Here We Go! Top Podcast Episodes of 2015!


Happy New Year!

On New Year’s Eve I expressed some gratitude and kicked off our countdown of 2015’s top podcast episodes. Today, I can reveal the

Top History of Literature Episodes of 2015

as selected by you, the listeners. For those of you new to the History of Literature, this might be the best place to start. Or just monkey around in iTunes or wherever and pick and author that appeals to you.

As longtime listeners know, the History of Literature podcast has two branches. In the first one, I dive into the great literary works of the past. In the second branch, which also goes by the name of the Restless Mind Show (sometimes), I talk about art, literature, life, the creative process, or whatever else is on my restless mind.

So without further ado, here we go.

The Top History of Literature Episodes of 2015

#5 – Battling the Beast

Introducing the wildly unqualified host, Jacke Wilson.


#4 – The Epic of Gilgamesh

Starting our journey with the surprisingly modern story of an ancient warrior-king whose restlessness drives him to seek immortality.


#3 – Greek Tragedy (Part One)

How was tragedy invented? Why was it so popular in Ancient Greece, and what power does it have for us today? Using the discussion of tragedy in Aristotle’s Poetics, author Jacke Wilson takes a look at tragedies from ancient times to Breaking Bad.


# 2 – Literature and Loneliness

On the eve of a holiday, author and host of the History of Literature podcast Jacke Wilson considers the consolations that  total immersion in literature can provide.


#1 – Homer

He was a blind poet whose stories of heroes and gods helped launch an incredible era of literary and cultural flourishing. History of Literature host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the influence that Homer had on the minds of Ancient Greece – and the resonance that the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey still have for us today.


We have much more planned for 2016. Thank you again for all your comments, support, emails, and downloads – I am extremely grateful for everyone who has joined us in this journey!

History of Literature Episode 3A: Odysseus Leaves Calypso


Responding to a listener email, author Jacke Wilson takes a deeper look at one of the Odyssey’s most famous passages. Why does Odysseus leave Calypso, and what does it tell us about Homer and his genius? And is it fair to compare Achilles and Odysseus with Yosemite Sam and Bugs Bunny?


Sneak Preview: Abandoning a Goddess

Would you leave her?
Would you leave her?

Dear Readers and Listeners,

It’s a heavy-hearted weekend for the world. All of our very best wishes for peace, love, and safety to our friends in Paris. Let’s hope we somehow learn to end the madness of hatred and violence.

This week on the History of Literature Podcast, we’ll take a deeper look at the passage in which Odysseus leaves the goddess Calypso. On Thursday, we’ll be back with another Restless Mind Show. In this episode, we update the world on our interaction with Bryan Cranston’s agent, whose feedback has inspired an exciting new Jacke Wilson project.

Don’t miss last week’s episodes:

The History of Literature 3: Homer

The Restless Mind Show 5: Gar Discovers a Lost Recording of Walt Whitman!

Literature has been many things to many people over the years. A comfort, an escape… and a way to remind ourselves in humanity’s brightest sides as well as its darkest. I hope you and your loved ones find a way to connect this weekend, and that the world finds a way to see ourselves out of this dark tunnel we currently find ourselves in.



Just Because…

Because some days you just need 48 seconds like these to keep you going…

Check out our own look at a different Huh Oh Meh Eh Er by listening to the History of Literature Podcast Episode 3 – Homer:


He was a blind poet whose stories of heroes and gods helped launch an incredible era of literary and cultural flourishing. History of Literature host Jacke Wilson takes a look at the influence that Homer had on the minds of Ancient Greece – and the resonance that the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey still have for us today.


Sneak Preview: Homer in Ian McKellen’s English

Yesterday we brought you a snippet of the Iliad in the Original Greek. How about The Odyssey in Ian McKellen’s sonorous rendition?

All there on Youtube, all for free. I love the twenty-first century so much.

Come back Monday when The History of Literature takes a look at Homer. In the meantime, you can catch up on Episode 1 – The Epic of Gilgamesh and Episode 2 – The Hebrew Bible.

Sneak Preview: Hear How Homer Sounds in the Original Language

Remember when we brought you the Epic of Gilgamesh as it sounded in its original language? Well, next up in The History of Literature podcast series is Homer, who of course wrote in Ancient Greek, and we’re lucky to have another beautiful recording.

That’s esteemed translator and Homeric scholar (and Zen Buddhist) Professor Stanley Lombardo.

Embrace Your Inner Homer (and Publish Your Book!)

Okay, before we begin, please watch this video. It’s by far the best use of 24 seconds you’ll spend today:

What does this have to do with self-publishing? Well, I could point to the dignity of the little robot with his little tennis racket arm, and the moving way he pulls himself down the road even as his stern father refuses to let him in. No, I don’t view the self-publisher as the robot, with the gatekeepers as Homer. And I don’t see the robot as the book in the drawer, never to see the light of day. Those are the obvious metaphors.

But here’s the one that’s most difficult: what if you’re Homer! What if you put all this time following your dream, pursuing your passion… and the thing turns out to be terrible! Except you don’t know it! How embarrassing! How horrible! Maybe the Gatekeepers were right after all! They were… gulp… saving us from ourselves.


But watch this one. Trust me, it’s worth the five-second investment:

Yes, Homer’s a fool. We all are, at one time or another. So the question is, do you want to fail like the mean Homer, kicking your creation to the curb? Or do you want to be the Woo-Hoo Homer, turning every lemon into lemonade and every termination into a four-day weekend? Sure, he’s not reality-based. So what? Aren’t you a fiction writer for a reason?

And aren’t you tired of the stern shake of the head, keeping you down?

Isn’t it time to pump your fist in the air and take a Homerlike leap?

Storytelling and the Marketplace

I’ve been writing a long time. I can divide my writing into three phases: the phase when I was trying to tell a story, the phase when I was trying to write something suitable for an agent, and the (current) phase when I am again trying to tell a story. Writing for word count might be the most obvious difference. (Genre is another, but that’s for another day.)

Now that I’m not beholden to word count, I feel free again – free to follow the story, free to put in what fits and take out what doesn’t. I don’t have that agonizing feeling that I might have a great piece of writing that comes up too short. Or that I need to add some subplots in order to reach the minimum word count I need in order to get my manuscript taken seriously. This is better!

But hang on (I can hear critics say), aren’t the standard word counts a reflection of what readers have said they wanted from a novel? Hasn’t the marketplace determined this length? Perhaps.

But think of an archetypal storyteller. Maybe for you it’s someone at a campfire. Maybe it’s a minister delivering a sermon. Maybe it’s your best friend, calling you on Monday to tell you about her weekend. Maybe it’s an ancient blind poet chanting verse to a village. Or an ancient mariner on the deck of a cruising yawl, underneath the wide-open sky, delivering dark news from the interior.

For me it’s my uncle, brightening Thanksgiving and Christmas with his stories. I know people who can’t tell good stories – their stories tend to meander. They don’t have the same focus. The descriptions aren’t as crisp. When my uncle tells a story, everything he says is essential, and it all drives to some kind of payoff. His stories have no drag.

Now think of how absurd it would be if the archetypal storyteller – these wondrous beasts, these fabulous creatures – were forced to count up their words in advance. And if someone else jumped in and prevented the story from being told. Sorry, people. This story doesn’t have enough words. Try telling a different story that’s not too short and not too long. Why are you looking at me like that? I know how this works. Okay, fine, go ahead, tell this one – as long as you add a few things to make it an acceptable length. Look, this is for your own good. I’m only basing it on what I’ve seen in the marketplace.

But wait, you say. Aren’t those few things the unnecessary, the meandering, the drag? Won’t those few things turn good stories into bad ones?

Who are you to ask those things – these are professionals! So stop worrying! Learn to love the market! They know how this works!