“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.)
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.
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.
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was one of the most famous American writers of the mid-twentieth century. As a key member of a group of writers known as the “Beat Generation,” his works explored the role of the individual in post-war America. His most famous work, On the Road (1957), has sold millions of copies and continues to inspire seekers of nonconformity and spiritual uplift. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the life and works of the King of the Beats, and along the way offers some thoughts on how to read literature from the past, even when the churning world progresses past some (but not all) of the ideas within.
Debut novelist A. Natasha Joukovsky (The Portrait of a Mirror) joins Jacke for a discussion of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ovid’s myth of Narcissus, the fascinating power of recursions, and a life lived in the worlds of literature, business, and art.
THE PORTRAIT OF A MIRROR is a stunning reinvention of the myth of Narcissus as a modern novel of manners, about two young, well-heeled couples whose parallel lives intertwine over the course of a summer, by a sharp new voice in fiction.
A. NATASHA JOUKOVSKY holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. She spent five years in the art world, working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before pivoting into management consulting. The Portrait of a Mirror is her debut novel. She lives in Washington, D.C.
In gratitude to Natasha for appearing on The History of Literature Podcast, a donation has been made to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund (lgbtqfund.org).
Born into a well-to-do family in New Zealand, Katherine Mansfield began writing fiction at the age of 10. But it was in England and continental Europe that her writing took flight, as she drew upon Chekhov and the new spirit of Modernism to advance (and perfect) the short story form before dying a tragically early death. Her work was “the only writing I have ever been jealous of…,” Virginia Woolf wrote. “Probably we had something in common which I shall never find in anybody else.” In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the life and career of Katherine Mansfield, including a close-up look at her masterpiece “The Garden Party.”
It’s the OG of experimental literature! (In English, anyway…) In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the wild and woolly Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. And in spite of Dr. Johnson’s famous claim that “nothing odd will do long – Tristram Shandy did not last!” we’re still talking about this classic eighteenth-century novel. Who was Sterne? What rules did he break? And what power does it have for a reader today?
Yang Huang, author of the new novel My Good Son, joins Jacke for a discussion of her childhood in China, how censorship restricted her ability to imagine stories, and how George Eliot’s Middlemarch helped her break free from these limitations. We also discuss her work as a novelist and what it’s like to be an Asian American during a period of highly visible anti-Asian sentiment.
YANG HUANG grew up in China and has lived in the United States since 1990. Her novel MY GOOD SON won the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize. Her linked story collection, MY OLD FAITHFUL, won the Juniper Prize, and her debut novel, LIVING TREASURES, won the Nautilus Book Award silver medal. She works for the University of California, Berkeley and lives in the Bay Area with her family. To learn more about Yang and her writing, visit http://www.yanghuang.com or follow her on Twitter: @yangwrites.
In our last episode, we examined the evidence of Jane Austen’s 1995-96 dalliance with her “Irish friend,” the gentlemanlike (but impoverished) young law student Tom Lefroy. Intriguingly, she began writing Pride and Prejudice, her classic novel of romance, love, and mixed messages, later that year. Might Tom have been the inspiration for the beloved Mr. Darcy? And might Jane herself have been the model for the even more beloved Elizabeth Bennet? Jacke takes a look at the possible connections, reads several passages from the novel itself, and offers some thoughts on the attempts to find a Darcy-Lizzy relationship somewhere in the real-life example of Tom and Jane.
RICHARD BRADFORD is Research Professor in English at Ulster University and Visiting Professor at the University of Avignon. He has published over 25 acclaimed books, including biographies of Philip Larkin, Alan Sillitoe, Kingsley Amis, and Martin Amis.