We're Julia, Tod, and Rider -- three good friends who also happen to be huge book nerds. Scattered to the far reaches of Southern California, more Southern California, and mid-Connecticut, we desperately missed each other's company and yelling at each other about Stephen King. We decided to rekindle these friendly intellectual discussions using the magic of the internet and fancy microphones.
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. And since 2012, we've been doing just that. You can read about our humble beginnings on The Rumpus. or you can simply go back to the first episode and begin binging.
Primarily, we read books and stories and essays and talk about them. We read nonfiction, fiction, poetry, articles, plays, classics, children's books, YA, and everything in between. We don't really know what we'll read next. What our next move will be. Because we like everything. Well. Most everything. Okay. We argue about a lot of things. It wouldn't be much of a show if we liked everything, would it?
But we also want to hear what writers are reading. So instead of doing simple interviews, we periodically bring authors on to the podcast and have them select a book for all of us to read and discuss together. And inevitably we do other things. Games. Live shows. Sometimes Julia goes on a whale ship. Sometimes Tod goes on a book tour. Sometimes Rider goes on a rant. We bring on teachers, librarians, authors, actors, maybe you. We'll even, yes, read some Sweet Valley High.
Julia Pistell is a writer, actor, and public relations expert in Hartford, Connecticut. She has worked in many places around the world, including but not limited to: a hairdresser’s in Atonsu, Ghana; a preschool and university in Dongying, China; a mobile bookstore in Manhattan; a dogwalking collective in Harlem; a library in the South Bronx — and now she is the Director of Writing Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum. A freelance writer, Julia created the Syllable Reading Series and hosts Literary Disco, a podcast about books and reading. Every year she plays a squirrel in Night Fall, and she was selected as one of Mystic Seaport’s 38th Voyagers on the historic whaleship the Charles W. Morgan. She has written an essay for NPR and is currently a contributor to WNPR.org and The Beaker Blog. One of the founding members of Sea Tea Improv, Julia is also in the Advanced Study program at the Upright Citizens Brigade. She has performed in hundreds of improv shows across the United States and is one of the company’s most frequent teachers and coaches. As the Manager of Community Relations, Julia has put together workshops and shows for the homeless, Alzheimer’s caregivers, teenagers, corporate executives, artists, and everyone in between.
Follow Julia on Twitter @echochorus.
Tod Goldberg is the author of over a dozen books, including the novels The House of Secrets (Grand Central), which he co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, Gangsterland (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Hammett Prize, Living Dead Girl (Soho Press), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the popular Burn Notice series. His essays, journalism, and criticism have appeared in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, & Wall Street Journal, among many others, and have earned five Nevada Press Association Awards for excellence. His essay “When They Let Them Bleed” was recently selected for Best American Essays 2013. 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.He lives in Indio, CA with his wife, the writer Wendy Duren. His next book, a sequel to Gangsterland, will be released in Fall 2017.
Follow Tod on Twitter @todgoldberg.
Rider Strong After being cast as Gavroche in Les Miserables at nine years old, Rider Strong began a career that has lasted two decades and spanned a variety of genres and formats. He became best known in his teens for Boy Meets World, which ran for seven seasons on ABC. At 20, Rider secured his place in the independent film world by starring in Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. He’s been covered in blood for a slew of horror and thriller films since. Back on stage, he starred as Benjamin Braddock in both the First US National Tour and the Australian productions of The Graduate. Along with his brother, Rider has written and directed three short films that have played over 60 festivals worldwide and won both audience and juried awards at multiple fests. The pair also created an award-winning spec campaign commercial in support of Barack Obama that became the first political ad to air on Comedy Central. They are currently the in-house directors for Girl Meets World and developing their family comedy The Knights of Camp Cascade for Amazon. Rider graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University and received his M.F.A. in Fiction & Literature from Bennington College.
Follow Rider on Twitter @riderstrong.
Hunter S. Thompson became a legend the moment he published this novel of a drug-fueled trip into the desert. Packed with mind-altering chemicals, extreme paranoia, and claiming to be a scathing journey to “the heart of the American Dream,” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas established Thompson’s particular style, and purported to give voice to the disillusionment of a generation.
But who was included in that generation?
Has the book aged well?
And what kind of effect did this story have on the city of Las Vegas itself?
We explore these questions and more. Buckle up. This is bat country.
You read it in high school.
You remember the conch, Piggy, and a boar head on a stick…
But do you remember the Beast? That a child disappears the first day on the island? How about the fact that this novel is set during an atomic war?
And did you know this book was written in direct response to a 19th Century children’s book that had the same character names?
It’s time for us all to re-read William Golding’s classic, Lord of the Flies. Join us.
Today we dive deep into a single poetry collection: Digest, by Gregory Pardlo.
Digest won the 2015 Pulitzer, and with good reason. This is one of the most universally loved books we’ve had on the show. It’s incredibly personal, and yet it has enough intertextuality and historical references to keep you re-reading for days.
Between bouts of effusive praise, we manage to read and analyze a couple of these magnificent poems.
In the 1920s, a disproportionate amount of people within the Osage nation were dying.
The US government had forcibly relocated the Osage to a section of Oklahoma with some of the largest deposits of oil in North America. This quickly made the Osage the wealthiest people, per capita, in the world.
And now they were being murdered. Corrupt local “lawmen” were incapable of producing any suspects, and any time a person claimed to have information, they wound up dead.
It was up to the Federal government, with its newly formed Bureau of Investigation, to step in and try to solve the mystery.
Journalist David Grann has produced the definitive account of this remarkable true story in Killers of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.
As we quickly discovered here at the Disco, there’s something in this book for everyone. If you love history, crime stories, Westerns, family sagas, stories of social justice, courtroom dramas, or just downright good writing: this book is for you.
So, uh, you should read it.
(Are we time traveling? Yes, a technical glitch set this episode back a few months…)
Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” appeared in December 2017 issue of The New Yorker, and promptly became an internet sensation.
Some critics pounced, some critics praised, some men were offended, some women were offended that men were offended…and on and on it went, as these things do in this day and age.
It seems there is something about this story — something about its point of view and its depiction of gender relations — that struck a nerve in the midst of #MeToo.
We decided to read and discuss the story in addition to some older, and truly great, short story comps that work with similar themes. So if you read and loved (or hey, even if you read and hated) Cat Story, these are for you.
We didn’t mean for these episodes to be “timely,” but these days in America, that seems unavoidable.
Between posting our two-parter about Dave Cullen’s Columbine, there has been another school shooting at Sante Fe High School in Texas. Our hearts are breaking, again.
We can only hope to contribute to the conversation and help move our country away from this insanity.
Join us for Part Two of our discussion on Columbine. We talk with Rob Bowman, the incredible English teacher who brought us the students from Part One.