Welcome to your first installment in the Spring of Spite! For the next several weeks we’ll be reading stories and essays that take “spite” as their theme (or that seem to have been motivated by it) while also discussing spite in all its many forms. Or at least some of its forms! We hope that you’ll join us.
This week, we’re reading a Richard Yates story from his second collection, Liars in Love. The story takes aim at Yates’s mother, with whom he had a rather complicated relationship. In “Oh Joseph, I’m So Tired,” her (barely) fictional stand-in sculpts a bust of FDR but fails to make the splash she’d hoped for. She also hears some mean-spirited gossip about herself, though she then turns around and blasts the perpetrator of said gossip with some pretty gross, anti-semitic insults. The reader is likely to feel toward her a mix of pity and scorn.
You can read the original New York Times review of Liars in Love here; it includes some specific praise for this story. The reviewer notes that the character of Helen appears, more or less, in several other Yates stories, as well as in the novel A Special Providence, but says “she has never been more comically or pathetically portrayed” than in today’s story pick.
As for spite: We spend some time this week talking about the psychology behind it, and whether it might be useful to us, as a society if not individually. Tom also dug up this NPR piece about the science behind spite.
Mike’s got a report on spite houses, which until doing research for this show he never knew existed. Here’s a pretty good explanation of the phenomenon from the Atlantic’s City Lab blog, including some specific examples. And here’s a blog write-up about Charles Crocker’s Nob Hill spite fence, which includes a link to these famous (and really cool) panoramic images of San Francisco. If you scroll to the right (and a little bit down) on the photograph, you’ll see both Crocker’s mansion and the crazy fence he built to wall off his neighbor’s house.
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Thanks for listening! And please come on back next week!
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