Sure, we know poets are experts in subjects like love, death, nightingales, and moonlight. But what about money? Isn’t that a little…beneath them? (Or at least out of their area of expertise?) In this episode, Jacke talks to author John Ramsden (The Poets’ Guide to Economics) about the contributions made by eleven poets to the field of economics. What did men like Defoe, Swift, Shelley, Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, de Quincey, Ruskin, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, and Ezra Pound get right? Where did they go wrong?
In 1922, a writer for the Observer commented: “No book has been more eagerly and curiously awaited by the strange little inner circle of book-lovers and littérateurs than James Joyce’s Ulysses.” After declaring Joyce to be a man of genius, the writer said, “I cannot see how the work upon which Mr Joyce spent seven strenuous years, years of wrestling and of agony, can ever be given to the public.” The objection then, or the fear, was that the book would wreak havoc on the morals of the general population. Today, the concern is not so much with scandal as with difficulty: annotated versions abound, prefaces fall all over themselves to caution readers. Yes, this is difficult. No, you might not finish. Please buy the book anyway. Give it a go.
In this episode, Jacke talks to Mike about the experience he had slow-reading Ulysses online in a community of readers. What were the challenges? What were the payoffs? How was it for him, and for his fellow hashtaggers? It’s a question to ask as one might ask someone after a war or pandemic or trip from a dangerous mountain. How was your Ulysses?
He was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904, but in the next 87 years, the world came to know and love him by his pen name, Dr. Seuss. Best known for his more than 60 books for children, including The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop, Dr. Seuss has sold more than 600 million books. In this episode, Jacke talks to Mesh Lakhani, CEO of Lola Media and co-host of the chart-topping podcast Better Call Paul, about his love of Dr. Seuss’s 1971 classic work of environmentalism and empathy, The Lorax.
In our last episode, we looked at the decision by Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard to purchase a printing press and run it out of their home. What began as a hobby – a relief from the strains of writing – soon turned into a genuine business, as The Hogarth Press met with success. And when Virginia published one of her most famous stories “Kew Gardens,” the dam burst, and the Woolfs and their press had to prepare for a dramatic increase in sales. In this episode, Jacke continues and concludes the story of the Hogarth Press, including a close look at the story that changed the press’s fortunes.
Is this the greatest man vs. nature story ever? Hard to say. But it just might be the purest.
Kicking off a new HOL feature, producer Emma chooses a short story for Jacke to read and discuss – Jack London’s classic “To Build a Fire.”. Get somewhere warm and let your mind drift to the snowy Yukon for this gripping tale of man vs. nature and man vs. himself.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence,” Ernest Hemingway said in A Moveable Feast. “Write the truest sentence that you know.” And so he did: the man wrote thousands of sentences, all in search of “truth” of some kind. What does a “true sentence” mean for a fiction writer? What true sentences did Hemingway himself write? And how much of this is in the eye of the beholder?
In this episode, Jacke is joined by Mark Cirino, the host of the One True Podcast and author of the book One True Sentence: Writers and Readers on Hemingway’s Art, for a discussion of Hemingway, his quest for true sentences, and what that has meant for dozens of contemporary readers. (Special bonus: Mark and Jacke roam through Hemingway’s works before choosing their own true sentences.)
Very few writers have had the influence or importance of Langston Hughes (1902?-1967). Best known for poems like “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “I, Too,” and “The Weary Blues,” Hughes was also a widely read novelist, short story writer, and essayist – and his promotion of Black people and culture became central to the cultural explosion known as the Harlem Renaissance. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Hughes’s early years, including his childhood, adolescence, and the poems Hughes wrote in his teens and twenties, as he forged his identity as a writer in the face of often intense criticism.
It’s a paradox that has bothered Shakespeare’s fans for centuries: the man was as insightful into human beings as anyone whoever lived, and yet his own life is barely documented. This combination of literary genius plus biographical uncertainty has spun off a number of mysteries – including the question of how exactly Shakespeare came to know the things that he did.
In this episode, Jacke talks to investigative journalist Michael Blanding, author of In Shakespeare’s Shadow, about a renegade scholar named Dennis McCarthy’s theory that Shakespeare may have drawn upon a previously unknown source – the lost plays of Sir Thomas North – and how Blanding himself joined the pursuit of searching for evidence to support McCarthy’s theory.
For years, we’ve enjoyed talking to writers about the books they love best. In this “best of” episode, we go deep into the archive for three of our favorites: Jim Shepard and his youthful discovery of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Margot Livesey and her love for Ford Madox Ford’s modernist classic The Good Soldier; and Charles Baxter telling us about his love for the poetry of James Wright. Enjoy!