Ellena Savage and Rachel Kushner on stage — Photo: Scott Limbrick
‘This is a story that gets to the root of how my society is structured right now … There’s a way that prison is invisible to a middle-class person. It’s not a conspiracy, but it may be by design in certain regards. It’s a serious subject for a novelist.’
Rachel Kushner is among America’s brightest literary stars. With her previous, highly acclaimed novels, Telex from Cuba (about American expatriates in 1950s pre-Castro Cuba) and The Flamethrowers (about radical New York artists in the seventies), she explored two very different scenes of ideological chaos and confusion, with exhilarating prose and virtuosic storytelling.
Kushner's latest novel, The Mars Room, sees her applying her talents, once again, to probing the political context and meaning of a very specific time and place. This time, it’s the American prison system, and it's the present day. The Mars Room is about a woman serving two life sentences for killing her stalker and it’s the product of years of research, and close collaboration with Americans who have themselves served time.
In conversation with Ellena Savage for our Mayhem series in April 2019, the extraordinary Kushner talks crime, punishment and American institutions.