Tag Archives: writing

Lost in the Stacks, Episode 422: Catastrophes of Literacy

Guest: Daniel Kalder, Author of The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy.

First broadcast May 3, 2019.

Playlist at https://www.wrek.org/2019/05/playlist-for-lost-in-the-stacks-from-friday-may-3rd-how-to-write-a-book-iii-catastrophes-of-literacy-episode-422/

“If you’re writing a book about dictators…there’s all kinds of strategies to bring the reader along so they are not suffering.”

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Supercontext: The White Album, by Joan Didion

This 1979 collection of essays attempts to reveal the 1960s and California as stories without narratives. We discuss how Didion’s work was branded because of her gender, class, and lack of politics, despite her insistence that writing was only an attempt to make sense out of chaos.

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Supercontext: A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Cartoon of tuning pegs and neck of a bass guitar; title

This 201 award-winning work of literary fiction has been celebrated by everyone from academics to Rolling Stone. But we look at it in light of its cultural expectations, from a “high brow” publisher, to its timidity about engaging with ethnically diverse characters.

Interested in the media we discussed this episode? Please support the show by purchasing it through our affiliate store:

Additional Resources:

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan ? review
  • “Goon Squad”: Jennifer Egan’s time-travel tour de force
    • CS Note: Salon’s site is so full of ads and video overlays that I could barely read the article as it slowed my computer to a halt.
  • HBO Sets Pulitzer Prize Winner ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’ For Series Treatment
  • Strong, M. J. (2018). Found time: Kairos in A Visit from the Goon Squad. Critique, 59(4), 471-480.
  • Cowart, D. (2015). Thirteen Ways of Looking: Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Critique, 56(3), 241-254.
  • MOLING, M. (2016). “No Future”: Time, Punk Rock and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. Arizona Quarterly, 72(1), 51.
  • “Water, Water Everywhere,” By: WHELDON, WYNN. Commentary. Nov2017, Vol. 144 Issue 4, p60-62. 3p.
  • “Big Novelist: Jennifer Egan,” By: Heller, Nathan. Rolling Stone. 5/31/2012, Issue 1158, p66-67. 2p.
  • Bookclub-in-a-Box Discusses A Visit From The Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, By: Godfrey, Laura; Egan, Jennifer; Herbert, Marilyn; Bookclub-in-a-Box (Firm). [England] : Bookclub-In-A-Box. 2012. eBook., Database: eBook Collection (EBSCOhost)

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Supercontext: Michael Shea (w/ guest Robert Lamb)

Michael Shea was a genre writer who combined fantasy, science fiction and horror into a unique blend of wonder and imagination. Together with our guest Robert Lamb (Stuff To Blow Your Mind), we discuss Shea’s writing style and legacy.

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Supercontext: Ray Bradbury, “How To Keep and Feed a Muse”

In this essay, one of America’s most beloved storytellers provides advice on consuming media, thinking critically about it and applying it to your own work. We get real personal while trying to figure out who our respective “muses” are. 

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Fill up a notebook, set fire to a house

This entry was sent in my September 10th TinyLetter.

I have done a poor job of maintaining a creative outlet in my midlife. I produce all kinds of audio projects, certainly, but they serve multiple masters: documenting my professional work, fulfilling my collaborators’ needs, hopes of exposure, even chasing the elusive high of meeting your heroes. What I have lost is the straight-up artistic expression of my internal life.

I used to write novels and short stories, in my more lubricated days (that’s a drinking joke), and while most of them were incomplete, I did finish a single novel and three short stories that I felt were worth showing to other people. My rejection slip collection is not big but it’s too thick to slip between the pages of a notebook.

But I don’t write fiction anymore. Until recently, the idea of starting to write again felt huge and ungainly; writing seemed like an unending, unsatisfying endeavor that I should be glad to be rid of.

Working on Supercontext with Chris, however, has helped me find my way back to the desire to write and even to the sources of that desire, most notably in the episode on Nick Cave that we produced in anticipation of the release of Skeleton Tree and the accompanying film One More Time With Feeling. We discussed Nick Cave’s notebooks and I connected that discussion to my vague memory of Nick Cave’s interview on Marc Maron’s WTF and to “Assumptions,” a chapter in Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town, which contains the line “Whenever I see a town that triggers whatever it is inside me that wants to write a poem, I assume at least one of the following:” which introduces 78 contradictory and deceptively simple qualities to these potential triggering towns.

So dumping all that stuff into my brain barrel — Nick Cave, notebooks, artistic assumptions, Richard Hugo, triggering towns, fantasy life, Skeleton Tree, death, life, children, collaboration, and music — and shaking it around brought me to an artistic decision.

Trying to write a book, or a story, or even, God help me, a poem feels like taking on an undue burden. But trying to fill notebooks with notations and aphorisms about an alternate artistic universe (that any potential Charlie-Bennett-composed fiction might describe) feels like a romp, like therapy, like a puzzle, like drawing a map, like useful work.

So I’m going to start filling notebooks. The first assumption that struck me and stuck is this one: “Houses burn down when someone decides to change who they are.”

Supercontext: The End of the Tour

Does entertainment have a responsibility to historical accuracy? Christian & Charlie tackle a film about a book written by David Lipsky about an article that was never published about writer David Foster Wallace. We struggle with how to consume media when you object to the portrayal of a real-life subject you may have identified with.

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