The History of Literature #229 – Baldwin v Faulkner

In the 1950s, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was one of most celebrated novelists in America, highly praised for this formal innovation, his prodigious storytelling gifts, and his sweeping, multigenerational portrait of Southern society.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer on the rise, youthful and energetic, fearless and incisive, known for essays and commentary as brilliant as his fiction.

In this episode of The History of Literature, we take a look at the public debate surrounding the civil rights movement, which Faulkner addressed in a (purportedly) drunken interview in which he said, “If I have to choose between the United States Government and Mississippi then I’ll choose Mississippi. If it came to fighting I’d fight for Mississippi against the United States, even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negros.” At calmer points, Faulkner freely acknowledged that desegregation was the correct view “morally, legally, and ethically” but was not, in his view, “practical.”

In 1956, writing in the pages of the Partisan Review, Baldwin responded to these and other Faulkner statements with a brief, dazzling essay “Faulkner and Desegregation,” in which he analyzed Faulkner’s position on race, linked Faulkner’s publicly expressed views to the inner world of the Southerner of the 1950s, and – it became clear a few months later – set the stage for his own efforts to inhabit and portray the mindset of a white Southerner in his fiction.

How does the fiction of these two men work? What did it say about race and power and the precarious balance of a time, a place, and an era? What does understanding this mean for us today? We’ll explore those questions in our next two episodes, where we look at a pair of short stories, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Darxieland” and “Allemande Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #228 – England vs France – A Literary Battle Royale

“Our dear enemies,” a French writer once said of the English. Englishman John Cleese called them “our natural enemies” and joked “if we have to fight anyone, I say let’s fight the French.” With the exception of a few big twentieth-century alliances, the French and the English have been at each others’ throats for a thousand years. Occasionally this has meant taking up arms and fighting for land or religion or rule. But what about culture? What if the battlefield were a literary one? What if supremacy was determined not by the sword but by the pen? In this episode, Jacke and Mike choose their sides and get ready to wage a literary battle between two proud, rivalrous, and highly literate nations.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com

The History of Literature #227 – The Country Husband by John Cheever

John Cheever (1912-1982) scratched the surface of the American suburbs and found that they were built over a deep pit of despair. His short stories and novels, which chronicled the lives of those damaged psyches trying to put an alcohol-fueled gloss on the world’s dark stains, earned him admiration and acclaim – and seem to have done little to ease his own pain. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at one of Cheever’s masterpieces, “The Country Husband” (1954), which tells the story of a man who survives a plane crash only to find that nothing in his world as a husband and father has changed. What other breaks in the continuum might there be? Can any of them pull him out of his nightmarish fugue state? Is a dying star destined to fall and fade, or can it point the way to something grand?

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Et Voila” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #226 – Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) went from a childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a wildly successful literary career, as his poems, short stories, and essays stunned the world with their inventiveness, intellectual seriousness, and flights of imagination. He was more than a writer, and maybe more even than an icon: he was what we might call a human literary genre, the creator of a type of literature that he alone practiced and perfected. In this episode, Jacke and Mike celebrate the works of Borges and take a look at the writers he influenced.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Tango de Manzana” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #225 – A Village After Dark by Kazuo Ishiguro

In this special quarantine edition, Jacke takes a brief look at the life and works of Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his short story “A Village After Dark.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Onion Capers” and “Magistar” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #224 – Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was born in Algeria to French parents. After his father died in World War I, when Albert was still an infant, the family was reduced to impoverished circumstances, forced to move in with relatives in an apartment without electricity or running water.

From these humble beginnings, Camus went on to become one of the most famous and celebrated writers in the world, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature at the improbably young age of 44. In this episode of the History of Literature, we look at his works, including The Stranger and The Plague; his entanglement with the existentialists (a label he rejected); the analysis of his works by Jean-Paul Sartre; and the three possible philosophical responses to humanity’s essentially absurd condition.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Parisian” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #223 – Speech Sounds by Octavia Butler

Imagine a plague that ravages the world and impairs the ability of humans to communicate with one another. What kind of society would we have? Who would take power and how would they hold it? What would the world be like for the powerless? How would children adapt and survive? In “Speech Sounds,” Octavia E. Butler invites us to consider these questions – and helps us look for rays of hope in even the bleakest of landscapes.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006), the daughter of a shoeshine man and a housemaid, went from a poor but proud childhood to becoming “the grand dame of science fiction.” Known for her physically and mentally tough black heroines, her work combines the dynamism of invented worlds with astute observations of race, gender, sexuality, and power.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Backbay Lounge” and “Magistar” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #222 – The Best of the Bard: Top 10 Greatest Lines in Shakespeare

When was The Bard at his best? How great did the GOAT get? Hall-of-fame guest Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for a discussion of the Top 10 Greatest Lines of Shakespeare.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Bluesy Vibes Sting” and “Running Fanfare” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #221 – The Distance of the Moon by Italo Calvino | The African Library Project

Another special quarantine edition! In this action-packed episode, Jacke talks to Robyn Speed and Tatiana Santos of the African Library Project (africanlibraryproject.org), an organization that has helped create or improve more than three thousand libraries in Africa. He then turns to the great Italo Calvino and his short story masterpiece, “The Distance of the Moon” (1965), which melds together a stunning vision of the cosmos with a poignant and highly original love story.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Glitter Blast,” “Bushwick Tarantella,” and “Into the Wormhole” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #220 – A Lost Spring (with Professor Mitchell Nathanson)

Professor Mitchell Nathanson, author of Jim Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original, joins Jacke for a discussion of athletes, heroes, and A.E. Housman. Why do we celebrate athletes? How do we view them when their athleticism fades? And what does it all mean? We’ll look at the problems of male vulnerability, the groundbreaking work Ball Four by Jim Bouton, and the criticism of that book, most notably by esteemed sportswriter Roger Kahn. Close your eyes and imagine a world where the grass is green, the leaves are lush, and kids are outside playing without a care in the world. We’re celebrating spring at the History of Literature, even as we continue to stay indoors to avoid the coronavirus.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.