Author and notorious New York Post columnist Michael Riedel joins Jacke to discuss his new book, Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway, which explores the world of big-budget Broadway musicals in the 1990s. Along the way, he and Jacke discuss how he got his start as a Broadway columnist; musicals from The Lion King to The Producers; the devastating impact of 9/11 and the current COVID-19 pandemic on New York theater; and some post-pandemic changes that might help Broadway get back on its feet. In preparation for this month’s Thursday Theme, the plays of Chekhov, Jacke also asks Michael about the financial viability of spoken-word drama, including a potential make-it-on-Broadway scenario for the aspiring young Chekhovs of today.
In her lifetime, Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549) was known as a benevolent and capable leader, a protectress of free thinkers, and one of the most intelligent women in France. She was also the producer of great literature, as her collection of 72 stories known as The Heptameron picks up where Boccaccio’s Decameron leaves off. In this episode, we look at the life of Marguerite de Navarre and hear one of the stories, affording us insight into what it means to be a leader during a time of moral and religious upheaval.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a professor, academic essay, and professional linguist – but the world knows him best as the author of The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955). In this episode, Jacke finishes his look at literary genres by exploring the life, lifelong interests, and fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose books sold over 150 million copies, inspired a highly successful movie trilogy, and essentially created the modern fantasy novel.
Herodotus (c. 484 – 425? BCE) has been called both “The Father of History” and “The Father of Lies.” His accounts of the ancient world, including a deep dive into all aspects of geography, biology, and culture (among many other topics), are fascinating, indispensable, and – at times – confoundingly implausible. Who was Herodotus? What can we make of his work? And is it worth reading today? In this episode of The History of Literature, Mike Palindrome, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins Jacke to make the case for Herodotus.
Jacke continues the Thursday Theme for November with a look at a genre that began in the nineteenth century and nearly dominated the twentieth: the Western. What happened to western fiction? What was a “classic western” and why did it disappear? And what reinventions of the genre are happening now? Anna North, author of the forthcoming novel Outlawed, joins us to help sort through these questions, and to talk about a reimagined western she admires, C. Pam Zhang’s How Much of These Hills Is Gold.
From the dramatic trains of Anna Karenina to the wide-open roads of Jack Kerouac, getting around has always played a central role in literature. But not all means of transportation are equal! In this lighthearted episode of the History of Literature, Jacke and Mike attempt to determine the most literary forms of transportation.
In Part 2 of our look at great literary genres, Jacke probes the development of science fiction, from ancient Greek travels to the moon to the amazing stories of the twentieth century. Along the way, he chooses four candidates for the Mount Rushmore of Science Fiction, reads a passage from science fiction’s O.G., and sees if there is a secret to science fiction that he can discover. Enjoy!
Jacke takes a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby (1925), which has been called by one newspaper “the American masterwork, the finest work of fiction by any of this country’s writers.” But what makes it so compelling? Is it enough to say that it’s about the American dream and disillusionment? (Spoiler alert: Jacke doesn’t think so!)
Jacke starts a new Thursday Theme with a look at genre fiction. First up: Romance novels! Every year, over a billion dollars are spent on these books about love and relationships and…well, what else do we consider fundamental to a romance novel? Sex? A happy ending? In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the history of the romance novel, the efforts to define the category, and some of the leading examples, both current and historical.
Jacke takes a look at the life and works of Jean Rhys (1890-1979), whose masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), reimagined Jane Eyrefrom the point of view of “the madwoman in the attic,” and still stands as one of the seminal works of feminist and postcolonial studies.