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.
You are on the web, trying find something to listen to.
You see a link to the latest Literary Disco episode, a podcast you love. You click on it.
Now you are on the Literary Disco site, and there’s a brand new episode about Choose Your Own Adventure books!
If you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books, scroll down.
If you are too young to know what the hell a CYOA is, good for you youngin, click here.
You begin to listen to the episode, which is about a spy-themeed Choose Your Own Adventure. Specifically, #6: Your Code Name is Jonah. The episode starts with Tod, Julia, and Rider doing a Bookshelf Revisit about their favorite spy-related literature.
And pretty soon, the three friends are discussing the convoluted plot, stale prose, and strangely dissatisfying sensation of wading through a book with 40 different endings.
But nostalgia for the 80s, weirdly inserted whale activism (yes, really), and the camaraderie of the Disco trio all draw you in. It makes you laugh and think in equal measure.
Congratulations, you are a Literary Disco listener.
Beautiful women with tails, peeling out of your own skin, bad acid trips, cat-faced kids…we must be discussing the graphic novel Black Hole by Charles Burns.
This chilling book set in the Seattle area in the 1970s is the story of high schoolers who are sexually transmitting a mysterious “bug” that mutates their bodies. But despite all appearances, this isn’t sci-fi horror; instead, the book speaks more to the general longing and misery that is American adolescence.
And so, for the Bookshelf Revisit, the Disco trio pulls down their favorite teen-themed work of literature. A play set on Lover’s Leap, a book about a “maniac” runner, Richard Ford’s classic Rock Springs, and of course, Bruce Springsteen.
It’s all angst all the time. Your parents just don’t get you. But we do.
For this episode, the Disco goes back in time to 2005 for a harrowing glimpse at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. Incredibly well researched and nuanced, Fink’s book covers disaster, death, corporate irresponsibility, legal maneuvering, and personal anxiety in the face of emergency.
But first: the return of Bookshelf Roulette! Tod lands on a book close to home, Julia examines the simple act of “looking,” and Rider finds laughter that is contagious and dangerous.
Why is Tod talking about huffing model glue and the Anarchist’s Cookbook?
Only one way to find out…
After some scheduling and vomiting drama (we’ll explain), we offer up this special 50th episode of wall to wall listener questions.
In two weeks, we’ll return with — finally — a discussion of 5 Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.
Place your hand over your heart and jump onto a podium because we’ve got Olympic fever over here. We take on the two most important sports in American history: bowling and football.
This month, first we talk about our favorite sports in fiction and nonfiction. (Horses may or may not come up again.) Then we get on to the main event: discussing two fascinating pieces of sports journalism, “Why Don’t More Athletes Take a Stand” by Gary Smith, and “The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever” by Michael J. Mooney.
We’re pretty sure we’re going to get the bronze for this one… we lost some points due to Rider’s lack of knowledge of most sports.
Food, glorious food!
This episode takes on Dana Goodyear’s examination of the wild and crazy world of foodies and the things they eat, cook, buy, and sell: Anything That Moves. Which begs valuable questions like, could you eat a tarantula? What about a horse?
The episode opens with a food-themed bookshelf revisit, which (in typical Literary Disco fashion), manages to cram Nick Cage, corn dogs, the movie Quiz Show and the country of Ghana all into one discussion.
It’s a food extravaganza. Don’t listen if you’re hungry…