Sneak Preview: Blessed Are the Phrasemakers…

Very cool! The New York Times reports on a new discovery – the oldest known version of the King James translation of the Bible, which (as it happens) is the subject of our next History of Literature podcast, coming out on Monday.

Here’s a photo:


The professor who made the discovery describes its importance.

“You can actually see the way Greek, Latin and Hebrew are all feeding into what will become the most widely read work of English literature of all time,” Professor Miller said. “It gets you so close to the thought process, it’s incredible.”

Wow. I wonder if he was so excited he ran around the room, undressing himself? Well, who could blame him?

Photo Credit: Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; Maria Anna Rogers (Photo)

Sneak Preview: The Greatest Character in All of Literature?

Is this the greatest character in all of literature? Continue reading

Restless Mind Show #2 – Tolstoy’s Halloween


Taking another break from the history of literature for a Simpsons / Edgar Allan Poe mashup, Leo Tolstoy’s horse, and five lusty lizards blasted into space by the Russians.


New Feature: Leave Me a Message!

Testing… testing… 1, 2, 3… is this thing on?

I’m trying out a new feature for the blog/podcast: voicemail! And I could use your help.

But first, why am I doing this? Because, because, because – you guys are really the stars of this blog. Always have been, always will be. The comments are routinely better than the posts! And now I’m launching the new podcasts, I’d love to find a way to bring your feedback into the mix. I can read them aloud, of course, but then it’s just me, me, me all over again. Anyway, that’s the idea: spice up the show with the wit and sparkle you guys have brought to this blog. Connect.

How will I use these? My plan is to cite the comments on the blog and eventually use the messages as part of the podcast. That’s it. DON’T TELL ME ANYTHING YOU WOULD NOT WANT BROADCAST. I’ve set out some more ground rules below.

Okay, onto the help. I’m testing a couple of different options here. If you could try one or both, it would be a great help for me in deciding which one to use going forward.


The easiest is probably to give me a call from your phone. This isn’t a scam or anything like that – it’s just a Google Voice account that lets me listen to your voice message. I don’t track your numbers or call them back or anything. Just you, your message, and my ears. The number to call is


Let me know what you’re thinking! Tell me your favorite book ever and why it deserves a spot in The History of Literature! Or tell me what you find funny that no one else does, or what everyone else finds funny that you don’t. (I gave you a few of my own examples in Monday’s show. Am I the only person in America who doesn’t laugh at fart jokes? Am I the only person in the world who hates puns? Let me know if I’m not!)

Option #2

No phone required! All you do is visit this page – there are no gimmicks or signups, I promise. All you do is click a button and record a message. (You do need to have a microphone, but the built-in one in your computer or phone or tablet should work fine.)

Leave Jacke A Message

You get 90 seconds to get whatever you want off your chest. Feel free to leave any feedback at all. Tell me your favorite book of all time to make sure I cover it in the History of Literature series. Or tell me your favorite one-liner. No strings attached!

If this thing works we’ll eat like kings!

The ground rules:

I won’t be giving out addresses or phone numbers or god forbid social security numbers or anything like that on the air. (Are you someone who would give out your social security number to a blogger on a voicemail? Don’t be that person.)

BUT if you say something like, “Hi Jacke, this is Kate in Los Angeles. I just wanted to say I love the show, especially the plays you’ve written for Kate Winslet and Bryan Cranston. Keep up the good work.” I will run the entire message.

In other words: you determine how much info to reveal about yourself. Through your own words.

Other than that, no ground rules. Tell me something funny, tell me something interesting, tell me something smart, ask me a good question. All voices welcome! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Steve Martin not wild, not crazy…

Brilliant reader MFA commented on the Steve Martin reference:

My daughter and I still mist up at the Steve Martin backyard basketball scene in “Father of the Bride”. Not taking away from the Spencer Tracy Elizabeth Taylor version.

Here’s the clip:

Argh, this is heartbreaking. Was there really a version of me who would once have seen this as overly sentimental? Because now I can barely see the screen thanks to the dust that just flew into my eyes. Parenting…what saps it turns us into.

Watching the middle-aged Martin play this character is fascinating to contrast with the young-man joke I analyzed in Episode One of the Restless Mind Show. (You’ll have to listen to the episode to hear which Steve Martin bit it was.) In the clip here there’s no bluster, no bravado…just a very human guy. Playing a dad.

Steve Martin’s own relationship with his father is agonizing – that part of his memoir alone is worth a read if you haven’t heard about it before. I don’t think it takes psychiatrist’s license to think that Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy period was his way of blocking all that out. And when he set that persona aside and starting playing the teary-eyed dad, he must have had a deep well of longing to draw upon. A son’s wish for the father-son relationship he hadn’t had.

Powerful stuff coming from unexpected corners. Thanks for the tip, MFA!

Restless Mind Show #1 – Comedy and Authority


The Restless Mind Show! Jacke and Gar take a break from the history of literature to examine the nature of comedy and what makes us laugh.


What’s the Greatest Joke Ever? Sneak Preview of an Exciting New Podcast!

Hello, friends! Just a quick note to let you know that The History of Literature podcast takes its regularly scheduled departure this week… and it’s such a departure, we’re calling it by a whole new name! (It’s a branding thing.)  In any event, it goes by the name of The Restless Mind Show and it will be available on Monday.

We’re using the same feed, so subscribers to The History of Literature will get this show automatically.

Why are we doing this? Don’t ask. It’s just how we’re doing it.

The first episode takes a look at different kinds of funny. What do Steve Martin, Will Ferrell, and Chief Wiggum have in common? Why  are they funny? Why was Kafka hysterical? We’ll take a look!