful thing that I haven't seen mentioned enough in the book. So tell us about that.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, I am, for him, I think I just wanted somebody who swaggered through the book but knew he was kind of faking it. You read about the sort of the orphan, and they always end up being so noble. They're noble and upstanding, right, despite the circumstances of their birth, which is fine, but I knew, and I knee I was not going to do the and the child shall lead them kind of thing. And with Tracker, I knew I wanted somebody who was, I don't want to use antihero, but that's kind of what he is.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, I mean he's a murderous--

>> Marlon James: Yeah, he's a murderous, lecherous, you know, total fluid, and [inaudible] sexuality kind of person, and you know, he says I don't believe in belief.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: And it's, even I at one time was going, why am I giving the whole novel to you again?

>> Kevin Young: Does he say at one time, like, I like dislike. I like discomfort, you know, like if someone is being really uncomfortable, I'm totally fine with it. That's when I'm better, you know.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, and he's like when someone's ambivalent or doesn't, I can't tell, that freaks me out.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: I mean you feel that with him. But I started to come to appreciate his bluntness or his blunt murderousness.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, yeah, I wasn't, I mean I wasn't, as much as I love [inaudible], I wasn't trying to write [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: And all the sort of noble heroes of fantasy. I wanted, because Tracker ends up being a completely different person in the next book.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: At the core of it, I think readers should also pick up that, oh, but this was always there though.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum.

>> Marlon James: Because Soggerland [phonetic] tells the next story.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, I was going to ask.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, and Soggerland doesn't come off very nicely in this book.

>> Kevin Young: I see. So--

>> Marlon James: It's kind of like, well, [inaudible] already did, I was like, you know, it's like you're having the wicked witch tell--

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: Tell her version of Sleeping Beauty or have the wicked queen go Snow White part two, you know, wicked queen [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: I like it. So, have you gotten into the second book?

>> Marlon James: I wouldn't say gotten into it.

>> Kevin Young: This one just came out, so I hate when people ask me, so that's why I'm asking you.

>> Marlon James: I wouldn't, no, I wouldn't, I mean I--

>> Kevin Young: You see it but--

>> Marlon James: I kind of know what I'm going to do. I mean the cool thing about, you know, characters telling the same story is that the particulars of the story I already know.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: But hers is different. For one, she's a 315-year-old witch.

>> Kevin Young: Sure, yeah.

>> Marlon James: She's seen a lot, and the one thing all three novels will have in common is that they all begin the same way where characters basically say who they are and how did they get to this place.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: And her version, okay, will be completely different.

>> Kevin Young: Does she have an, she doesn't have an inquisitor, does she?

>> Marlon James: Oh, yeah. It's the same inquisitor when they interview all three.

>> Kevin Young: Nice.

>> Marlon James: Same inquisitor. He may develop more of a personality in the next book.

>> Kevin Young: I wonder about that. I wondered about that because that, that embedded quality, I thought, and I thought this about the storytelling quality, which was very African and also very post-modern at the same time. It was very meta. Tell us about that.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. Again, because of all the stuff I was reading, you know, one of the great things about African storytelling is how much of it is told by the trickster.

>> Kevin Young: Absolutely.

>> Marlon James: So, we didn't need that lesson on unreliable narrators. That's how we grew up.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, right.

>> Marlon James: Certainly the folklore stories we were told as kids, the ones my grandfather and my parents told me, yeah, we go, I can't quite trust this. And I wanted that, and I wanted the whole idea of witness, of eyewitness.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum. I love that.

>> Marlon James: You know, the idea of, you know, even the first-person narrative is one person's opinion.

>> Kevin Young: Well, and that's, you quickly realize that, you know, and then there's moments when other characters, they don't take over the story, but they tell a longer story, and you start to see, and the inquisitor even, there's a kind of testimony quality.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, I mean and there are parts where Tracker doesn't give it. Like, I mean, the section in the book where it's not Tracker who is telling Tracker's stories. It's the [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: He's still up to that point, you know, thinking he's controlling the narrative. Because, again, yeah, it is a story about telling stories. And Tracker is occasionally very digressive, and he gives all these other stories about stories, and then the leopard comes in and talks about this is what happened in the years when he didn't see me, and everybody, even Soggerland has a part where she's like, let's make a story quick, and she talks about, you know, the princess and the fortress and all that.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: Even as I'm telling stories, I'm still fascinated by storytelling, and I'm also really fascinated by oral storytelling.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: That's one of the things that was remarkable reading these ancient epics that I dug up, is the complexity and ambiguity of these stories and all the things that a listener had to juggle in her head that readers complain about. The reader is like, ah, that's too much to think about and such and such and I don't know what to believe, but you know, before the age of reading [inaudible] people are listening and they're juggling all these things, you know, by stories that you're going to hear. That's another thing that was very important to me that it should come across like a book that should be read out loud. It should have, novels should have volume.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And volume control.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And I'm a big believer in that, you know. Certain parts sound like a whisper, and some parts just sound like a scream, and some parts just sound like I'm telling you a secret. And other parts just sound like, you know, he's shouting it.

>> Kevin Young: And did you think about the audio quality of the book and, did you do the audio book?

>> Marlon James: No, I didn't. I don't do any of my audio books. I don't do any of them.

>> Kevin Young: So, you--

>> Marlon James: I cast good actors to do it.

>> Kevin Young: The cast [inaudible] yeah that's the way to do it, I'm sure.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, Deanne Graham did the audio book, and I knew I wanted him when I heard evicted. And he also did a lot of Octavia Butler's books.

>> Kevin Young: Wow.

>> Marlon James: And Ishmael Bayer's [phonetic] book. But even before audio books or so on, I knew, this is how I write, and certainly when I write this book, and I think if you, if you don't have the auditory quality, and you don't get how African languages work, because I wasn't going to turn Welloff [phonetic] into Elvish [phonetic] in the book. But I did borrow a lot from a lot of those language systems.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: This is why, even thought it's my most standard English book, I think for some people it's the hardest for them to read.

>> Kevin Young: That's really interesting.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, it's the most standard English book, but I was following rules of different languages than English.

>> Kevin Young: No, I could, you can, the voice, I'm calling it the voice for, because I do think it has this out loud quality, it's so convincing to me, but it is so different, and different people, of course, different books speak differently, but it has that quality that I think is really earned.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. Well that comes from, I mean some of that was from the research as well. Soggerland, for example, only speaks in present tense, which is a very black thing to do. You know, we rarely use past tense verbs. Certainly in Jamaica we don't he went, we say did go.

>> Kevin Young: Ah.

>> Marlon James: You know, or if we pick a tense we stay.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, that's right.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, we go, he soon go, he will go. We would say he going go.

>> Kevin Young: What does him going go mean?

>> Marlon James: Yeah, oh he'll soon be there. Or he'll soon go.

>> Kevin Young: Okay.

>> Marlon James: Him going go.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah yeah.

>> Marlon James: You know, him soon go. Him now go.

>> Kevin Young: Or, my family was from the South, you know, you say fixing to. Like that means, you know, about to, of course, or but sort of kind of in process, there's a quality there.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: That's fascinating. Tell me, when did you now you were going to include slavery in the book?

>> Marlon James: Pretty much as soon as I wrote, started writing it, because I think, I think that maybe [inaudible] coming in. Because I'm still wrestling with it.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: It's not, you know, I wrote a slavery novel and like, yeah, but one of the things the research was showing me, two things, one, African Arab slavery, which took as many millions as the West did, and I think we have this romanticized view of Arabian slavery. We know it was pretty repressive too.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: So, and I knew that if I was going to talk about an ancient Africa, I had to talk about slavery, but I also had to talk about the idea that it was normalized, because I think we still have this idea that somewhere, somehow slavery was normalized somewhere, and it was never normalized anywhere. That's the point to it. So, I know I was going to touch on it. I knew I wasn't, as much as I wanted to reach for an Africa that I was idealizing as a playground for fantasy fiction, I was going to let it off the hook. It's just a fact, I think. I think it's, it would be weird if it wasn't in there, I think.

>> Kevin Young: You managed to conjure it but also to damn it at the same time, you know, which I think is obviously, as you were saying, to see it clearly.

>> Marlon James: But, you know--

>> Kevin Young: And make you feel it.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, but one of the things that I found refreshing and damning was the view by a lot of tribes that we're all born with both sexes.

>> Kevin Young: Yes.

>> Marlon James: And that is so romantic and it's so daring and it's progressive until you start talking about women. And they go, oh, this is what leads to female circumcision. So it's not that cute anymore, and Tracker actually talks about it.

>> Kevin Young: Absolutely.

>> Marlon James: And he confronts it, that the same thing, because he chooses not to circumcise himself, and he chooses to be considered both male, female and [inaudible] and he's cool with that.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: And he fully understands why people do the circumcision thing, the circumcision ceremony, but he also calls out, but this the same type of utopian belief that have people cut girls out.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: But I wanted that as well. I think that's, again, part of making a novel feel real--

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: Instead of some idealized whatever.

>> Kevin Young: Well, and I felt the sexuality in the book, it can be hard to write about those things, and I thought you wrote about it beautifully.

>> Marlon James: The sexuality was a nice surprise.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: I didn't start out to write it that way. That was a research.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum.

>> Marlon James: And, you know, as a black man, as somebody who find a lot of his world view being sort of interrupted by [inaudible] and all sorts of people with this kind of revisionist idea of blackness, you know, like homosexuality and [inaudible] was some European disease we picked up in whatever century and so on. I mean, yeah, I like those hip hop records too, but it's, so to [inaudible] the research and come across things like [inaudible] warriors and these being very, very, you know, skilled, efficient, brutal, whatever, prized warriors, and they were the only people trusted to transport bride to be because everybody knew that nothing was going to happen. Everybody, that was their guarantee. It was like, dude we're gay. Your virgin daughter is safe with us.

>> Kevin Young: Right.

>> Marlon James: So it's not like it was unknown. It's not like it wasn't a part and didn't find a way into the fabric of society. I mean, people with different, you know, there are certain places with 14 genders.

>> Kevin Young: Sure, yeah, absolutely.

>> Marlon James: We talk about fluidity, the belief that you're both--

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum, true.

>> Marlon James: And that gender becomes, gender is not necessarily a choice, gender is a cut. You know, the whole idea that gender is just something what you decide to cut off.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: Which can be beautiful, but also it's a female circumcision, as we were saying. But the, I didn't go looking for it. And I ended up with this amazing kind of validation because I realized that a lot of the homophobia that's in countries like Nigeria and Ghana and so on is something they imported from American preachers. You know, my friend, my friend Lola Shonen [phonetic] said this, somebody asked her, I remember asked her, when will Africa be ready to accept like queerness and gay rights and blah blah blah. And she was just like Africa was born ready until a bunch of TV preachers from America told them that they weren't. It's that kind of fluidity and even that kind of playfulness and that kind of [inaudible] was there, and I found that it was one of the most affirming things I ever discovered .

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, I think it was very powerful. It made me wonder how much you were thinking about fantasy, the, you know, African futurism, which is in your case not necessarily future but an alternate world, is that [inaudible].

>> Marlon James: But I think it still ties into futurism though--

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, yeah, me too.

>> Marlon James: As I think a huge part of Africa futurism is correcting the past.

>> Kevin Young: Yes, correct.

>> Marlon James: It's, you know, it's because there is a lot of actual knowledge in the book, I think some of the characters call it black math.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum, that's right.

>> Marlon James: You know, they talk about the palace of wisdom, which actually was a thing. We all know, you know, the first universities were you know, in Mogadishu. So there is still an idea that knowledge is power.

>> Kevin Young: Yes.

>> Marlon James: And there is still an idea in the book that technology is happening and technology will lead to both good and bad.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum.

>> Marlon James: It's still, I wanted, I know I still wanted a book that was, that, you know, looks like a [inaudible] cover.

>> Kevin Young: That's right. It feels like that.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, because I mean [inaudible].

>> Kevin Young: Because [inaudible] was like I'm from the planet, and you're like, yeah, you are.

>> Marlon James: Yeah. You know, or, you know, like I mean like [inaudible] war babies or so on. Yeah, and loads and loads and loads of like [inaudible] and Miles Davis, which I was listening to constantly. Like, almost every day before I started writing this book, I was listening to Spanish Key from Bitches Brew.

>> Kevin Young: Nice.

>> Marlon James: And usually I'll start, like I'll put it on headphones and get on my bike, and I'm riding to this, you know [chanting] thing. So, by the time I get to the desk, I'm already writing.

>> Kevin Young: I love that.

>> Marlon James: It's almost like an, it is, to me, it is an act of rebellion in a way, that it's daring to have a futuristic vision.

>> Kevin Young: Sure.

>> Marlon James: Which I think also includes, as I've said, kind of a looking at the past, and it's not just, the reason why it's not, even it's the past, it's not retro is that certainly for me, I haven't come across, I didn't come across a lot of stories that go back and tell the past that way.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, no.

>> Marlon James: And I know that's what I wanted to do, which to me, for me, certainly is new for me.

>> Kevin Young: Aren't you always engaged with the past in some way?

>> Marlon James: Oh, yeah. I mean I've been called a historical novelist, which I take issue with, because 1976 is not history, you know what I mean.

>> Kevin Young: It's just the past.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, you know, my students are like, yeah, my dad grew up listening to Nirvana. I'm like that's, no, no--

>> Kevin Young: That's crazy.

>> Marlon James: Leave my class immediately. I, but I am obsessed. I think I'm obsessed with it. I'm obsessed with the past and pretty much every novel I've written, even this one is kind of an imagined past, and I think one, I'm very concerned with how stories get told. I'm absolutely concerned that stories are told wrong. I am very interested in erasure.

>> Kevin Young: Absolutely.

>> Marlon James: And I think that's one of the things that a lot of writers, a lot of us, certainly black writers, African American, certainly the Caribbean writers, regardless of what we're writing, I think there is still a response to erasure. This is a response to the erasure of mythology from my life and from any of my sense of who I was. So, it's still there and it's still happening.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah. I want to ask you two last things. One is, one is really about what you've just mentioned, which is am I wrong or is there a Renaissance now of black writing and of Caribbean writing.

>> Marlon James: I think there is. I see that, but I also see a lot of black writers all over messing with reality. I see a lot of that, whether it's [inaudible] or Victor LaValle [phonetic] or I'm trying to think of who else, who else has been pushing the boundaries lately. I'm [inaudible] has always been doing it. You know, there's an anthology that came out years ago called Octavia's brood. And I think a lot of that is what's happening, because the times demand it.

>> Kevin Young: That's right.

>> Marlon James: Because, I mean, has there ever been a [inaudible] than what we're in now.

>> Kevin Young: Correct, yeah.

>> Marlon James: I mean this is my fan of [inaudible] social realism, and then I'll stop. I don't think it's equipped to talk about the crazy times we're in.

>> Kevin Young: Well, I think you're, I think you're largely right.

>> Marlon James: Yeah, because when you open [inaudible] and see Make America Great Again, you just, I mean I'm getting chills now just saying that.

>> Kevin Young: Wow.

>> Marlon James: It's, we're in a, we're in this, I think we're in a period of a kind of let's call it fundamental instability. And I think that means we have literature that's coming out. It's not just a Renaissance because the Renaissance of literature that's chafing against the reality that we're writing about.

>> Kevin Young: Right. That's one of my questions then is, is it a protest to write fantasy?

>> Marlon James: Oh yeah.

>> Kevin Young: Is it a protest against reality?

>> Marlon James: Yeah, I think it is. Again, I can talk, I mean I think I can talk specifically about the black tradition, and I do think it's rebellion. It's like, you know, African futurism has always been rebellion because you're daring to impose a different narrative than what has been handed to us, including the idea that we have no origin narratives.

>> Kevin Young: Right. And you're also saying that, you know, I love it in music with that written about before, where you're also saying out there is more my home than right here, which is, you know, goes back to slavery in the American South's critique of--

>> Marlon James: Yeah, it goes back to slave ships.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah.

>> Marlon James: You know, and it's not just the evil who knew it. It's like, no, this is, I'm going further and further away from home. In a way this book was kind of a homecoming for me. It was a major homecoming for me, even though it wasn't necessarily targeting or identifying with any specific African territory or country or land or tribe. But it was, to me it's like, I say this, you know, like almost every musician eventually, certainly every black musician eventually has to reckon with the blues.

>> Kevin Young: Um-hum, that's right.

>> Marlon James: And I think for me as a writer, certainly as a black writer, and a writer of African descent, I know sooner or later I was going to have to reckon with that narrative, with the origin narrative, the first original narrative.

>> Kevin Young: The original Afro-Asianic black man?

>> Marlon James: Yeah. [inaudible]

>> Kevin Young: Well, I think you definitely wrestle with origins in a powerful way in this book. I guess, you know, we've talked a little bit about the future of the trilogy. Is there a future for it, can you see in other forms appearing, movie, or--

>> Marlon James: Already, you know, we're in the very beginnings of a movie adaptation, you know, Michael B. Jordan's company bought the rights. [inaudible] Kilmonger bought the book.

>> Kevin Young: Oh, that's amazing.

>> Marlon James: And we'll see where we go from there. Some very, very talented people are coming abroad, coming on board rather. Because, yeah, it'll be interesting to have a fully committed black universe that, yeah, that everything, every aspect of it's imagining, again, something you have to commit to. So, I'm thinking about that. I'm resisting temptations to do a graphic novel. I'm failing in resisting temptations to do a graphic novel.

>> Kevin Young: I was going to say that it seems just right for it. Did you think about doing it as a graphic novel?

>> Marlon James: I did a couple times.

>> Kevin Young: But the language is so important to the book.

>> Marlon James: Yeah.

>> Kevin Young: So, if they do a graphic novel, it has to capture that.

>> Marlon James: Um-hum. I'd rather do a graphic novel of spinoff stories.

>> Kevin Young: Yeah, I think that would be amazing.

>> Marlon James: So, yeah, who knows, but definitely. I would, I'm definitely have a lot more to say about being a Jamaican and being a Jamaican in the country and [inaudible]. I still have a lot to say about the world that's right in front of my face, but I think I'll be in this world for a while, certainly in the next six years.

>> Kevin Young: Well, I mean we are honored that we have any part in these wonderful books you've been writing, and we look forward to the ones you're writing in the future. Thanks for being with us, Marlon James.

>> Marlon James: Thank you.

>> Kevin Young: And thanks everyone.

[ Music ]

>> That was Kevin Young and Marlon James talking about Marlon James' new book Black Leopard, Red Wolf. If you live in New York and you have a New York Public Library card, you can get Black Leopard, Red Wolf at one of our branches, or you can check it out on our app, simply E, although it's very popular, so, you know, you're going to have to wait a bit. You can also get some of Kevin Young's books, including his most recently collection of poetry, Brown, at our branches and on our app. Library Talks is produced by Schuyler Swenson with editorial support from Richert Schnorr and myself. And our theme music was composed by Allison Layton-Brown.