Yang Huang, author of the new novel My Good Son, joins Jacke for a discussion of her childhood in China, how censorship restricted her ability to imagine stories, and how George Eliot’s Middlemarch helped her break free from these limitations. We also discuss her work as a novelist and what it’s like to be an Asian American during a period of highly visible anti-Asian sentiment.
YANG HUANG grew up in China and has lived in the United States since 1990. Her novel MY GOOD SON won the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize. Her linked story collection, MY OLD FAITHFUL, won the Juniper Prize, and her debut novel, LIVING TREASURES, won the Nautilus Book Award silver medal. She works for the University of California, Berkeley and lives in the Bay Area with her family. To learn more about Yang and her writing, visit http://www.yanghuang.com or follow her on Twitter: @yangwrites.
Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) was a soldier, a civil servant, a playwright, and a poet. He was kidnapped by pirates and held prisoner for almost five years. Later in life, he turned to writing novels, and through his masterpiece Don Quixote, he became the most celebrated and important figure in Spanish literature. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Cervantes’ incredible life and his most indelible creations, including the ingenious (and deluded) knight, his trusty squire, and the blurry landscape where windmills are giants and life is a romantic adventure..
Often called the Father of Comedy, the satirical playwright Aristophanes (c. 450 BCE – 388 BCE) used his critical eye and sharp tongue to skewer politicians and philosophers alike. In this episode, poet and classicist Aaron Poochigian joins Jacke to discuss his new translation of four plays by Aristophanes – and explains why these ancient Athenian comedies (Clouds, Birds, Lysistrata, and Women of the Assembly) are especially relevant today.
Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg (1916-1991) lived a fascinating life full of politics, war, exile, tragedy, love, loss, and literature. In her novels, short stories, poetry, plays, and essays, she drew upon her experience and her keen capacity for observation and invention to create some of the twentieth century’s most arresting and enduring works. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the political courage shown by Ginzburg and her family – and in particular her husband Leone Ginzburg, who at the tail end of World War II was tortured and killed in Rome’s famous Carcere di Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven Prison) – and how it helped to shape Natalia Ginzburg’s life and career.
Jacke takes a look at the astonishing life and writings of the ultimate enfant terrible of poetry, Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91), Symbolist poet, literary bad boy, and eventual mercenary arms dealer, who gave up literature by the age of 21 but whose brilliant work continues to fascinate and inspire.
During his life, Philip Larkin (1922-1985) was a beloved national figure, a bald and bespectacled librarian by day who spent his evenings writing smart, accomplished, and hilariously self-deprecating poems. After his death, his reputation and legacy became more complicated, as revelations about his personal life threatened to darken a once-bright sky. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at a near-perfect poet and a far-from-perfect person, reflecting on what we ask from art and artists, and what we can still take from Larkin in particular.
Ralph Waldo Ellison (1913-1994) began life as an infant in Oklahoma City and ended it as one of the most successful and celebrated novelists in the world. And this reputation was largely due to one book, the masterpiece Invisible Man (1952), which transcended the limitations that the American reading public placed on African American writers to become what Time magazine later called “the quintessential American picaresque of the twentieth century.” Admired by critics and bought in large numbers by readers around the world, Invisible Man seemed to herald the beginning of a long and promising writing career for Ellison, but unfortunately, that was not to be: for the next forty years, he struggled to publish more fiction, chasing a perfection he could never manage to achieve.
In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the life of Ralph Waldo Ellison, then is joined by Mike Palindrome, the president of the Literature Supporters Club, to discuss Ellison’s plight and the top 10 cases of writers block.
Salman Rushdie (1947- ) became famous in the literary world in 1981, when his second novel Midnight’s Children became a bestseller and won the Booker Prize. By the end of that decade, he was perhaps the most famous author in the world, as the fatwa calling for his execution made global headlines. Throughout these years, and despite nearly unimaginable circumstances, Rushdie has continued his devotion to the art of fiction, producing a dozen novels in addition to short stories and works of nonfiction. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the life, works, and outlook of Salman Rushdie.
Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) was a journalist, an author, an artist, a poetic novelist, a beacon of modernism, an icon and an iconoclast. She was also a pioneer; a famous wit; an expatriate in Paris in the 1920s (where she befriended James Joyce and became one of the key members of the Lost Generation); a fixture of Greenwich Village both in the 1910s and in the decades after World War II; an early avatar of queer literature; and above all, a genius. In today’s episode, Jacke looks at Djuna Barnes’s life and works, focusing in particular on her journalism, her plays, her account of meeting James Joyce, and of course, the modernist masterpiece Nightwood (1936).
Jacke and Mike take a look at the life and works of Thucydides (c. 460 to c. 400 B.C.), an Athenian general whose History of the Peloponnesian War has earned him the title of “the father of scientific history” or sometimes “the other father of history.” We discuss the highlights of Thucydides, what it’s like to read him in 2021, whether it’s better to read him straight through or only for the famous parts (such as the Pericles funeral oration and the Melian dialogue) and how he compares with his predecessor Herodotus, the earlier Ancient Greek historian who took a very different approach to the writing of history.