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!
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.
Jacke plays a clip from Nabokov discussing his famous novel Lolita, in which the frantic narrator Humbert Humbert recounts his passionate (and illegal, immoral, and illicit) love for a young girl. After hearing from the author, Jacke plays clips from three History of Literature Podcast interviews: Jenny Minton Quigley, Jim Shepard,, and Joshua Ferris.
Still recovering from his immersion in Sigmund Freud, Jacke looks instead to one of the world’s great literary cities: Odessa. More than 300 writers have lived in, traveled through, and/or written about Ukraine’s “pearl of the Black Sea” – what did they find so compelling? And what did they write about afterwards? PLUS we continue our conversation with Scottish novelist Margot Livesey, who has been reading Boswell’s Life of Johnson, generally considered one of the greatest biographies ever written (and one of Jacke’s favorite books).
Mark Twain was an enormously successful writer and a horrendous businessperson, with a weakness for gadgets and inventions that cost him a fortune. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at his efforts to start his own publishing company, which started off strong but quickly descended into bankruptcy and ruin. What was he trying to accomplish? And what were the books that brought him down?
After that, Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke for part two of a discussion on great literary terms and devices. The two old friends recount the first ten they chose and – tongues firmly in cheek – select THE GREATEST LITERARY TERMS OF ALL TIME, numbers 11-20.
In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Victor Hugo (1802-1885), whose poetry, plays, and novels made him one of the leaders of the nineteenth-century Romantic movement. In addition to his famous novels Les MisérablesandThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame, we also look at some of his lesser known works; his family background; the legend of his conception in a Roman temple atop a mountain; his belief in the transformation of poetry throughout the history of human civilization; and the gusto with which he approached both life and literature.
“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” Such is the opening of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), the novel that won the National Book Award but repulsed the Pulitzer Prize Committee. Pynchon’s special blend of paranoia and postmodernism made him one of the hallmark authors of the Cold War era. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Pynchon’s life and works, then is joined by a contemporary author, Antoine Wilson (Mouth to Mouth), for a discussion of his writing process and his recent trip to Pynchonland.
ANTOINE WILSON is the author of the novels Panorama City and The Interloper. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Best New American Voices, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and he is a contributing editor of A Public Space. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and recipient of a Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin, he lives in Los Angeles. His website is: AntoineWilson.com.