Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was born in Quebec, immigrated to Chicago, and became one of the greatest of the great American novelists. In 1976 he won the Nobel Prize for writing that displayed “the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age.”
In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at one of their favorite authors, discussing the highs and lows of the “first-class noticer” and his larger-than-life presence in the literary world.
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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 email@example.com.
Jacke and Mike discuss Joseph Conrad’s short novel Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, and Eleanor Coppola’s documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Then Jacke offers some thoughts on the recent events in Charlottesville, compares them with the themes in Conrad, and argues that America’s “new normal” might be best understood as an existential journey for the twenty-first century.