Introducing the Special Guest for a Conversation About ‘Likes’

In this week’s newsletter, read about fiction writer Stuart Dybek, who will appear as the special guest in a conversation with author Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and host John Freeman for January’s California Book Club gathering.

stuart dybek, sarah bynum, john freeman

Is there meaning in a glimpse of two people communing over a bruise? Yes, it turns out. This is the small yet oddly resonant gesture unfolded in short story master Stuart Dybek’s evocative flash fiction “Bruise.” As Sarah Shun-lien Bynum does in Likes, our January California Book Club selection, Dybek homes in on the slightly strange, minute shifts in the bonds between his characters. And he, too, crafts beautiful stories, composed of emotionally precise sentences and concerned with the liminal hinterlands where the real and the dreamscape converge. George Saunders called him “one of the most soulful writers in America, and a national treasure.” We’re pleased to announce that Dybek will be our special guest to converse about Likes with Bynum and our host John Freeman on January 20.

Dybek’s books include the short story collections Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, The Coast of Chicago, and Paper Lantern, along with the novel-in-stories I Sailed with Magellan, which was a New York Times Notable Book. “Breasts,” one of the stories from I Sailed with Magellan, appeared in 2004’s Best American Short Stories. Dybek is also the author of the flash fiction collection Ecstatic Cahoots. He has won a PEN/Malamud, a Whiting Fiction Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, and numerous O. Henry Prizes, and he received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2007. In addition, Dybek is an accomplished poet, with two published collections of poetry.

Be sure to join us for a sparkling conversation about intimacy, connection, and ever so slightly otherworldly short stories.•

On January 20 at 5 p.m., Bynum will be in conversation with CBC host John Freeman and Dybek. Meanwhile, visit the Alta Clubhouse to discuss Likes with your fellow California Book Club members.


likes, sarah shun lien bynum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Alta Journal’s assistant editor Nasim Ghasemiyeh writes about Bynum’s “Julia and Sunny.” It tells the story of two couples, one of whom idealizes the other so completely that they seem to lose themselves. —Alta

young woman, instagram


In “Likes,” Bynum captures the nuanced emotions of being a girl on Instagram. Alta assistant editor Jessica Blough looks at the story through the personal lens of her own years as a tween on social media. —Alta

burn coast, dale maharidge
Unnamed Press


Alta books editor David L. Ulin considers Dale Maharidge’s Burn Coast, a noir about outcasts and misfits set in the haunted landscape of the Mendocino Triple Junction. —Alta

vicki ling illustration
Vicki Ling


Jean Chen Ho, the Southern California author of Fiona and Jane, reflects on texts from an ex-boyfriend, an abortion, and what it might mean “to live in the subjunctive.” —New York Times Magazine

how high we go in the dark
William Morris


Past CBC author Reyna Grande reviews How High We Go in the Dark, a dystopian novel made up of interconnected short stories about a pandemic triggered by an ancient virus. Its author, Sequoia Nagamatsu, is originally from Hawaii and the Bay Area. —San Francisco Chronicle

station eleven
Ian Watson/HBO Max


Hollywood showrunner Patrick Somerville made several significant changes in adapting Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, a speculative novel about the power of art after a pandemic decimates civilization. —Esquire

california book club bookplates

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