History of Literature #111 – The Americanest American – Ralph Waldo Emerson


In 1984, the literary scholar Harold Bloom had this to say about Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Emerson is the mind of our climate, the principal source of the American difference in poetry, criticism and pragmatic post-philosophy…. Emerson, by no means the greatest American writer… is the inescapable theorist of all subsequent American writing. From his moment to ours, American authors either are in his tradition, or else in a counter-tradition originating in opposition to him.” Who was Emerson? How did he become so influential? What did he unlock in American literature? And what can we take from his works today?

Learn more about the show at historyofliterature.com. Support the show at patreon.com/literature.

History of Literature Podcast Ep. 57 – Borges, Munro, Davis, Barthelme – All About Short Stories (And Long Ones Too)


What makes a short story a short story? What can a short story do that a novel can’t? Can a story ever be TOO short? The President of the Literature Supporters Club stops by to discuss the length of fiction, with some help from Lydia Davis, Donald Barthelme, Edgar Allan Poe, Alice Munro, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Roberto Bolano, Georges Simenon, Alberto Moravia, Augusto Monterroso, Jonathan Franzen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saul Bellow, and Franz Kafka.


Show Notes: 

Brand new! Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Spy Glass,” “Sweeter Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


HoL Episode 30 – More Conspiracy!


What do Edgar Allan Poe, J.K. Rowling, William Shakespeare, Stephen King, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Justice Antonin Scalia have in common? Jacke Wilson connects the dots with another look at conspiracy literature, literary conspiracies, and the people who love them. (Part 2 of 2.) Continue reading

Halloween with Edgar Allan Poe (and Annette Jung)


And of course, don’t miss our own Edgar Allan Poe / Simpsons tribute. (No, not the one you’re thinking of. Think House of Usher, not The Raven.)

Restless Mind Show #2 – Tolstoy’s Halloween


Taking another break from the history of literature for a Simpsons / Edgar Allan Poe mashup, Leo Tolstoy’s horse, and five lusty lizards blasted into space by the Russians.


Today’s Comment of the Week: Halloween Lizards and the Accidental Listener

Wonderful Listener Rose Red writes:

I thoroughly enjoyed [episode two of the Jacke Wilson Show], which I had to listen to because I knew the Beatles would be mentioned. I am listening to the Halloween one and I think I just wet myself laughing at your take on the geckos in space. “Do they not have feelings?”

Thank you! I’d like to think they do. And I know I have feelings, and your comment made me laugh and feel proud and…a little apologetic! I didn’t mean to cause an accident! Maybe some laundry postponement but that’s as far as I was hoping to go!

I hope things turned out okay. And of course I’m very tickled by the comment. Thank you, Rose Red!

You can listen to the Halloween episode by subscribing to iTunes, following this link to download the mp3, visiting this show page, or pressing this button:

Fun for everyone. Even our dark master Edgar (pictured above in a great drawing by KAL for Raven Beer) makes an appearance in a short story as heard through the filtering mind of Jacke Wilson Jr.

Happy Halloween everyone!

It’s the Jacke Wilson Show! Episode 1.1 – The Halloween Episode


Here we go! Episode 1 of THE JACKE WILSON SHOW, an effort that has been seriously hindered by my complete lack of any knowledge about how any of this works. I had a lot of fun! And it’s yet another disaster! Ah well. Someone needs to take these tools away from me. (Or not! Who am I, Laura Miller, angry at the barbarians at the gate? Even the plebes deserve a few toys, don’t they? And a voice? They get to have their say, don’t they? Don’t they?)


Readers, I could use your help! Like I said, I have no idea how any of this works. Take a listen, and let me know what you think! Does it sound okay on your player? In your headphones? Honestly, I did my best. I hope you enjoy it!

Download the mp3 file: The Jacke Wilson Show 1.1 – The Halloween Episode.

Show Notes:


On this week’s show: lusty lizards in space, Leo Tolstoy, a lost scene from Macbeth, a new play for Bryan Cranston and Kate Winslet, Homer Simpson sings a Christmas Carol, a revised Edgar Allan Poe (with even MORE spookiness), and A History of Jacke Wilson in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster. Enjoy!

JACKE WILSON is the pen name of a writer whose books have been described as being “full of intrigue and expertly rendered deadpan comedy.” Born in Wisconsin, Jacke has since lived in Chicago, Bologna, Taiwan, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Mountain View, and New York City. Jacke now lives and works in the Washington D.C. area. Like his writings, the JACKE WILSON SHOW takes an affectionate look at the absurdities in literature, art, philosophy, great books, poetry, current events, hard news, politics, whatever passes for civilization these days, and the human condition (that dying animal). For more about Jacke and his books, visit Jacke at jackewilson.com.


  • Danse Macabre Hook, Greta Sting, Fanfare for Space, Return of Lazarus by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
    Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Marjorie P. Katz, read by Jacke Wilson Jr.
  • The Lost Scene of Macbeth, Lusty Lizards (excerpts), and A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #13 – The Monster  by Jacke Wilson

Today’s Comment of the Week: The Paralegal Checks In

Wonderful Reader K.C. writes:

The Promotion is definitely my next read. My “day” job is as a paralegal and the description is genius. Can’t wait to read.

Oh boy! A paralegal! Reading about “when big law meets big trouble…” This should be interesting


It kind of reminds me of that time I walked into the kitchen at work only to find a paralegal sitting at a table, eating potato chips and reading a book called Kill All the Lawyers. I made a joke about it, thinking she’d quickly try to hide the cover. I thought she’d be embarrassed, having been caught reading this book at a law firm.

I thought she might apologize. I thought her face might turn red.


She looked at the cover, looked back at me, and shrugged.

And now, the powder keg of The Promotion rolls its way into a firm, looking for a good spark. I’m sure K.C. will find much to enjoy. I’m sure she works with some crazy people, and she will enjoy finding that all the lawyers in the book are crazy too. Unless only some of them are. Or maybe just one.

In any case, I hope she reports back on whether she recognizes anything familiar. (And for her sake, maybe I should hope she doesn’t…)

If you’re a lawyer and/or you hate lawyers, or if you just work with them and hate them (no or in that clause!), or if you’re indifferent to those questions but you just like the idea of a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe character let loose in a law firm to cause whatever mayhem he can while still trying to pretend nothing is wrong, you may enjoy The Promotion, the book that’s been called “an exceptionally fast read” and described as having “humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.” Amazon’s running a sale on it, people. A buck for the Kindle version, and $4.49 for the paperback.

That’s right. It’s a promotion of The Promotion. A phrase I try not to overuse but which always reminds me of this, which makes me laugh, so I guess it’s okay:

Awaking to Find You’re a Monstrous Vermin (The Promotion Excerpt #6)

In Which the Narrator Tiptoes into the World of the Mysterious Mina Meinl

Even now it gives me chills to think of that moment when I heard the name for the first time. The way the words sounded, coming through those teeth. It was a name at the heart of the strangest experience of my life. And yet it sounded so foreign to me—I, who was then so innocent—that I initially thought it was the name of a corporate entity. Mina-Meinl. A company that made industrial machinery, perhaps. An investment vehicle that shipped grain out of the Ukraine. Not a person. Not a woman. Not someone I would ever, ever meet.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Not a what but a who,” Linn explained. “An investor of some kind.”

She explained what was known. During the exam, the accountants had discovered that this woman, Mina Meinl, had been offered co-invest opportunities on all the investments for all of the funds.

I was familiar with the concept of co-invest. Fortinbras Capital Management spent a ton of money looking for good investments—a hotel chain in Abu Dhabi, say, or an office park in Kuala Lumpur, or a string of mines in South Africa. After the Fortinbras funds had invested as much as they wanted, Fortinbras would open up investment to other investors as well.

Sometimes these opportunities were used as favors—a sweetener to get a prospective investor into one of the large funds. All this was fully disclosed, of course, and consistent with their fiduciary obligations. Nevertheless the SEC examined co-invest carefully. The first thing the SEC staff looked for was people who had gotten more than their fair share. According to Linn, the odd thing about Mina Meinl was not how much she got but how little.

“Five million in co-invest blends in,” she said. “Fifty thousand stands out.”

“Who is she?”

“Nobody knows.”

“How did this happen?”

Linn shrugged.

My internal investigation antennae were twitching. I specialized in this! I casually said that it sounded like they could use my services.

“Maybe I should call Darrin?” I suggested, referring to the general counsel of Fortinbras.

Linn shook her head. “No need. They decided it’s not material. The SEC didn’t notice it, and the next exam won’t be for a couple of years.”

“Aren’t they trying to figure it out?”

Linn said she didn’t know. She suspected that Darrin had other problems to deal with.

“Mina Meinl,” I said. Saying the name out loud gave me goosebumps.

“The great mystery,” Linn said.

We had to talk about recruiting. I made a few general remarks about process and goals, and she nodded as she checked the messages on her phone, but in fact my mind was just as preoccupied as hers.

A lot had changed. I had a new set of responsibilities, giving me a sense of purpose. We would be hiring a lot of new people, which was a large commitment of resources. And for the people we’d be hiring, it would be life-changing. It was important to make sure the new hires fit in our culture and wanted to do what we had in mind for them. The entire firm depended on its people, and I would be a major contributing factor to the future of the firm.

Looking back, I can see that something else was already growing in me. A seed had been planted and had already taken root. Soon it would sprawl across my mind like fast-growing kudzu, dominating all other foliage with its tangled, smothering vines.

Mina Meinl. The great mystery indeed.

Next: In Which the Narrator Begins to Realize His Deputy Could Destroy His Life-Changing Plans

Need to catch up? Check out Excerpt #5: In Which the Narrator Hears the Name That Will Forever Alter His Future. Or start at the beginning.

Can’t wait to read the whole thing? A full version of The Promotion is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions.

One Flew Over the Law Firm (The Promotion Excerpt #5)

In Which the Narrator Hears the Name That Will Forever Alter His Future

We started, as lawyers always do, by defining ourselves according to our practice areas. She nodded when I gave my little sentence about being a specialist in government and internal investigations, some white collar, a lot of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act work lately…

“We have overlap,” she said, nodding. “I do compliance for investment advisers.”

I couldn’t think of much else to talk about except recruiting, a topic I was trying to hold in reserve, because once we finished with that we’d head back to the office, where I had nothing to do. I asked her how things looked in the “compliance space” these days.

“Awesome,” she said. “Everyone is scared shitless.”

I was struck by how the word shitless emerged through her perfect white teeth, which did not ever open very far when she spoke, as if she were thinking hard about each word or had some kind of pain in her mouth.

It turned out we had some clients in common, including Fortinbras Capital Management, a very large investment firm I had helped with an FCPA matter involving a woman they’d hired in China who had stolen money and—it turned out—was having an affair with the mayor of Shanghai. The matter had taken a year to resolve and had resulted in a thirty-slide PowerPoint and a decision by the DOJ not to prosecute.

“That was you?” she said, displaying a level of surprise that another person might have found offensive. I merely nodded and asked how the CCO was doing.

“She was fired,” Linn said. “Too many bad emails at that place.”

I said that it hardly seemed fair to hold a chief compliance officer responsible for the emails of hundreds of employees, especially in a place like Fortinbras, where pushing the envelope was standard among the business folks.

“They were her emails.”


Linn went on to describe an examination that Fortinbras had just gone through. Overall the exam had gone well. The SEC had cited them for a few deficiencies, which was expected, but these were minor and had not led to any enforcement actions. Management was pleased, except for one thing.

“And what was that?” I asked.

Linn’s eyes narrowed. “Mina Meinl,” she said.

Next: In Which the Narrator Tiptoes into the World of the Mysterious Mina Meinl

Need to Catch Up? Check out The Promotion Minisode #4: In Which the Narrator Meets the Deputies Who Will Make or Break His Fortune

Can’t wait to read the whole thing? A full version of The Promotion is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions.