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.
Breece D’J Pancake died in 1979 at the age of 26, but not before writing some legendary short stories. In this episode, we read his collected work and discuss the rural landscape he explored.
But first: it’s the return of Klassics Korner with Two K’s. Tod tries to fool Julia and Rider with some Leo Tolstoy by creating a fake paragraph from The Death of Ivan Ilych.
Will it work?
This week we take on a smart book. Maybe too smart.
Rider first stumbled upon Submergence by JM Ledgard when it was given as an example of complex grown up literature within an article about the popularity of Young Adult work. The trio decided to give it a try, and are pretty unanimous in its brilliance.
But does brilliance make a book meaningful? Or…fun?
Specifically, the group discusses how the worldliness and scientific complexity of Submergence might not be enough to make up for its minimal plot.
Up first, the triumphant return of Judging a Book by Its Cover. Will the trio be able to tell things about a book from the first paragraph? Will they maybe know exactly which book it is?
Tune in to find out.
It’s time for more poetry.
And much to Tod’s chagrin, the words “Mother” and “Father” appear a lot in this collection.
Undeniably, however, the poems of W.E. Butts collected in The Cathedral of Nervous Horses are thoughtful, touching, and all around damn good. The Disco trio discusses his work, and then more generally, the mysterious life of working-class poets — those who dedicate their days writing in a form that barely gets any recognition.
But first up, a Bookshelf Roulette. Rider catches a Paris Trout, Tod gets hip-hoppy, and Julia stumbles on Didion once again.
Before there was the Hunger Games, there was the Lottery. And not the fun kind.
This week, we take on a newly published Shirley Jackson story and mix in a revisit to her classic short story “The Lottery”– which, incredibly, Rider has never read. Read along with these short stories and enjoy our descent into our usual madness (now, with more stoning!).
It’s back to school for the Disco, when writer and real life high school English teacher Heather Partington joins us.
We asked Heather to treat us like a class: reading assignment, quiz, discussion. She selected Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger. Then she gave us an online reading quiz. The results may surprise you.
But more importantly, there’s lots of talk about the state of literature in high schools: what kids are reading, how they’re reading, how their parents are reacting…
Heather’s on the front lines of the next generation of readers, and the Disco quickly learns that her students are very, very lucky to have her.
And then we dive into The Stranger in all its sparse, detached — et très French — glory. If you thought this book was weird when you were in high school, guess what? Still weird.
But kind of great.