Gays Reading

Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time)

May 14, 2024 Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Kaliane Bradley Season 2 Episode 52
Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time)
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time)
May 14, 2024 Season 2 Episode 52
Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Kaliane Bradley

Jason and Brett talk to Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time) about transforming her once-serious novel about Cambodia and being mixed-race into the latest genre-defying Good Morning America book club pick. They learn how Kaliane was able to experience the 21st century as an adventure, gush over the only photo of a footnote of a historical figure, and debate about chilled red wine.

Kaliane Bradley is a British-Cambodian writer and editor based in London. Her short fiction has appeared in Somesuch Stories, The Willowherb Review, Electric Literature, Catapult, and Extra Teeth, among others. She was the winner of the 2022 Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize and the 2022 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. 

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Kaliane Bradley (The Ministry of Time) about transforming her once-serious novel about Cambodia and being mixed-race into the latest genre-defying Good Morning America book club pick. They learn how Kaliane was able to experience the 21st century as an adventure, gush over the only photo of a footnote of a historical figure, and debate about chilled red wine.

Kaliane Bradley is a British-Cambodian writer and editor based in London. Her short fiction has appeared in Somesuch Stories, The Willowherb Review, Electric Literature, Catapult, and Extra Teeth, among others. She was the winner of the 2022 Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize and the 2022 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. 

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Brett Benner:

I'm a little over, I'm a little overwhelmed as always that

Jason Blitman:

episode starts with you saying you're

Brett Benner:

I know that because there's a lot to be overwhelmed by, but it's also just because I can't believe we're now halfway through May, and it's just

Jason Blitman:

Right. Time going by is crazy. Which is hilarious that today we're talking about the ministry of time.

Brett Benner:

Well, it's also weird to get the Kirkus review yesterday, the new issue, or I guess it came Saturday and it was all about, you know, summer books. And I was like, we're there. I mean, it's crazy, which this also speaking to ministry of time could work as a another summer book. So

Jason Blitman:

summer book. There are other great books that come out today.

Brett Benner:

yes, there are.

Jason Blitman:

One of our recent upcoming up and coming guests, Melissa Mogollon with her book. oye,

Brett Benner:

OYE

Jason Blitman:

which love. We love Melissa. And if you haven't listened, go check out her episode.

Brett Benner:

A book that I'm really interested in, it's getting such incredible reviews, is Claire Massoud's The Strange Eventful History,

Jason Blitman:

Oh yeah.

Brett Benner:

an immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history from one of our finest contemporary novelists.

Jason Blitman:

So this is like so out of my genre and comfort zone, but I'm gonna try to tackle it if I can, but a book, coming out today called Road to Ruin by Hana Lee, an electrifying, gritty fantasy from debut author Hana Lee that takes a royal messenger on a high speed chase across a climate ravaged wasteland featuring motorbikes, monsters, and magic. it just sounds so fascinating,

Brett Benner:

It's a little Mad Max or Mad Maxine.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, it is. It is inspired by Mad Max.

Brett Benner:

Oh, well, there you go. Also coming out today. Carvel Wallace's memoir. Another word for love, which is just fantastic.

Jason Blitman:

egg. Carvel may or may not be making an appearance later this year on Gaze Reading.

Brett Benner:

Also, Out today, and I've never read any of his stuff, but I have to say this looks, uh, the cover alone is beautiful, is Blue Ruin by Hari Kundra, Kundru, sorry, Kundru, from one of the sharpest voices in fiction today, a profound and enthralling novel about beauty and power, capital art, and those who devote their life to creating it.

Jason Blitman:

covers. Gorgeous.

Brett Benner:

beautiful.

Jason Blitman:

Lots of great covers coming out today. Um,

Brett Benner:

when people, like on Instagram, start to post, like, favorite covers of the year. But, uh, today I had a lot of good ones.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you so much for joining us, for today's episode of Gay's Reading. For those of you who are new, welcome. Those of you who are coming back, thank you for coming back. As always, if you like what you're hearing, please share us with your friends. Like and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And if you could give us a little five star review wherever you listen, that is super helpful for folks to, uh, find us. we also have gaze reading merch, and we have a gaze reading Patreon, and any book that we talk about on any episode, you could find on our bookshop. org page. And All of those links can be found in our show notes, as well as the link tree on our Instagram, which is at Gay's Reading. You can give us a follow over there. On today's episode, we have the lovely and delightful Kaliane Bradley. She is here to talk to us about her new book that just came out last week, the ministry of time, and it was also just named maze. Good morning, America book, club Beck. Kaliane Bradley is a British Cambodian writer and editor based in London. Her short fiction has appeared in some such stories. The Willow herb review, electric literature, catapults, and extra teeth among others. She was the winner of the 2022 Harper's bizarre short story prize on the 2022 vs. Pritchett short story prize. And with that, I'm Jason.

Brett Benner:

I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this episode of Gaze

Brett Benner:

reading. Wow, you jumped me quick.

Jason Blitman:

How has your day been so far?

Kaliane Bradley:

It has been pretty good. No food in the house, so I went out to a local bakery. Turns out the local bakeries around here don't open on Mondays. They simply are not interested in that kind of thing. The genre Monday is not for them. Uh,

Jason Blitman:

Be nice? I'm going to put my days on hold too. No, thank you. I'm closed on my days.

Kaliane Bradley:

exactly. No one is available. You're just not available to anyone. So that was good. I

Brett Benner:

They're just not ready to start their week yet. Like the dough hasn't risen.

Kaliane Bradley:

Some of them start their weeks on Wednesday and I was like, Oh, that's pleasant.

Jason Blitman:

But you know what? This is what you're learning now. It's okay. That's

Kaliane Bradley:

Get around. Had a really fun morning cycling to various banks to change my address to explain I'd moved into a new house. That was great. Again many people say my name in many different ways. It was, it's wonderful. I love the variety of life.

Jason Blitman:

I'm sure you don't, but that's okay. I'm so excited that you're here to talk to us. We're very grateful for your time. We have our dog eared copies of your book

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh my god!

Jason Blitman:

or not dog eared our annotated copies of our tabs copies

Kaliane Bradley:

amazing! That's one of the most gratifying things I've ever seen, thank you so much for reading it.

Jason Blitman:

It's funny. Everyone does get tickled by it. So we do try to show the authors, because everyone has the same reaction. It's very sweet.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah, this is really moving, oh my god. Someone read the book, wow.

Jason Blitman:

For our listeners who have not read the book yet, because at the time of the time we air this, it will have been published a week. What is your elevator pitch for the book?

Kaliane Bradley:

Do you want the two minute one or the thirty second one?

Jason Blitman:

Let's do a 30 second one, because. There's a lot to unpack here.

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh yeah, the thirty second one is that it is a it's a time travel tragicomic romance about empire, bureaucracy and cigarettes. Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, that's a great 30 second elevator pitch. It's also, it's like a little bit thriller, a little bit workplace comedy, a little, it's like a little nugget of all of these different things. But at its core, you talked about time travel. It's also called administrative time. So it, that, that sort of, it gives itself away. But one of the things that it's core is we meet Graham Gore, who is a polar explorer. From long, long ago,

Brett Benner:

Real life guy too.

Jason Blitman:

a real life human, and the book came to be because during lockdown, you became obsessed with reading about polar explorations. How was that the rabbit hole you fell down?

Kaliane Bradley:

Sometimes I ask myself, why did this happen? I haven't, I have genuinely no idea. Sometimes I think it's just, there was a lot of space in my brain during lockdown hollowed out by all the trauma and all the stress. There was just space for it to go into. So the slightly humorous origin story, but the entirely true origin story is that I was just watching a TV series during lockdown called the terror, which aired on AMC in the U S and the BBC here which was about Franklin's Lost Expedition to the Arctic, which was a real Arctic expedition sent by the British Empire to try and find the Northwest Passage. And it's a really wonderful creepy, atmospheric, beautiful, emotional, difficult, wonderful TV series. But, all those things when you have lockdown brain are quite difficult to follow. there are 66 named characters, most of them are white men, with big mutton chops bundled up against the Arctic cold. Quite difficult to follow. As I was watching it I got to the end of the first episode and thought, I might just check a fan wiki for this TV series to check that I know what's actually happening. Also because, it was lockdown, I was watching TV with my phone on my lap. It's a very normal and respectful thing to do to broadcast media.

Brett Benner:

By the way, um, I, I sit with a phone on my lap, even not when it wasn't locked out the time. That's the problem with. The current age, you do it.

Kaliane Bradley:

What if your phone gets lonely? What, you want to make sure it's all right.

Brett Benner:

There was a

Jason Blitman:

or more importantly, what if you want to Google what that person looked like in real life

Brett Benner:

That's exactly

Jason Blitman:

with that That one black and white photo of Graham Gore that you find when you Google, Oh, he's handsome.

Brett Benner:

is, but the hair, it's, yes

Jason Blitman:

we'll put Instagram so all of our listeners can go look and see it.

Brett Benner:

there's the

Kaliane Bradley:

they can see the little smile.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

It's a little smirk and a tiny little dimple.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah, like he's holding in a sneeze and if he lets it out, then he's, part of the empire is going to collapse.

Brett Benner:

That's exactly right. It's

Jason Blitman:

that we learn early on in the book is that people from different time periods find themselves in the same environment, and they're learning about new vocabulary or ways that we're speaking about things, sensible, used to mean sensitive, a silent seeker was the same as lunatic asylum, like little things that are so drastically different. Now, of course, one of the biggest is gay versus, what game meant then versus what game means now. Were there other fun things that you got that you found you were playing with navigating your own brain with what things mean now versus what things have meant throughout various time periods. Yeah.

Kaliane Bradley:

yes. And I have to say that the the expats who come from the 17th century were the hardest to write because there's such a lot of difference between 21st century language and 17th century language. One of the things that was really interesting when I was thinking about the changes in language that there are two things that I'm going to pull out. One is I've just used the word expat. to describe these people who are pulled from the past and you've mentioned the word The term asylum seeker and all these like these very loaded, even now very politically loaded terms for people who migrate, in this case across time periods, but generally speaking across geographies was very interesting in the context of both the British Empire and how the British Empire saw itself as the kind of center of the world and everyone was either moving away from it or moving towards it. And now this idea of borders and what borders mean and what nationalities mean. However, the other thing that was really interesting to think about and a lot of fun to think about was the way that sex is described. So the term having sex, for example, is introduced to Graham Gore quite early on in the book. And he is so repulsed by that term because it just does not mean the same thing to him. He finds it so vile. He's Oh God, I hope I never hear you say that again.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that's so funny. Yeah, it's, it is. I know I don't like that word for some reason, sapphic. It just really well, that's different. It like doesn't mean something else to

Brett Benner:

No, it doesn't. No, I understand.

Jason Blitman:

I don't know why. Anyway It got me thinking a lot about if there are words that I use in regular terms now that would make me uncomfortable if a hundred years from now, it was used in a very different way, and I guess you can't really You can't even think about something like that because who knows that what word is going to mean something else entirely?

Brett Benner:

but you do

Kaliane Bradley:

What's good? Maximum take

Brett Benner:

Yeah, but like even talking about like the etymology of just you said earlier, something about eating or something. Jason, when we started this, I don't know. And like a big word for young people now. Is eight and what it means is oh, I ate that or she ate it or that eight and I'm always like my, this is the weird thing about having a, my daughter is 17 in the midst of all this. And she was saying it this way. I was like how was so and so at Coachella? Oh my God, they ate it. And I was like, they ate what? Yeah. They, that's a good thing. Or, you'd also say he ate it. We used to say that like someone fell

Jason Blitman:

fall.

Brett Benner:

yes. Oh my god. They totally ate it But now it's a good thing like oh, they ate and I was like, okay, they ate it So it's just an interesting how it so you can imagine hundreds of years but also just the fun you had I think in line with that too is the technological elements of what he ate And these people are responding to and not responding to these contemporary things, even like as rudimentary as television, but also his obsession with Spotify. And also,

Jason Blitman:

What's funny, you say rudimentary, but it's not rudimentary for someone

Kaliane Bradley:

Spotify is wild. It's

Brett Benner:

yes, for us, yes, I'm thinking in this current age, but of

Jason Blitman:

basic in quotes for us present day.

Kaliane Bradley:

There was actually a long scene that I took out because it was just a bit too silly for the final book, where Grangor's introduced to a washing machine, which is it's, I think we underestimate just how enormous that would have been to a Victorian because, washing days would take an entire day. It was so much labor, water was so expensive, getting things clean was so difficult. Drying things in Victorian England, which was going through a mini ice age. Very tedious. Obviously all the labour of this sort would be done by women. So this is just something he would have had very little conception of. And the idea that you could just shove things into a drum, turn it on, it spins, and you can even put it in a dryer and it's done. It would have blown his mind. It would have changed the shape of a Victorian household, had he had it in front of him.

Jason Blitman:

And it's also interesting the way that these expats interpret some of this technology. Like the way that they even talk about electricity, someone refers to it as enslaved lightning.

Brett Benner:

Of

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah, exactly. Because like you just cannot imagine that this labour is being done with us. someone being exploited somewhere.

Brett Benner:

course, of course. Yeah, my favorite, and I hope this is not a spoiler, but when he was,

Jason Blitman:

it is.

Brett Benner:

Just when Gore is responding with television and how he doesn't like to watch TV and he refers to Sesame Street as deformed monstrosities against the will of God. I love that so much. I was like, wow, for someone just coming into it and thinking about that, of seeing these creatures, this blue man who's obsessed with cookies and, a vampire running around with, counting numbers next to one.

Kaliane Bradley:

And you're like, yeah, we leave our kids with them.

Brett Benner:

Yes, exactly.

Jason Blitman:

Just leave the kids. They're like, they're the babysitters in present day. For me, something that I clocked was the concept of keeping secrets and how in one era it's dishonest. And then another era, it's a kindness. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting. And a good way to think about sometimes saying nothing is the nice thing to say or to not say.

Kaliane Bradley:

It's a nice thing. It's also sometimes if you have to, especially if you're, if you've been funneled into these very rigid ideas of what a Victorian gentleman should be or what a demure woman should be. Obviously these, like these conceptions are so false. They were false at the time because people have always been people, but in order to live them, you do have to hide a little bit about yourself, you've got to compartmentalize yourself a little

Jason Blitman:

and to that point, it's something I feel like when I was coming of age, and Brett, you might feel this way too, you needed to pick a lane in terms of how you presented yourself, right?

Brett Benner:

the code

Jason Blitman:

theater kid, right? I was gay, there was this and you stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. But what I find so fascinating is the way that gore is talked about in the book almost represents the way I see young people today. So the narrator describes gore as the most entirely realized person she's ever met. he hunts, he sketches, he plays the flute. He's a polar explorer. He's good with people. He's like really a Renaissance man and doesn't need to

Brett Benner:

He's perfect.

Jason Blitman:

But you see so many young people today and they're like, I'm going to pay my nails and I want to do this and I want to do that. And I want to express myself in all sorts of ways. And I could be the jock who also does theater, or I could be the theater kid who also plays sport, right? Like you can, it's, you're just all of that. And you don't have to label yourself that. How, as a person who has thrust herself into examining all of these different time periods, how does this feel for you?

Kaliane Bradley:

a man of his time but also you can, because he was flexible. He wasn't. I don't know if he was literally flexible, but he was an explorer. He was open minded. It was exciting to imagine someone who would come to something like the 21st century and feel like it was an adventure instead of a trial, which is how I sometimes experience the 21st century. But the other thing that it's really interesting that you say, sometimes it feels like Having to choose your personality and having to choose the way you present feels like having to code switch. I don't think it is a spoiler, it's given away very early on that the the narrator of the book is mixed race. as I am, and she's half British, half Cambodian, and she has very, she's very strictly and severely picked one of those names. She's decided to be as British and as white passing as possible and to not to not draw too much attention to the fact that she is not a white woman. And so I think when she is presented with Graham Gore, this man who is cheerfully ignoring the health warnings on cigarette packets to smoke seven a day plus. I think that's mind blowing for her and it was very, it was a great deal of fun for me.

Jason Blitman:

writing that character, as you said, is someone that you can identify with. Let's also say the character is unnamed, we don't know the name of our narrator. In writing our narrator, how did that feel? Exploring that dichotomy for you as

Kaliane Bradley:

the interesting thing about that narrator is that when I first wrote the book, she wasn't British Cambodian. She wasn't really anything at all. Because I had written the book, I hadn't intended to write it as a book. I'd written it in just like a series of chapters to entertain some friends I'd found online because of lockdown who were also very into polo exploration and as a kind of gift to them, as a kind of literary parlor game, I started writing this series of sketches what would it be like if your favorite polo explorer lived in your house? It's weird, probably because

Brett Benner:

see the child. I see the children's book coming out already.

Jason Blitman:

The polar explorer who lives in your

Brett Benner:

exact. That's exactly right. What is this

Kaliane Bradley:

I'd read it, I'd read it.

Brett Benner:

All about a

Kaliane Bradley:

Um, oh, the blender! That's a good way to explain, like, why not stick your hand into a blender. It's very bad for your Victorian.

Brett Benner:

That's exactly.

Kaliane Bradley:

What on earth was I talking about?

Jason Blitman:

So you were writing this for your

Kaliane Bradley:

Sorry, yes, I was writing it for these group of friends and it was just a sketch and I'd actually originally written it entirely in the second person because it was literally like, you are living with Graham Gore, you see him coming to the kitchen, you feel very strange, you make a cup of tea. And when I was developing the, that sort of proto novel into a novel and I was trying to think seriously about who this person could be, why she existed what it meant for her to fall in love with this man. I was also trying to write a serious novel about Cambodia, and about Khmer Rouge, and about the Cambodian diaspora, and about being mixed race, and it was a measurable experience. It was so grim, I didn't enjoy writing it, it wasn't fun, it wasn't going anywhere but I did have a character in it. Who had the same ambivalent relationship to to power specifically to power and power structures, because that's really what's the Bri the Bridge is interested in. It's not so much that she's a shame to not be white, it's that she's seen the way that power is set up and she's, and she wants to have power. She wants to have control. And so she's taken what she's seen she thinks is the easy route. So I just picked her up from there and dropped her into this other book. seemed to work very well because it, she was originally in an academic context. Now she's in a civil service context. It really just felt like she belonged.

Jason Blitman:

And simultaneously you are doing the work of what you were, maybe not in full of what you were hoping the other book would do, but it certainly addresses a handful of these topics.

Kaliane Bradley:

I actually think I prefer the way it's addressed in the Ministry of Time because the other book felt so much like, someone's holding the back of my head and forcing me to, to write this book that I should be writing. And it just wasn't

Jason Blitman:

no, and the way that it comes out in ministry, I think is it is surprising and also makes you think as a reader and it makes you Google some things in the way that you did when you were, learning about polar explorers.

Brett Benner:

Well, You've also supported it with your supporting cast in terms of these arguments that come up or certain elements in terms of race that come up. Again, I don't want to give anything away. But it's interesting how you address all that. You have a just to move to that for one second. You haven't like we talked to Jason mentioned in the beginning that there's almost like an office comedy element to this book and you have such a terrific, we haven't even really delved into Degore fully yet, but your supporting cast is so fantastic. These other characters that come in Margaret especially, I loved her so much and she's someone we talk about adjustments and how these people are going to adjust and she seems to take it by the bull by the horns and just embrace all of these new freedoms and everything that comes with it in the best way.

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh, I'm really glad you like Margaret. It's every time someone tells me that they really loved her, I'm like, great. Me too. She's one of those characters I feel nothing but joy towards. Uh, She was so much fun to write. So yes, Margaret is she's from the 17th century, she's been pulled from the the Great Plague of London. And she was just a joy to write because I do think someone who hasn't lived through, the cycles of feminism and hasn't been able to take a lot of the freedoms women have for granted would just be like, wow, this is great. I can't believe I don't have to marry and no one's going to be worried about it. Although, of course. People are sometimes still weird about it. We've still got a long way to go. But I also wanted her to be someone who just, on her own terms, was just filled with joy. Was, wanted to be alive, wanted to be in the world, no matter where she was going to thrive. And I wanted her to thrive in the 21st century as much as she would have done in the 17th.

Jason Blitman:

And something so interesting that the book does, and Brett, you were just saying, talking about race, even the idea of having to explain homosexuality, having to explain what racism even is, because racism as a concept. was new to all of these expats, right? And Gore's response to that which I think he asks his own questions to try and I have them written down, but I won't say them because I think it's for the reader. It's an interesting thing to, to experience. But it really makes you think about how you continue to live in the world, interacting with people that are different from you or just in experiences that you are not familiar with and how we adapt or don't and navigate. And I think it, It, the book does a very interesting job in making us reflect ourselves.

Kaliane Bradley:

I, thank you, I'm really glad you think so. I was really interested in this idea of this narration of this woman who has made certain choices about, The way she's going to live in the way she's going to present being confronted with the idea that even what she's chosen is an entirely new structure that she's living in a structure that has been imposed on her, regardless of whether she thinks she's thriving in or whether she is think she's playing it on her terms, it's, it just can't be true. The house will always win. If you don't approach the world with openness, I think, and willingness to meet other people on their own terms.

Jason Blitman:

Some of what we're talking about also tows the line of trauma, and there's a, we, there's trauma that comes up in the book too, and some, there's a quote from the book, an underrated symptom of inherited trauma is how socially awkward it is to live with. How do you, how, I don't want to, I don't want to say how is that intended because as a reader, I can interpret that in my own ways, but I think there's the idea of being triggered by things. There's the idea of how we interpret things that other people say. Is that something you could talk about a little bit? Inherited

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jason Blitman:

that makes us socially awkward.

Kaliane Bradley:

So part of the interest of writing, there is like a much larger interest, but I will say that the small amount of it is just quite often when I explain to people because you know I, you can see me on the screen I don't look like I'm Cambodian. When people find out that I am. part Cambodian and the bridge experiences this as well. You can see them cycling through responses like, oh my god, isn't that the place where there was that terrible genocide? Oh, haven't I seen those piles of skulls? Oh, how awkward, what to do? And it, I sometimes find it a little frustrating, I don't want to have to I also don't know how to explain this genocide to you, sorry. Maybe we should move on to a different conversation topic. But yeah, this idea of trauma being socially awkward. I think the word trauma is even the concept of trauma sounds so narratively dramatic, right? It sounds like something that cuts across your life, and it does, the experience of it cuts across your life, but also there's going to be a very clear before and after and maybe the after you're existing in a kind of shadow strangeness and this strangeness will cling to you in a dramatic way, like a long cloak. But of course it's not like that. You have to get up, you have to go to the shops, you have to try and find a bakery that's open, you have to take your kids to school, you have to go to your job, and You don't have being traumatized, you don't stop being traumatized, you just have to find a way to move on. You, other people have to find a way to start finding you normal. You just have to, you have to constantly live with this thing inside And like social awkwardness is not sexy. It's not the dark mysterious shadow. It's not the narratively satisfying crash. It is just day after day, moment after moment, having to live with the possibility that you might be triggered, that you might react in ways that are, I'm saying unsexy in a slightly facetious way, but ways that people find just unpleasant. What do you do? What does everyone do?

Jason Blitman:

Speaking of unpleasant, can we talk about chilled red wine?

Kaliane Bradley:

Not a fan of chilled red wine!

Jason Blitman:

people actually do that? Who ch

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

No, I know people put an ice cube in their red wine, but why?

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh that,

Brett Benner:

that I wouldn't put yeah, I wouldn't put an ice cube in my red wine I would not do that, but I would I have had it chilled not always but I have had it that way

Kaliane Bradley:

Isn't it a chill a, chill a bogey lane a bogey?

Jason Blitman:

you chill your red wine?

Kaliane Bradley:

It depends on the grape.

Jason Blitman:

And maybe there's some that you're supposed to.

Kaliane Bradley:

There, there are some that it brings out certain flavours. Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

text a wine friend as soon as we're done with this. I need to know if this is like really a thing or if it's just a preference.

Kaliane Bradley:

this British woman is trying to lie to me, she's saying disgusting things, I think she's trying to get me to poison myself. No, it really does. Obviously the bridge doesn't know this, which is why when she sees her colleague do this, she's wow, you can do that on purpose, but you absolutely can. And actually, I think this is another socially awkward thing, like suddenly discovering you're in often it's a class thing, right? You're moving into a, to a place where people have certain, know these codes and these etiquettes and you don't, but just like being slightly embarrassed by the fact that, You've just discovered you can drink chilled red wine. Like the very first time I was ever confronted with an artichoke and I didn't know how to eat it. And I really pricked the top of my mouth. It was quite a fancy dinner and it was very embarrassing.

Jason Blitman:

no.

Brett Benner:

ate the wrong end.

Kaliane Bradley:

I ate the wrong end. No one explained to me. It's a real like work of engineering to

Brett Benner:

It really is. It really is. I hope there wasn't cactus salad afterwards,

Jason Blitman:

Okay. I just texted a friend who, she works in wine. I said, are there red wines that should be chilled? And so let's see if she

Brett Benner:

see what comes back. I hope she writes back and says, only with ice.

Jason Blitman:

No.

Brett Benner:

no, I get it. All right. So we have to talk about gore because

Jason Blitman:

We've been talking about gourd.

Brett Benner:

I know but in depth, because here's the thing, when you said about writing this man, and I have to tell you, just like I went into Goodreads yesterday, the amount of women who have responded with I am now in love with an, you know, like, so like you have set hearts aflame. You have set people like completely undone them. So I have to know, first of all, was there anyone when you set out, when you had this picture, right? You watched the series. Sure. But in your mind, was there a voice you heard? Cause I had plenty. Was there, you were creating arguably This perfect man. So was there someone in your mind for you?

Jason Blitman:

Kaliane, who is your perfect man?

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh, that's in the.

Brett Benner:

would say

Kaliane Bradley:

That's a lovely question. There's so many.

Brett Benner:

has to say my husband, of course.

Kaliane Bradley:

Actually I did, a lot of the jokes that Gore cracks I did just steal,

Brett Benner:

Oh,

Kaliane Bradley:

my fiancé. So he is half of Gore's boy. So that's half of Gore's voice. And I think every single meal that Gore cooks, except for the Ashton eggs, my fiance can cook. He has cooked for me at some point in our relationship. So it's very handy to have him there as a model because it meant that I only needed to make up a little bit, I am so genuinely delighted that so many people have got so into him. Cause I really thought, when I met all these Polar Exploration friends, both online and then later in person, when we were able to like Around

Jason Blitman:

I know. And I need to hear more about that. I'm obsessed that you have these. Polar exploration friends that you

Brett Benner:

It just goes to show you could find anything on the internet. You could literally find anything.

Kaliane Bradley:

It's really true.

Jason Blitman:

So when you finally met up in person.

Kaliane Bradley:

they, none of them, there's not a lot of archival research on rainbow. He's just not that big a deal. No one really cares that much. So it was just me bouncing in. I've seen this tager type and I think this guy's fit by the way can we just make, can we make him polar explorer of the week? Can they can he be the pin? So that, that was a lot of fun. It does mean that. time someone's asked me, who would you dream cast as Gore, I'm always like Graham Gore. We'd go get his body from the Arctic, we'd reanimate it, and then we'd set him going. Sometimes I do say Elliot Gould when he was in the 70s, like in The Long

Brett Benner:

Elliot gold, like Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice Elliot gold.

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh yeah, his hair isn't quite wild enough in that, I think, but yes. And the reason I'm saying yes to Enthusiastica is because I did go through a phase of watching every single Elliot Gould movie I could possibly find.

Jason Blitman:

my god. How fun is that? We love Elliott Gould. I

Kaliane Bradley:

great.

Jason Blitman:

While we're still talking about gore, cause that's all this, cause he's polar explorer of the week, obviously. Something that I loved is that he. didn't like you, Brett, you said obsession with Spotify, but he didn't like listening to music that was new. Like he would only listen to classical music except fell in love with Motown and Kaliane. I wrote this question. I was going to ask like, why do you think that is? And then I fell down a rabbit hole of internet things. But so let me ask the question, why do you think that is? And then I'll I could talk about the rabbit hole I fell down.

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh, okay. I'm really interested in the rabbit hole because I wonder if it will contradict what I'm about to say. And if it does, that's great. We can make it the new canon.

Jason Blitman:

Let's talk about canon.

Kaliane Bradley:

So basically Gore, historically, we know you played the pipe and you played the pipe very well. And I thought what, what do sailors normally listen to when they're playing the pipe, like hornpipes? They like to dance, they're like, it's not just serious sonatas, it's fun, it's music for dancing, it's music for gathering, it's music for joy, for parties, and I'm like, what is joyful party dancing music? The man's gonna like Motown.

Jason Blitman:

That's fantastic. But here, like the psychology of it all, he likes Motown because historically classical musicians would moonlight And play clubs and things, and they would be, they would add like a new sound to things like Motown and classical musicians influenced Motown. It was music producers who wanted to sweeten the sound with strings.

Brett Benner:

wow.

Kaliane Bradley:

my god! Oh my

Brett Benner:

Wow.

Kaliane Bradley:

I didn't know

Jason Blitman:

Yes. So it like literally is connected.

Kaliane Bradley:

I can't believe that Graham Gore is real and exists in the 21st century right now and is listening to Motown!

Jason Blitman:

Yes, because scientifically it makes sense.

Kaliane Bradley:

It makes total sense, that's why he enjoys it so much. I'm so glad he told me that when he, when I was writing the

Jason Blitman:

I literally Googled. I was like, is there a connection between classical music and Motown? Because I was curious, like, why would that be the one genre that someone would be into? And there's a real reason.

Kaliane Bradley:

my god. I'm gonna start telling people about this discovery

Jason Blitman:

Yes, you should. And tell them you heard it on Gay's Reading.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yes, I

Jason Blitman:

the gays do their research.

Brett Benner:

Graham ain't too proud to beg. Yeah. Oh,

Jason Blitman:

Oh my God. Okay. So the concept of being a tourist in a familiar place. is so fascinating to me. And made me reflect on grew up in Florida. I went to school in Chicago. I lived in New York for many years. Now I live in California. I have a lot of places that I can quote unquote, go back to that will have changed whether in great ways or small since I was there last and knew it very well. Other places that you feel that way about? Was that something you were exploring in writing the book? So

Kaliane Bradley:

I have just stayed in London in a very dull way. I just won't leave the city or my family here. But yes, the specific neighbourhood that I grew up in, Walthamstow, I'm gonna use the terrible word, the word that causes so much pain, it has been gentrified to such an extent. That it is almost completely different to how it was when I was very young. For a very long time people wouldn't really buy here. It was considered the end of nowhere and now it's incredibly desirable and expensive and terrifying. and it's very strange Because I grew up here and I have now moved back here actually. This house, this wildly coloured house that I'm in is in Walthamstow. It's funny how much I conceive of the area as a place that I have worn and that is something to me, but of course it is not. It's part of the ebb and flow of an entire city that does not belong to me. It belongs to numerous people. Yeah, it's really interesting, isn't it? How you can take a tour through your own life and see the past versions of you wandering around. There's a place in central London that I quite often go to that when I was a student, because I was always a bit hungry and. A bit scared to go into the shops because I couldn't afford anything. Now when I walk through there I still feel in my body a bit hungry and a bit scared even though I could buy a seven pound sandwich at any point I wanted now. I wouldn't

Brett Benner:

but why would you,

Kaliane Bradley:

every single day. Yeah, exactly. But I could do it.

Jason Blitman:

you're talking about your past, your history, right? And a lot of this book is about the past intersecting with the present and really thinking about the future. And in trying to change history, what we're really trying to do is change the future, right? When you think about that, you're like brain explodes because changing the past really just changes the future. And that's

Brett Benner:

right. Matter how big or small. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

and it just made me really think about okay, instead of trying to change the past, isn't that concept just an example of, okay, let's just do what we need to do now so that we can change the future moving forward. Like hindsight is 2020. We're Every single thing, if we look back,

Brett Benner:

You say that in the book, and I wrote that down, where you say, because it's referencing, you're talking about the Holocaust at one point, and you say, everything that has ever been could have been prevented, and none of it was. The only thing you can mend is the future. Believe me when I say that time travel taught me that. And that's exactly what you're talking about. And it's so true.

Kaliane Bradley:

Absolutely, and I really very sincerely believe this. It's one of the reasons why, although we've talked about this being a time travel book, no actual time travel takes place on the page it has to have happened before the book begins for the narrative to make sense, but I was more interested in the idea of history as this narrative that you're told. I've just narrated myself walking around through London, like this narrative of myself in London, but like the narrative of British history and the way that impacts British identity and British culture, and again, like the way that American history has taught you and the way you're told about it and the way you're asked to relate to it kind of changes. The way that you relate to the present day. And it's the present day people that are going to change the future. I think it's so interesting that you can conform, you can resist, but like, when are you going to make those choices now? You have to make them now.

Jason Blitman:

it's making choices now and also thinking about what will make a difference. But also when you're making a choice personally, some of it is what are you going to remember versus, the things in your life that are sort of irrelevant in the long run. People often will joke about no one will remember the food at the wedding, right? So don't go crazy thinking about the food at the wedding. And while I might agree, at my wedding, it was a taco truck. And people remembered that. And the food was very good. Or people remember it if it's terrible, but if it's whatever, no one remembers, no one cares but they will remember the special moments, they will remember, the other more important things, the speeches my husband and I were just talking about this in relation to our current apartment, and he's are you gonna remember or not? That, you didn't have a door to your office, you're going to remember, other very specific elements about living in our unit that, we'll never have again, and it's that, right? And so thinking about shaping your life and your future around the things that are actually important that you will remember.

Kaliane Bradley:

And having to pass what, when you're, cause when you're experiencing it, it just, it all feels at the same level, right? It's all just I am worried about the food and the wedding, and I am also worried about the beautiful dress and I am also worried about the weather, but there are. No, having the ability to pass those things. I don't know. It's difficult, but, being alive is difficult. Being alive is fun, so you may as well

Brett Benner:

Now that said, if you could go back and change something, would you?

Kaliane Bradley:

Ooh!

Brett Benner:

And that could be a small thing or a big thing. That could be like, oh, I would, or that could be like I'd go back to that time that I, embarrassed myself at this blah, blah, blah.

Jason Blitman:

also a really good book club question.

Kaliane Bradley:

very good book. There was actually an early proof of concept version of not The Ministry of Time, but it was a version where a woman went back in time to try and stop Graham Gore getting on the ship. And when she gets there, she discovers that Victorian London is overrun with people trying to stop different things happening, depending on what they're invested in. Ooh! Which exhibition member they love the best

Brett Benner:

Oh, that's

Jason Blitman:

Because everyone would pick something different.

Kaliane Bradley:

everyone would pick something different. This is why you can't go back in time to to kill a dictator because there'll be someone else going back in time to protect the dictator and someone's got to come and kill the person to protect the dictator. It just piles up. What you have to do is make sure there is a world where dictators do not continue to exist in and harm people.

Jason Blitman:

right. It's about making the choices that you are making today are the things that affect the future. Um,

Brett Benner:

Very well. You did it very well, and I was

Jason Blitman:

we weren't going to call you out if it's fine.

Brett Benner:

no, it's totally fine. And I wasn't even gonna help you out and be like, I would just go back and tell myself like, it's all gonna be okay. And don't worry so much

Jason Blitman:

No, I go back and tell myself, invest in Apple.

Brett Benner:

That's something I did do. I

Jason Blitman:

Duh.

Brett Benner:

that.

Kaliane Bradley:

What would I do? I think I'd go back in time and say you do not need to have a boyfriend when you're 18 years old. Don't. It's not necessary. You're a kid. Do your studying.

Brett Benner:

can you go back and tell my daughter that too?

Jason Blitman:

Just tell her right now! Now is the time!

Brett Benner:

please. Every

Jason Blitman:

to this episode. Maddie, just study.

Brett Benner:

Just study Maddie. Don't worry about a boyfriend

Jason Blitman:

Don't worry about the boys. One of my favorite quotes in the book. It's a little long, but I'm gonna read it because I'm obsessed with it. You can't trauma proof life, and you can't hurt proof your relationships. You have to accept you will cause harm to yourself and others, but you can also fuck up really badly and not learn anything from it except that you fucked up. It's the same with oppression. You don't gain any special knowledge from being marginalized, but you do gain something from stepping outside your hurt and examining the scaffolding of your oppression. And it sort of rocked my world

Kaliane Bradley:

Thank you so much.

Jason Blitman:

because I think we are so desperate to trauma proof our lives.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yes, we want to make sure that we will never be hurt. And also we will never hurt anyone else. And I think part of the worry of that is we will never hurt someone else and then we won't be told off. And then we won't feel bad for having messed up. But I think you. You can only really start getting things right if you get things wrong first.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. One of the best pieces of advice I got in my very first growing up job was, I was an assistant and my boss said, if you make a mistake, that's okay. We're all humans, but own it, deal with it, and then move on. That has stuck with me my entire life. Like we're all people. We just, we make mistakes, and there's nothing we could do about it. Except solve the problem and then go on to the next thing.

Kaliane Bradley:

That's, it's such good advice. It's such good advice. And I. It's it's just a good way to go through life, right? Like I will I am going to make a mistake. Because if you tell yourself that you're never going to make a mistake, God, imagine how awful it feels when you finally do. Like you drop the bottom out the world. How

Jason Blitman:

Impossible. Okay. This is speaking of impossible. This is going to be a hard question to answer. Calian. I'm warning you. Okay. Another quote from the book. At the crux of all the time travel hypotheses was the question, How do you measure a person?

Brett Benner:

in daylight in.

Jason Blitman:

So, do you measure a person?

Kaliane Bradley:

do you measure a person? So that, again, I'm going to try and not give away too much

Jason Blitman:

No, how do you measure a person?

Kaliane Bradley:

a person? me personally? How do I take the measure of someone? Oh wow, oh no, that's such a good question. What do I do?

Jason Blitman:

literally said this is going to be a hard question. I warned you.

Kaliane Bradley:

Oh, and I just went blithely into it. One way I do measure people, and this is something that has genuinely always stuck with me, is the way they treat my mother. Because obviously she's a, she is a she's an older woman. She's a Cambodian woman. She speaks with a Cambodian accent. And it's so interesting to me the way that people sometimes react to her. Like I have hold, I've held long grudges against people that I've never seen again, who I've passed by once in my life, because they have treated her like an obstacle or they've treated her as if she's stupid or they've treated her as like a joke. And then. People who treat her just as a person. Because, she's a person. She's very flawed as well. She's wonderful in many ways, but it's a real benchmark for me. The way that people treat my mother really influences the way I see them.

Jason Blitman:

a

Brett Benner:

that's amazing. That's amazing.

Jason Blitman:

Listen, we went in with fear. We came out with a brilliant answer.

Kaliane Bradley:

How do you Measure people?

Jason Blitman:

Damn it. I should have known that was coming,

Brett Benner:

You should have said with a ruler.

Jason Blitman:

The ruler. I think. To your point, there is, it is some of those not that the way that one treats your mother is a little thing, but there are little things of ways that you interact with the world around you, right? Do you hold the door for a stranger? How do you treat the people in the service industry? There, those really say a lot about a person's character for me. And for me, It's about character, right? We can make mistakes in all sorts of ways, but if at your core, you are not kind or well intended, then that's a different thing, for me, it's about intention. My husband likes to say, if someone is being an asshole, his first thought, because he's very sweet this way, maybe they just really need to go to the bathroom. Maybe they have diarrhea. I'm like, you can't,

Brett Benner:

Oh my God, Franklin, I love you so much.

Jason Blitman:

I'm like, And he's not wrong, right? Like we all have our bad days, right? We all wake

Kaliane Bradley:

We've all,

Jason Blitman:

Side of the bed or we all

Kaliane Bradley:

we've all had diarrhoea. We've all had pneumonia.

Jason Blitman:

And so he like tries to see the good in that way. But if there's, but if you see a common thread in someone, that's a different thing,

Kaliane Bradley:

maybe I'm going to use that to neutralize bad interactions. Like maybe they've just got diarrhoea

Jason Blitman:

but that's exactly what, that's what we do. I'm serious. Someone cuts you off in traffic, like it's fine. Like they really need to get to the bathroom, right? Like it does make you feel a tiny bit better. Sometimes, not always. Okay, breaking news. Wine friend got back to me. Shout out to Cristina. Thank you, Cristina. The question was, are there red wines that should be chilled? The answer? Yep. It's more about personal preference, but nowadays there are some lighter reds being made that you can totally chill and they are awesome. Or if you just prefer regular traditional red wine, a little colder, it's no biggie to chill a bottle down a little bit before drinking it. Maybe not quite White wine cold and or the natural wine world has fully embraced the chilled red category. So not uncommon these days.

Brett Benner:

Wow.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yes. Thank you, Christina.

Jason Blitman:

so you

Brett Benner:

vindicated, Callian! You're

Jason Blitman:

your, you are completely validated with your, with the red wine, the Motown classical music situation,

Kaliane Bradley:

Just amazing. Blew my

Jason Blitman:

so much going on in this hour long gaze reading conversation.

Kaliane Bradley:

podcast is great. This podcast is amazing. Everyone should subscribe.

Jason Blitman:

What a unique, if You like, All sorts of genres. The

Brett Benner:

It's really indescribable, which is what's, which is what's so great about it.

Kaliane Bradley:

Very hard to do an elevator pitch for because of

Jason Blitman:

Yes, exactly. But you killed it. But also people are going to finish listening to this episode and be like, Okay, what was the book about actually?

Kaliane Bradley:

Just being really horny for one go.

Jason Blitman:

You right being really horny for Graham Gore. And that's basically it. And like your that's and classical music and Motown.

Kaliane Bradley:

Okay. Yep. So that's the book. That's the book. That's all we need.

Jason Blitman:

I can't wait to hear about your next rabbit hole that you go down and your next internet

Brett Benner:

Your next internet group.

Jason Blitman:

Shout out to all of your polar explorer, internet junkie friends. That's so cool that this is this a community that you like randomly found.

Brett Benner:

I

Jason Blitman:

thank you so much

Brett Benner:

Thank you. This was delightful.

Kaliane Bradley:

so much.

Brett Benner:

So excited for you.

Kaliane Bradley:

Yeah, It was so lovely to talk to you both and thank you so much for such a fun interview.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, terrific. Thank you for such a fun interview. A joy and a pleasure, and congratulations again on being this month's Good Morning America book club pick. don't forget, you could buy the book in our bookshop. org page. And we will see you next week. Bye.

You