The History of Literature #158 – “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

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In the 1960s and ’70s, the Vietnam War dominated the hearts and minds of a generation of Americans. In 1990, the American writer Tim O’Brien, himself a former soldier, published “The Things They Carried,” a short story that became an instant classic. Through its depiction of the members of a platoon in Vietnam, told largely through the tangible and intangible things in their possession as they humped their way through the jungle, O’Brien’s story captures the soul and psyches of young men engaged in a war they cannot understand and filled with a longing for home that must compete with the brutal circumstances of present-day reality. In this episode of the History of Literature, host Jacke Wilson reads the entire short story “The Things They Carried,” then invites Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, to join him for a discussion of the Vietnam War and the literary masterpiece it gave rise to.

Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #157 – Travel Books (with Mike Palindrome)

“The world is a book,” said Augustine, “and those who do not travel read only one page.” But what about books ABOUT traveling? Do they double the pleasure? Transport us to a different place? Inspire and enchant? Or are they more like a forced march through someone else’s interminable photo album? Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, joins us for a look at his literary journey to London and Stockholm, summer reading, and a draft of the greatest travel books of all time.

Works and authors discussed include As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy by C.L. Barber, Virginia Woolf, My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, Bill Bryson, Herodotus, Rick Steves, Eat Pray Love, Under a Tuscan Sun, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, My Life in Franceby Julia Child, Invisible Cities and other works by Italo Calvino, The Travels of Marco Polo, Patricia Highsmith, James Joyce, Henry James, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, Another Day of Life by Kapuscinski, What Is the What by Dave Eggers, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, Roots by Alex Haley, Under the Tuscan SunA Sentimental Journey by Laurence Stern, the Let’s Go series, the Lonely Planet series, Across Asia on the CheapInto the Wild and other works by Jon Krakauer, the Odyssey, Mark Twain, India: A Million Mutinies Now by V.S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux, A Room with a View, Kingsley Amis, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda.

Blasphemous! Hear the original discussion of Shakespeare’s comedies in Episode 83 – Overrated! Top 10 Books You Don’t Need To Read.

Nabokov’s Lolita gets a day in the sun in Episode 112 – The Novelist and the Witch Doctor – Unpacking Nabokov’s Case Against Freud (with Joshua Ferris).

A trip through Tibet? Reading Madame Bovary? Yes indeed. Hear the whole story in Episode 79 – Music that Melts the Stars – Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #155 – Plato

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“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition,” said Alfred North Whitehead, “is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” We’ve all heard the name of Plato and his famous mentor Socrates, and most of us have encountered the dialogues, a literary-philosophical form he essentially invented. We know the themes he advanced, his general views of metaphysics, and his interest in knowledge and its importance as a virtue. But what do we know about Plato the man? How did this person come to write works that would be read and wrestled with more than two thousand years later? And how do Plato’s literary skills help to deepen his arguments and enrich his narratives?  In this episode of The History of Literature, we look at the fascinating figure of Plato and his great mentor/creation, Socrates.

Like Greek thought and literature? Try Episode 4 – Sappho.

Stop the presses! Go back even further in time to Episode 3 – Homer.

Like philosophy and philosophers? Try Episode 117 – Machiavelli and The Prince.

Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #153 – Charles Dickens

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Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) was the greatest novelist of the Victorian age. In his 58 years he went from a hardscrabble childhood to a world-famous author, beloved and admired for his unforgettable characters, his powers of observation and empathy, and his championing of the lower classes. He wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of articles and short stories – and also found time to edit a weekly periodical for over 20 years. But that wasn’t all: he also wrote thousands of pages of letters, ran a sizable household, was a tireless reformer, a philanthropist, an amateur theatrical performer, a lecturer, and a traveler, and at times walked 14 miles a day. And he had secrets in his personal life that are still being unearthed today.

How on earth did he get all this done? How was he viewed by his contemporaries? And what do we make of his novels – and his life – today?

For more on Dickens’ classic work A Christmas Carol, try Episode 72 – Top 10 Christmas Stories

For a look at the sentimental in fiction, try Episode 65 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (with Professor James Chandler)

Does Dickens make you hungry? We explore the phenomenon in Episode 144 – Food in Literature (with Ronica Dhar)

What was Dickens’s favorite book? Find out in Episode 41 – The New Testament (with Professor Kyle Keefer)

Support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #152 – George Sand

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George Sand wrote an astonishing number of novels and plays, and had friendships and affairs with an astonishing range of men and women. She dressed in men’s clothing, and she inspired a host of 19th century authors and artists, including Russian writers like Turgenev and Dostoevsky and British writers like Mary Ann Evans, who adopted the name George, as in George Eliot, out of tribute to her French predecessor. In this episode of the History of Literature, we travel to 19th Century France, for a look at the life and works of the inimitable and indefatigable George Sand.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

The History of Literature #150 – Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog”

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It’s a deceptively simple story: a man and a woman meet, have an affair, are separated, and reunite. And yet, in writing about Anton Chekhov’s story, “The Lady with the Little Dog” (1899), Vladimir Nabokov said, “All the traditional rules have been broken in this wonderful short story…. No problem, no regular climax, no point at the end. And it is one of the greatest stories ever written.”

What makes this story so good? How does it hold up today? In this episode, Jacke and Mike examine the masterpiece of one of the world’s greatest short story writers. NOTE: This is a self-contained episode of the History of Literature – we read the story itself, so no need to read the story on your own (unless you’d like to).

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.

The History of Literature #149 – Raising Readers (aka The Power of Literature in an Imperfect World)

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Jacke and Mike respond to an email from a listener who is about to become a father and wondering about the role of literature in the life of a young child.

Works and authors discussed include J.K. Rowling, Phillip Pullman, Andrew Motion, Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, The Great Brain series, Bedtime for Frances, Frog and Toad, Beatrix Potter, Martin Amis, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, The Beatles, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, the Moomintroll books, Nick Hornby.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature. Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC.