Kurt Vonnegut Radio
Kurt Vonnegut Radio with Gabe Hudson
Daniel Gumbiner, soulful novelist and editor of The Believer

Daniel Gumbiner, soulful novelist and editor of The Believer

I talk to Daniel Gumbiner about his new novel "Fire in the Canyon," Kurt Vonnegut, climate crisis, building community, and why making art is good for us
Daniel Gumbiner

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Welcome to episode #41 of Kurt Vonnegut radio!

Our guest today is Daniel Gumbiner (!!)

Daniel Gumbiner’s new novel, Fire in the Canyon is a soulful masterpiece about the climate crisis in California. He is also the Editor of The Believer.

The realism in Daniel’s new novel is so intense that to me it almost feels like myth. He uses old school narrative techniques to tell one of the most urgent and human stories of our time: climate crisis and how it affects communities. The pages in this novel are windows. You can see the characters, see the landscape, see the story happening.

This novel takes the humanity of the reader and these characters seriously. Much of what the novel has to say is the story it tells and the example it sets in how deeply it engages with its characters. You’ll notice when me and Daniel talk about his characters it’s like we’re taking about people we could drive up and go visit.

Daniel tells me what it was like, as a high school student, to be a part of 826 Valencia in San Francisco. And to help edit, along with Dave Eggers and the other students, the anthology Best American Nonrequired Reading. Daniel talks about what it was like, as a kid, to see the burn scars from the wildfires in his home state of California. He’s also got a lot of really smart stuff to say about Kurt Vonnegut.

So please, join me now as we enter the heart and mind of one of the great writers and editors of our time: Daniel Gumbiner.      

(Special thanks to



Daniel Gumbiner quotes, from our convo

On how he makes his characters feel so real

I am interested in the flaws of the characters in the book. And I think they do all have flaws, or perceived flaws in certain ways. And I think that's so important in writing to understand about your characters. Because so often our sense of our own flaws drives our actions and our motivations. A sense of needing to fix a certain aspect of our life. Or change in a certain way.

How making art can help us deal with life

Because we are forced to confront those unknown moments and move through them and learn how to deal with them.

On Kurt Vonnegut

I think that kind of humanism is so important to hang onto right now. When things have gotten so one dimensional on so many levels. He was really able to preserve that through his humor, through his wits, and through his tenderness toward other people.

I have a question for you: what is one of your favorite books that is set in California? Mine is Leonard Gardner’s Fat City.

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Show Notes

Buy Daniel Gumbiner’s new novel Fire in the Canyon

Buy Daniel’s novel The Boatbuilder

Visit Daniel’s website and follow him on instagram and twitter

Visit The Believer website and follow the mag on instagram and twitter

Other Kurt Vonnegut Radio episodes for your enjoyment:

Jason Zinoman

Sam Lipsyte

Dave Eggers

Anne Kadet

Maggie Smith

A.M. Homes

Michael Estrin

Merve Emre

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