History of Literature Podcast #63 – Books I Have Loved (with Charles Baxter)

charlesbaxter

In this special episode, the revered American author Charles Baxter joins Jacke to discuss some of his favorite books, including works by Anton Chekhov, Saul Bellow, James Wright, and Paula Fox.

“Charles Baxter’s stories have reminded me of how broad and deep and shining a story can be, and I am grateful.” — Alice Munro 

CHARLES BAXTER is the author of the novels The Feast of Love(nominated for the National Book Award), The Soul Thief, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, and First Light, and the story collectionsGryphon, Believers, A Relative Stranger, Through the Safety Net, andHarmony of the World.  The stories “Bravery” and “Charity,” which appear in There’s Something I Want You to Do, were included in Best American Short Stories. Baxter lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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Works Discussed:

Collected Poems by James Wright

Herzog, Henderson the Rain King, and Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

Desperate Characters and The Widow’s Children by Paula Fox

Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov

Show Notes: 

We have a special episode coming up – listener feedback! Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

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

“Sweet Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Saul Bellow and Austin Powers: Together At Last!

Wonderful reader arabpikachuwp4 responds to my post about Saul Bellow’s indie-author spirit:

I can imagine Austin Powers saying “I too like to live dangerously” to Saul Bellow, lol.

Lol indeed! I don’t think my own mind would have made that jump in a million years. But I’m glad someone’s did, because I’ve been laughing about it for days. When does Mike Myers next host Saturday Night Live, and what are the chances of us getting a sketch of Austin Powers meeting Saul Bellow? (I know, I know. The chances are zero. Not slim. Not remote. Not anything-is-possible. Zero. But one can dream!)

Don’t they have the same suit? And the same zest for…ah…whatever the hell Saul is doing with this photo?

SaulBellow Mike-Myers-Austin-Powers-1-
You can read the original post here:

Amazon v. Hachette (or Whatever v. Whatever)

By “whatever v. whatever” I don’t mean to imply indifference. I know people care passionately about this. And they’re right to! It’s their livelihood, their passion, their art that’s at stake.

No, by “whatever v. whatever” I mean “traditional v. indie” or “print v. ebook” or “established v. new” or however else you view the transformations in publishing.

I’m not taking sides (except to say I’m on the side of readers and writers). And I’m not an expert in this debate. Frankly I find that most of the commentary reveals more about the person making the argument than it does about the issues. (Hello, Laura Miller!)

But I wanted to point out something I mentioned a year ago, when the debate was about gatekeepers and independent authors. It’s a story with a point, even a moral, but I’m not going to be so heavy-handed as to explain it. It’s offered here for you to take or leave, as you wish.

Here’s the post, in all its glory. Onward and upward, people!

*

This is a true story:

So the author writes a 30,000-word story and finds himself in literary limbo. Even though he’s achieved some success with his previous books, magazines aren’t willing to publish a story this long. They only have so many pages, after all, and adding extra paper will be expensive to print and ship. For traditional book publishing it’s too short. Asking readers to pay hardcover prices for such a slim novel does not seem viable.

What can he do? The story is what it is. It’s the length it needs to be. The author doesn’t want his readers to get a version that’s been chopped down or padded out. The other alternative is to leave it in the drawer. The readers get nothing. Continue reading

What They Knew #11

The unexamined life is not worth living.

–Socrates

…and examining your life makes you want to kill yourself.

–Saul Bellow

The Author Who Lived Dangerously: A New Model for Publishing

This is a true story:

So the author writes a 30,000-word story and finds himself in literary limbo. Even though he’s achieved some success with his previous books, magazines aren’t willing to publish a story this long. They only have so many pages, after all, and adding extra paper will be expensive to print and ship. For traditional book publishing it’s too short. Asking readers to pay hardcover prices for such a slim novel does not seem viable.

What can he do? The story is what it is. It’s the length it needs to be. The author doesn’t want his readers to get a version that’s been chopped down or padded out. The other alternative is to leave it in the drawer. The readers get nothing.

Fortunately the author has access to a new publishing and distribution model that will enable him to sell the book for the more reasonable price of $6.95. It’s a model more typically used by genre fiction (sci fi, fantasy, mysteries) but the author has no qualms about that. Who cares if it’s not the exact means preferred by the typical dispensers of literary fiction? Readers – and the integrity of the work, if you want to be high-minded about it – should come first! Besides, what’s a little stigma? He’s built his brand. He’s successful enough to welcome a little danger.

Who is this brave author, blazing trails on the publishing frontier? Jonathan Franzen, waking up and embracing changes to publishing in 2013? Scott Turow, finally recognizing that an author owes allegiance to readers and not established business models?

Nope.

The author was Saul Bellow. The year was 1988.