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.
It’s officially summer, which means we too are officially given over to Marvel and DC madness. Now that our lives are all superheroes all the time (or so it seems in the movie theaters), we discuss our favorite superheros and Nick Harkaway’s fascinating novel, “Tigerman.”
Taking a walk last week, I stumbled upon a free library in my neighborhood.
I’ve noticed these popping up all over the place, and I think they’re really fun, even if they court some controversy.
But I’ve never used a free library.
And…I realized I hadn’t read 95% of the books on the shelves of this one. I hadn’t even HEARD of most of them. And these are readers in my very own neighborhood.
Which begs the question, what kind of books end up in a free library? Do they reflect popular taste? Local taste? The owner’s taste? Are the books there because no one wants to keep them? Or are these the books people want to share the most?
I was going to pick one at random to read, but then I had a better idea. I took a photo of the shelves. I brought it up to Julia and Tod, and we’ve decided to open it up to you, our listeners, and make an episode out of it.
You decide: what do we read from this free library?
We’ve set up this survey with the photo I took, with a list of all the titles and authors I could decipher. There’s a lot of spy novels and romance. There’s an Algebra textbook and a guide to owning Pugs. There’s Jane Austen, and no poetry, and surprisingly, very little nonfiction.
The survey list starts in the upper left hand corner and moves clockwise through the shelves. Where the text wasn’t legible to me, I put a “?” Feel free to pick a book based on its cover, its color, its worn spine…be as mean or as kind or as random as you want.
After a long and beautiful vacation, we’re back! And we’re busy discussing one of the year’s breakout nonfiction books, The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. But not before we do a bookshelf roulette that brings us to favorites old and new. That’s right, we’ve got a book so new you can’t read it yet– but you’ll want to.
This week we read William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey, an illustrated book for children that covers a famous expedition to Antarctica that began in 1914.
It’s an interesting intersection of cold facts and beautiful drawings. And it left us feeling hopeful, despite the fact that the journey itself was a failure.
Up first, a Children’s Book themed Bookshelf Revisit, in which we each pull down a favorite — and weird, they’re all weird — kid’s book.
But most importantly, this is the episode where Tod reveals his secret passion project involving food.
That’s right, we actually get him to talk publicly about…Goldburgers.
We finally take on the young detective Nancy Drew with her first adventure, The Secret of the Old Clock
Much like our Hardy Boys episode, there is some confusion about the setting (less wig shops this time), the criminals, and the overall feeling that the “mystery” ain’t that mysterious.
(Hint: there’s a secret in the old clock.)
And who knew that this much discussion of probate law would launch one of the most beloved and imitated characters of all time?
But up first: should you ever be ashamed of what you read? We read and discuss the side-by-side essays that asked this question in The New York Times Book Review.
We are joined this week by rising superstar Jill Alexander Essbaum (author of New York Times bestseller “Hausfrau”). Just in time for Easter, we discuss sexy religious poetry, her book, and a poetry collection you’ve never heard of: “Interrobang” by Jessica Piazza.