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The places we live in shape us. I don’t care who you are how indomitable your will…your spirit is in dialogue with the place you live. For example, I live in New York City, a place I wrapped around me like a second skin when I was 18 years old. Back then New York made me feel strong, cool, infinitely removed from the suburbs I grew up in. I’ve been here for 25 years and at this point what I mostly notice is the claustrophobic public spaces, the smallness of the sky. 

What do you feel when you hear the word ‘Florida’? Do the pleasure centers of your brain light up, imagining palm trees and pristine beaches? Or does your amygdala kick in as you imagine the ancillary costs of a week at Disney World? 

My guest today is the writer Lauren Groff. In her vivid, dreamlike new book of short stories, Florida is a humid, seething organism that wants to eat you. Snake-infested. Full of sinkholes. A thing to resist, get lost in, surrender to, and sometimes, temporarily escape. 

Lauren Groff Quote: I think that most writers are profoundly good people. But in order to write the things that are really incisive and to go down deep in the work I think you do need to be a little bit of a murderer on the inside. You need to really not care about ramifications until the editing process. You have to throw everything in, be as risky as possible, do everything that you possibly can to hit that ideal that you have in your head. I like writing multiple drafts, throwing them out, coming back to them, throwing them out—in order to embrace the chaos. Because otherwise my natural propensities are to make things airless. To make things perfect in the beginning and not allow . . . Leonard Cohen has this great line “the cracks are the way the light gets in.” So if you intentionally put cracks into your work at every level then you can let the light in and work against your worst impulses.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Richard O. Prum on Duck Mating and Human Sexuality

Steven Pinker on Struggle

About Think Again - A Big Think Podcast: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel? Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting? Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. Each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you may have heard of with short clips from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. These conversations could, and do, go anywhere.


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