Charlie Kaufman in conversation with Jane Smiley
discussing the writing life and his novel, “Antkind”
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The bold and boundlessly original debut novel from the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York.
Charlie Kaufman is the screenwriter of films including Anomalisa; Synechdoche, New York; Adaptation; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; and Being John Malkovich. He won an Academy Award for his work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and has been nominated three additional times. He is also a three-time BAFTA winner for screenwriting, and he has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, among many other film honors.
Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and most recently, The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: Some Luck, Early Warning, and Golden Age. She is also the author of several works of nonfiction and books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. Her next novel is Perestroika in Paris and publishes in December 2020.
“To paraphrase Charlie Kaufman, it’s like a brain factory in there! This is a whopper of a book, bursting with the driest of humor, the strangest of scenarios, and the most brilliant of observations. It is wholly original, maddening, and marvelous.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book
“Each page is so stuffed with invention, audacity, and hilarity, it feels like an act of defiance. Antkind is a fever dream you don’t want to be shaken awake from, a thrill ride that veers down stranger and stranger alleys until you find yourself in a reality so kaleidoscopic you will question your own sanity—or: the novel only Charlie Kaufman could pull off.”—Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette
B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, neurotic and underappreciated film critic (failed academic, filmmaker, paramour, shoe salesman who sleeps in a sock drawer), stumbles upon a hitherto unseen film made by an enigmatic outsider—a film he’s convinced will change his career trajectory and rock the world of cinema to its core. His hands on what is possibly the greatest movie ever made—a three-month-long stop-motion masterpiece that took its reclusive auteur ninety years to complete—B. knows that it is his mission to show it to the rest of humanity. The only problem: The film is destroyed, leaving him the sole witness to its inadvertently ephemeral genius.
All that’s left of this work of art is a single frame from which B. must somehow attempt to recall the film that just might be the last great hope of civilization. Thus begins a mind-boggling journey through the hilarious nightmarescape of a psyche as lushly Kafkaesque as it is atrophied by the relentless spew of Twitter. Desperate to impose order on an increasingly nonsensical existence, trapped in a self-imposed prison of aspirational victimhood and degeneratively inclusive language, B. scrambles to re-create the lost masterwork while attempting to keep pace with an ever-fracturing culture of “likes” and arbitrary denunciations that are simultaneously his bête noire and his raison d’être.
A searing indictment of the modern world, Antkind is a richly layered meditation on art, time, memory, identity, comedy, and the very nature of existence itself—the grain of truth at the heart of every joke.