Welcome to Literary Disco.
We're Tod, Julia, and Rider -- three good friends who also happen to be huge book nerds.
We're writers, but we've always been readers first and foremost. Since the three of us have been talking and arguing about books for years, we decided to start recording some of our conversations.
As we looked around at the collection of podcasts, NPR shows, and Oprah Book Club-spinoffs that are available in the world, it occurred to us that it was hard to find the kind of literary discussion we love.
Which is one that appeals equally to writers and readers. And one that is smart without being hyper-intellectual, or too "insider." Everywhere we looked, book talk seemed shallow or snooty.
Primarily, we'll be reading books and talking about them. We'll give you a heads up on what book is next and then we'll get together to discuss. We'll read nonfiction, genre work, literary fiction, children's books, classics, poetry, and everything in between. Because we like everything (well, except Tod, he hates poetry).
But we also want to hear what writers are reading. So instead of doing simple interviews, we'll bring authors on to the podcast and have them select a book for all of us to read and discuss together.
And inevitably we will do other things. For instance, Tod will issue "Poet Voice" challenges to Julia and Rider (you'll see). We'll argue over digital book formats. We'll even, yes, read some Sweet Valley High.
If we were Michael Silverblatt, we could make up something smart-sounding about how we settled on the name Literary Disco (it was oxymoronic: a coupling of an ephemeral, pop-culture trend with the indissoluble, yet ever-evolving "literati") but the truth is, it just sounded right.
We hope that you'll listen in, read along, and join the discussion via email, Twitter, or Facebook.
But who are we? How do we know each other? What gives us the right to talk so much? Tod and Rider met in some creepy internet fashion, which they claim was educational. Rider and Julia met on an Amtrak platform in Vermont. Julia has no recollection of meeting Tod at all, possibly because the meeting proved traumatic. Despite these twists of fate, the three ended up spending lots of time together at The Bennington Writing Seminars talking about books and writing. Scattered to the far reaches of Southern California, more Southern California, and mid-Connecticut, they desperately missed each other's company and yelling at each other about Stephen King. They decided to rekindle these friendly intellectual discussions using the magic of the internet and fancy microphones. Many technical difficulties later (huge thanks to Greg Ludovici and Dan Russell, our webmasters, for helping us out), we present these discussions to you. Please enjoy.
Julia Pistell has her MFA in Nonfiction and is the recipient of a 2010 Writers Fellowship from the Greater Hartford Arts Council and a Hartford Arts & Heritage Jobs Grant from the City of Hartford. She won the Coachella Review’s 2011 Flash Fiction Prize. Her work can be found in the Star-Ledger, Inertia, and beyond. Last year she published an academic article in Cat Fancy about Mark Twain’s adopted cats, and also had a nationally broadcast essay on NPR’s “This I Believe.” Julia is a frequent guest on WNPR’s The Colin MacEnroe Show and is a co-founder of Sea Tea Improv, a professional improvisation company troupe. She works in marketing and event planning at The Mark Twain House & Museum, where her job duties include putting together beer tastings and recreating nineteenth-century amateur plays in Sam Clemens’ drawing room.
Tod Goldberg is the author of the novels Living Dead Girl (Soho Press), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Fake Liar Cheat (Pocket Books/MTV), and the popular Burn Notice series, as well the short story collections Simplify (Other Voices Books), a 2006 finalist for the SCIBA Award for Fiction and winner of he Other Voices Short Story Collection Prize and Other Resort Cities (Other Voices Books). His nonfiction and criticism appear regularly in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas CityLife, Salon & the Wall Street Journal among many others, and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards for excellence. Tod Goldberg holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature from Bennington College and directs the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Riverside.
Rider Strong is an actor and filmmaker best known for his roles on Boy Meets World and in Cabin Fever. His short stories and poems have appeared in journals such as Whiskey Island, The Chiron Review, Poetry Motel and others; online, he’s a contributor to Moviefone and Tribeca’s Future Film blog. Along with his brother, Rider has written and directed three short films that have played over 50 festivals worldwide and won both audience and juried awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, Sonoma International, Woods Hole, DC Shorts and more. The pair also created a spec campaign commercial in support of Barack Obama that became the first political ad to air on Comedy Central. Their forthcoming graphic novel, Blood Merchant, will be released by Image and Benaroya Comics.
Football and the Iraq war come together in Ben Fountain’s novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a portrait of fictional war heroes during a “victory tour” in 2004. The disco trio discusses the books insights on war, class, and politics. Not to mention Fountain’s mastery of his craft.
But first, it’s Bookshelf Roulette, which brings up important questions such as, why do all fantasy novels take place in England? Who in the world still has personalized license plates? And, what WAS the plot of Marilynne Robinsons’ novel Housekeeping? (Seriously, does anybody remember? Please email us.)
On this “animal rage” episode, the trio reads articles about animal attacks.
From Slate, A Death in Yellowstone by Jessica Grose
From Outside Magazine, The Killer in the Pool by Tim Zimmerman
And from Esquire, The Worst Story I Ever Heard by Rich Schapiro
Discussions of zoos, pets, national parks, and the nature of animals ensues…culminating in the very important question, what’s scarier: a chimp, a bear, or a killer whale?
Up first in the revisit, Rider heads to Pilgrim Creek, Tod analyzes Jack London’s dog narrators, and Julia admits she was a horse obsessed pre-teen.
In this Halloween spooktacular, we talk about Stephen King’s latest novel, Dr. Sleep. It’s a sequel to his genre-defining classic, The Shining.
Does Dr. Sleep hold up to its predecessor? Or is it something different entirely?
But first, we bring to the Bookshelf Revisit the books and stories that scared us the most, either as a child or an adult.
And then Tod and Julie both tell some “real life” ghost stories. Which sends Rider into a tailspin of skepticism (i.e., condescension) and Tod into a defense of the paranormal (i.e., egging Rider on). It’s one of the most combative episodes yet, and this fight has nothing to do with literature.
Tis the season! Happy Halloween everyone.
Chinua Achebe’s classic novel of a Nigerian colonial encounter gets the Disco treatment. An in-depth look at Things Fall Apart leads to discussion of Achebe’s legacy and African literature in general.
But first, songs. Lots of songs, as Rider introduces his latest lyrical discovery, Tod talks rock-drug-memoirs, and Julia discusses a book titled, Born to Run…which, perhaps predictably, inspires some Springsteen singing.
There’s no outro to this episode, since Rider is on the road to his wedding and without a microphone. But up in two weeks: just in time for Halloween, the Disco will take on Stephen King’s new novel, Dr. Sleep.
This week the trio takes on a dirtily-titled play that’s…actually not that dirty. “Cock” by Mike Bartlett is a strange combination of minimalist writing, incredibly specific characters, and Big Important Issues. For the second play the disco has tackled, it’s a good example of one that might read better than it will perform. But we’ll only know if any of our listeners have seen it…
The discussion dives headfirst into the nature of sexual identity, and eventually, Tod will ask pressing (ridiculous) questions about the craft of stage acting (i.e., How do actors stand in front of people so long? How do they not pee?).
But first, in the Bookshelf Revisit: books on Giants and Santa Clause, rip-your-heart-out lyrics about cancer, and the fascinating history of Legos.
What kind of Lego kid were you?
This week, the Disco trio reflects on the end of summer with two classic essays Julia selected.
First up, E.B. White’s short and moving trip back to his childhood vacation spot, Once More to the Lake (which can be found in its entirety, here).
And then, David Foster Wallace gets a well deserved lengthy discussion regarding his hysterical, career-making article about the miserable week he spent on a cruise ship: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Which, perhaps inevitably, leads Julia, Rider and Tod to share their personal cruise ship horror stories.
What is America’s obsession with vacation? Why is summer so meaningful in our lives? Why is Tod singing Toni Braxton?
These questions and more…