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?
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.
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!
Born Tomáš Sträussler, in what was then Czechoslovakia, celebrated playwright Tom Stoppard (1937- ) became one of the best known British playwrights in the world. Known for his with and humor, his facility with language, and the depth of his philosophical inquiries, he found success with plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Coast of Utopia, The Invention of Love, and The Real Thing. He has also been a successful writer for radio, television, and film, with scripts like Shakespeare in Love and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade benefiting from his eye for drama and ear for dialogue. In this episode, Jacke talks to television producer and playwright Scott Carter about his admiration for Tom Stoppard’s life and works.
Additional listening suggestions:
Samuel Beckett 114 Christopher Marlowe 353 Oscar Wilde in Prison (with Scott Carter)
Czech novelist Karel Čapek (1890-1938) might be best known as the pioneering science fiction writer who first coined the term “robot.” But readers have long appreciated the transcendent humanity of his works. “There was no writer like him,” Arthur Miller once said, “prophetic assurance mixed with surrealistic humor and hard-edged social satire: a unique combination…a joy to read.” In this episode, Jacke talks to podcast producer Ian Coss about the life of Karel Čapek, his contributions to literature, and how Čapek’s celebrated novel War with the Newts inspired Ian’s audio fiction series Newts, a farcical, yet deadly serious tale about an alternate history of the 1930s, in which the Western world discovers, exploits, educates, arms, and is ultimately overthrown by a species of highly intelligent, three-foot tall salamanders. SPECIAL BONUS CONTENT: We conclude the episode with a trailer for Newts.
Summertime! The season for watching blockbuster movies in arctic conditions, heart-pounding suspense flicks that heat the blood, and cool-breeze dramas that stir the soul. In this best-of episode, Jacke celebrates the summer with portions of conversations with three previous guests, Brian Price, Meg Tilly, and Mike Palindrome.
Very few novelists can match the ambition or output of French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). A pioneer of the great nineteenth-century “realism” tradition, his novel sequence La Comédie Humaine presents a panoramic view of post-Napoleonic France. Containing something like 90 finished novels and novellas, Balzac’s achievement has influenced writers like Hugo, Dickens, Flaubert, and Henry James. In this episode, Jacke talks to contemporary novelist Carlos Allende (Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love) about his love for Balzac and his works.