Nathan Hill on the Biggest Surprise of His Literary Career
This Week on The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
Nathan Hill is the guest on this edition of The Literary Life. His new novel Wellness is one of the most anticipated books of the year: following his critically acclaimed The Nix, Wellness tells the story of a marriage at its inception and then into its future. Two days after Oprah selected Wellness for her book club, Nathan visited Books and Books and his humor, poignancy, and flat-out brilliance were on display — on page and stage.
From the episode:
Nathan Hill: Oprah contacted me in March, and I’m so happy I can finally tell the story. I was on a Zoom call with… It was the second or third time we scheduled it, because they wanted to keep it a big surprise, and so they were like, we want to have this Zoom meeting. And I was like, well, what’s the meeting about?
And they were like, Ah, nothing. And I was like, well, I’m busy. I had, like, tennis practice. I was like, I’m busy. And I did not know that this was, like, this was the one spot in the week that Oprah had free. And had I known that, of course, I would have skipped tennis practice, but, but I didn’t know that. So I was like, well, no, I’m, it’s, if we’re, if the meeting’s not about anything, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go to practice.
And so they’re like, okay, how about Friday at, like, three? So I was like, okay. Friday at three rolls around, I get a text, we’re pushing it back to four. I’m like, okay, fine. Get a text an hour later. We’re pushing it back to five. And like, if you’re getting pushed back late on a Friday, you’re like, I am so unimportant.
I’m so, like, they don’t care about me at all. I’m the last thing they have to, you know, put in the, in the bag before going on their weekends. Um, and uh, and then I get on the Zoom call, and it’s just my publicist. Um, and she’s like, can we record this for all the people who can’t make the meeting? And I’m thinking they’re skipping the meeting now?
And I’m just like, this is just getting worse and worse and worse. And I was like, fine, record it. I’m kind of annoyed by now. And then she’s like, oh, there’s one more person joining the meeting. And then the entire screen was taken up by Oprah Winfrey. And she’s like, she had a copy of my book.
I didn’t even have a printed copy of my book at that point. Somehow she had it. I still don’t know how that happened. And she said that she wanted to pick the book for her book club. And we had a nice, a really nice chat. Jenny was in the kitchen making a sandwich. I ran out, I was like, I just zoomed with Oprah!
Nathan Hill’s best-selling debut novel, The Nix, was named the #1 book of the year by Audible and Entertainment Weekly and one of the year’s best books by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Slate, and many others. The Nix was the winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction from the Los Angeles Times and was published worldwide in more than two dozen languages.
Hill’s nonfiction has appeared in Wired, ESPN the Magazine, Poets & Writers, and the New York Times Book Review. His short stories have been published in many literary journals, including The Iowa Review, Agni, The Gettysburg Review, The Denver Quarterly, and Fiction, which awarded him its annual Fiction Prize.
A native Iowan, Hill lives with his wife in Naples, Florida.