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 will probably be given this book for Christmas, so let us pre-judge it for you!
Can the man who wrote “In Cold Blood” deliver a warm-blooded holiday tale? What are Julia, Tod, and Rider thankful for this year? Is it possible to cheat at “Judging a Book By Its Cover”? These questions may or may not be answered in this holiday episode.
This week, at your request, dear listeners, we take on one of the silliest, most lovable books in the known universe. We discuss the difference between satire and parody, South Park, and a rare unanimous agreement on the best satirical living writer in America. And finally we get around to discussing “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a favorite of yours when you were eleven.
Get out the tissues.
This episode, we head straight for emotional jugular, as we read Edward Hirsch’s devastating poem about the life and death of his son, Gabriel.
Hirsch may make us cry (and yes, that means each of us, many times) but we are also awed by his craft and uplifted by this ambitious poem.
Up first, we each talk about our favorite father-son work of literature. Rider goes Searching for Bobby Fischer, Julia embraces a Long Day’s Journey and Tod heads to Empire Falls.
What’s really scary? Zombies, ghosts, vampires– or bizarre novels about torture based on true events?
For this year’s Halloween episode, we welcome our expert in horror, Stephen Graham Jones. We begin with some fun stuff, like why it took zombies so long to catch on, and what the next zeitgesity beast might be.
Then we asked Stephen to select a horror book for us to read. He picked a doozy.
Hitherto unknown to all three of your Disco hosts, The Girl Next Door is without a doubt the most disturbing, controversial novel we’ve read. It’s well written, beautifully structured, and yet, will make you wish you never started it.
Join us, and please share your thoughts on our Facebook Page.
When she was 13, Wendy C. Ortiz started “dating” her 28 year-old English teacher. In her new memoir, Excavation, she returns to the years she spent maintaining this secret relationship.
It’s a disarming look at a tough adolescence. Ortiz manages to capture not only her own disorienting emotions, but also — as Tod and Rider will attest — an incredibly accurate portrait of life in the San Fernando Valley in the ’80s.
But first, it’s a Bookshelf Roulette. And Julia regales us with stories of sleepwalking…