Novelist Beverly Gologorsky joins Jacke for a discussion of the tumultuous years from 1967 to 1971, which provides the background for her new novel. In Can You See the Wind?, a working-class family in the Bronx struggles to make a better world, even as the world spins into chaos.
Columbia professor (and friend of the podcast) Farah Jasmine Griffin says “Beverly Gologorsky brings a clarity of vision and purpose to this extraordinary novel—a story about the complexities and love that both bring families, lovers and comrades together and tears them apart. Can You See the Wind? renders the urgency of political movements as well as moments of individual contemplation. That she does so in breathtaking prose is a testament to her brilliance and artistry.”
The nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is well known as the father of existentialism and one of the great Christian thinkers of all time. But it is in his relationship with Regine Olsen – his love for her, their brief engagement, and the horrible breakup, in which he left her for a life devoted to the pursuit of knowledge – where we see his true literary gifts. In this episode, Jacke looks at Kierkegaard’s life and writing, with a special focus on the agonizing relationship with a young woman that perhaps brought out his truest self.
Author Robin Hemley joins Jacke for a discussion of Kafka, writerly ambition, and his new novel Oblivion: An After Autobiography, which tells the story of a midlist author who finds himself in the posthumous world where authors fade from obscurity into the world of Oblivion…unless they can manage to write their way out.
Mysteries! In this best-of episode, Jacke revisits conversations with three guests for three different angles on this popular and enduring literary genre. First, Jonah Lehrer (Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution) discusses what exactly makes mysteries so compelling. Then, novelist Christina Kovac, author of the mystery The Cutaway, joins Jacke for a discussion of setting a mystery in the world of television news. Gillian Gill, author of Agatha Christie: The Women and Her Mysteries, stops by next for a discussion of the Queen of Mystery and her mysterious disappearance. And finally, Jonah Lehrer returns for a discussion of mysteries as they play out in Hamlet, Harry Potter, and human beings. Enjoy!
After being given $700 in Spanish gold by some newspapers, a 25-year-old Stephen Crane set out for Florida, where he planned to travel by boat to Cuba and cover the impending Spanish-American War as a war correspondent. But the steamship he boarded capsized after hitting some sandbars, forcing Crane and 28 shipmates – most of them arms runners friendly to the Cuban insurrectionists – into lifeboats and head into the open sea. Crane was one of the last to leave, and he wound up sharing a dinghy with the ship’s captain and two others. While he didn’t get to cover the war, the story of the four men, who struggled for days to survive without being rescued, helped add to Crane’s growing literary fame. In this episode, Jacke explores (and reads in its entirety) the classic Stephen Crane story of shipwreck, “The Open Boat.”
Jacke takes a look at the first work of literature by an African American author, courtesy of Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts by Uli Baer and Smaran Dayal. Then he turns things over to Storybound, a Podglomerate podcast, for a conversation with author Melissa Chadburn and excerpts from her essay “The Throwaways.”
Melissa Chadburn’s writing has appeared in The LA Times, NYT Book Review, NYRB, Longreads, Paris Review online, and dozens other places. Her essay on food insecurity was published in “Best American Food Writing 2019.” She’s done extensive reporting on the child welfare system and appears in the Netflix docuseries “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez.” Her debut novel, A Tiny Upward Shove, is forthcoming with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. She is a Ph.D. candidate at USC’s Creative Writing Program.
Storybound is a radio theater program designed for the podcast age. Storybound is hosted by Jude Brewer and brought to you by The Podglomerate and Lit Hub Radio.
Stephen Crane (1871-1900) lived fast, died young, and impressed everyone with his prose style and insight into the human condition. While he’s best known today for his novels The Red Badge of Courage and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (along with some classic short stories like “The Open Boat,” “the Blue Hotel,” and “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”), his literary fame during his life was supplemented by his notorious exploits. Shipwrecks, romance, scandal, and high-profile court cases – and he somehow also found time to befriend literary lions like H.G. Wells, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, and Joseph Conrad. In this episode, Jacke talks to Crane’s biographer Linda H. Davis, whose new book Badge of Courage: The Life of Stephen Crane goes deep into the life and mind of the man whose own powers of empathy made him a staple of twentieth-century bookshelves and syllabi.
Questioning the nature of the self is a standard trope in literature and one of the hallmarks of the Modernist movement. But no one pushed this to the extreme like Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). While the use of a pseudonym or two is common enough, Pessoa wrote poems as more than a hundred “heteronyms” (as he called them), giving many of them their own richly developed biographies, writing styles, and distinct subject matter. The wild cast of characters, who sometimes argued with one another and who occasionally inserted themselves into Pessoa’s life, fooled many literary critics into thinking that they were individual poets. Although Pessoa was nearly unknown when he died, he left behind a rich body of work to pore through and analyze – and a trunkful of his papers, gathered by later editors intoThe Book of Disquiet, has rendered him essential to a consideration of twentieth-century literature. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the poet who exploded his self into literary fragments, only to find that he had filled a galaxy with stars.
In 1961, poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath rented their flat to a Canadian poet and his wife, the beautiful, accomplished, and slightly mysterious Assia Wevill. Soon afterward, Ted and Assia began having an affair. Within a year, Assia was pregnant with Ted’s child and Sylvia, after years of suffering from depression, had committed suicide. Six years later, Assia would do the same.
It’s a horribly tragic tale, like something out of Shakespeare, with genius and artistic ambition and love and sex and poetry entangled with themes of power dynamics, infidelity, and mental health problems. The poetic gifts of Ted and Sylvia – and the tragic ending of their marriage – has kept biographers and essay writers busy. But what about the third woman, Assia Wevill, a successful professional with ambition of her own? What did she write? How did she fit into this triangle? In this episode, Professor Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter Steinberg, editors of The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill, join Jacke for a discussion of the “Other Woman” in the Plath-Hughes marriage.