Where Books Come to Dance

“Read, Read, Read,

Read Some More...”



This is Literary Disco.

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The last book club you'll ever need

We’re Tod, Julia, and Rider — three old friends who love to read, debate, and sometimes even agree.



About Us

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Julia Pistell

Essayist & Radio Personality

Julia Pistell
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

Novelist & Critic

Tod Goldberg
Tod Goldberg is the New York Times & international best-selling author of over a dozen books, including the novels Gangster Nation, Gangsterland, which was a finalist for the Hammett Prize, The House of Secrets, which he co-authored with with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, and Living Dead Girl, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, as well as the the popular Burn Notice series. His work has been published in over a dozen countries. 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 selected for Best American Essays 2013 and in 2016, Tod was awarded the Silver Pen Award by the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 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, Death of a Gangster, the concluding volume in the Gangsterland trilogy, will be released in Fall 2020. Follow Tod on Twitter @todgoldberg.

Rider Strong

Actor & Filmmaker

Rider Strong
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 now write and direct television and film. 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.



Podcast

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  • Episode 136: Tarzan King of the Apes


    Welcome to 2019, the perfect year to dive into the classic tale of… Tarzan! Ok, the first Tarzan was published in 1912, but this year marks the hundredth anniversary of The Jungles of Tarzan, in which a teenage Tarzan grapples with being a teenager. Seriously.

    We all know the story: after the death of his parents a boy is raised by apes, and encounters humans again years later when an expedition enters the jungle. How has this story aged over time? Will Tarzan be Rider’s next project? Join Julia, Rider, and Tod this week to find out!

    Rider Strong: It’s so important that [Tarzan] achieves literacy. He goes through so much work and teaches himself how to read, even though he doesn’t speak English, which actually doesn’t make any sense. If he doesn’t have words to begin with, why would he? He reads what he calls the bugs on the pages in the books that form themselves into letters that then tell the story. It’s so absurd, but then you realize literacy is what Edgar Rice Burroughs had to insert in order for his hero to be better than the savages. If he doesn’t have literacy, then he’s just like the tribal people of Africa that, of course, the book takes such pains to separate him from. ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

    It reminded me that in the 19th century there were a lot of books that revolved around this idea, like Frankenstein, right? He learns language (these noble savages that teach themselves how to read!)… a trope that had to get worked in here even though it makes no sense.

    Julia Pistell: But he’s not a noble savage, he’s a savage noble. He has to learn how to read.

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    RS: Can you insert a white person into an African landscape without it being a colonialist fantasy? Or do you tell the story of Tarzan from the perspective of an African kid that was raised by gorillas, and what is that story about? Julia really nailed it when she said so much of this seems to be based on “nature vs. nurture,” and playing that out in story. And obviously the point of playing that out for Edgar Rice Burroughs was to assert the authority of Western white men, and I don’t even know if you can approach this story without it. That’s why I’m surprised that Disney still makes versions of it. How do you avoid that problem? In a way I think there is probably a lot of racist, colonial stuff in King Kong too, but there’s something so fantastical and otherworldly about that story that you can approach it in an interesting way, or a new way. But the very basis of Tarzan is steeped in something awful.

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  • Episode 135: Sabrina, Men in Underpants, and Bruce Springsteen


    Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina is the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It’s also a beautiful and heartbreaking rendering of the contemporary American psyche and a pointed commentary on how media has allowed conspiracy and paranoia to run absolutely rampant in the absence of answers.

    Join Literary Disco‘s Julia, Rider, and Tod as they discuss this very important work, along with the graphic novel’s realistic depiction of the male human body (mostly in underwear), feeling empathy for those with views unlike ours, and a brief tangent on the recent Springsteen on Broadway Netflix special.

    From the episode:

    Julia Pistell: I was so riveted by how many of these panels [in Sabrina] were about silence, especially the boyfriend [Teddy] sitting alone in a home that isn’t his and not knowing what to do with himself and deciding to listen to this conspiracy theory radio, and how little of this novel is spoken words or thoughts of the character, but just zoomed in on them, isolated.

    Tod Goldberg: It touches on the isolation, desperation, malaise, and fear that the American experience has become. And also the interconnectivity that media has allowed conspiracy and paranoia run absolutely rampant in the absence of answers for something that are definitive, chaos and conspiracy always going to be the thing that certain parts of fringe society holds onto.

    Rider Strong: An important part of the art is that it focuses on the body. This people are real, leading boring, banal lives, being naked and being unattractively naked and being depressed and sitting on couches … To be in the presence of another human being wearing a Snuggle is something you don’t plan on, especially something you don’t plan on reading in a comic book, right? That’s the antithesis of comic books. Comic books are supposed to make the visuals exciting, with violence if anything, sex maybe, and supposed to spice up real life and make it the most interesting read you can. This book does the exact opposite. It starts with blank faces, people getting coffee, people carrying their cats from room to room, people starting out of windows, people listening to a radio show. There are like 20 pages of a radio, just a close-up of a radio and a guy naked listening to it. That’s anti-comic book writing.

    It is so profound because so much of the message of this book is these people have bodies, these people have lives, they have lovers, they have thoughts, they have friends, they have childhood friends and shitty jobs, and if you take that away from them, if you remove their personhood and physical reality, it is so easy to say they are crisis actors or they are manipulating or lying. We all as a culture, we are so easy to dismiss other human beings. I know I do it on the level of Trump voters. It’s so easy for me to think the average Trump voter as someone I don’t understand, who I have a couple images in my head and it’s out there and I don’t really think about them. And these people lead real lives and everyday experiences and their shitty jobs, and this book is such a little empathy bomb. To say whichever side in any situation, whether it’s a murder that gets politicized in this case or something you’re hearing about on the radio, there’s a human being on the other side of that experience that’s having to live that. That message, I haven’t felt that more in years than I did with this book.

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  • Episode 134: The Books We Loved in 2018


    This week, Julia, Rider, and Tod discuss the best books they read in 2018, including Tara Westover’s Educated, Arthur Krystal’s This Thing We Call Literature, and Jonathan Weisman’s (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump. 

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  • Episode 133: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream


    It’s the holidays! A time to deck the halls, grab some eggnog, and curl up with the SCARIEST book you can find…

    That’s right. Christmas horror. It’s a real thing. And Blumhouse and editor Christopher Golden have put together a collection of short fiction just in time to fill you with holiday fear.

    Join us as Tod, Rider, and Julia have fun with this bonkers set of stories.

    Hark! The Herald Angels Scream

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  • Episode 132: Vulture’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century


    A couple months ago, Vulture published this crazy, crazy list.

    It’s an admittedly premature attempt to create a literary canon for the last 18 years.

    In this episode of Literary Disco, we discuss the titles we were surprised by, the ones we were disappointed didn’t make it, and — mostly — how few of these books we’ve actually read.

    Get ready to feel like you have a lot of catching up to do…

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  • Episode 131: Fall Revisit


    It’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing, time to curl up with a good book.

    It’s our Bookshelf Revisit for Fall 2018, an eclectic conversation that covers:

    1. Wild children and cults.
    2. WWII and China.
    3. Robertson Davies.

    It makes no sense, except that it’s Literary Disco!

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  • Episode 130: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas


    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.

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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  • Episode 129: Lord of the Flies


    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.

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