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.
What is the difference between drama and melodrama? Should books be written differently with teenage readers in mind? What is Romeo and Juliet actually about? And, if Rider rants in a forest, does anyone care?
This week we engage in one of the most heated debates in Disco history, centered around John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars in particular, and Young Adult literature in general.
But first, we play Bookshelf Roulette. Tod will introduce you to memoirist Dinah Lenney, Rider stumbles upon his own signature, and Julia reads from one of her favorite literary journals.
Today is all about duality. Is a tragic event better written about as a personal essay, or as straight reportage? Should visitors to LA check out the Book Festival or the Grilled Cheese Festival? Tough decisions abound. At the heart of the episode is our comparative study on two essays: Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter,” and Jim Mann’s “The Physics of Revenge.” Each one unpacks the same cultural event using wildly different techniques. Which form of nonfiction will prevail?
In this episode, Tod, Rider, and Julia take on Ron Currie Jr.’s new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles.
One of the podcast’s most intense discussion ensues, primarily regarding the book’s masculinity.
What makes a book manly, anyway? And why is Rider quoting Legends of the Fall? The words “trope” and “deconstruction” figure prominently.
But first up, in this week’s Bookshelf Roulette, Julia lands on a Lonely Planet, Tod talks about boogers (amazingly, this is totally on-topic) and Rider complains about drunk LA writers. Rider complains about drunk dude writers a lot in this episode.
Enjoy, and let us know what YOU think!
Happy birthday to us!
For our birthday, we happen to all touch on stories about us sobbing uncontrollably. What says “birthday” like dredging up childhood memories of being the fat kid? If that’s not enticing enough for you, we create a Bookshelf of Fame and each add a book to it. Then we introduce a new game called “Wordz to Your Mother,” and go back to all of our old favorites. There’s no pin the tale on the donkey, but there are victory, screaming, and nostalgia! Happy birthday, listeners!
This week on Literary Disco, full of sound and fury, we debate the meaning of the mysterious tetractus. Bookshelf roulette also leads us to a castle we can capture– but eventually, we get to discuss Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” Plus a super-special bonus discussion of the oddities and delights of the annual AWP conference.
Tonight we take on a huge subject: how we should read poetry. The discussion centers on Natalie Diaz’s collection “When My Brother Was an Aztec” and Camille Dungy’s “Smith Blue.” What do we make of these wonders? What do we think about eviscerated dogs, smashed fruit, and meth? And what do teenagers have to do with it all? Plus, we revisit the bookshelf revisit and talk Lincoln, oral histories, and the literary reviewer’s conundrum.