Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 109: Winter of Wayback, 1914 (The Smart Set)


Back by popular demand (or at least “occasional request”) we’re embarking upon another Winter of Wayback! For those of you who weren’t with us the last time around, here’s how it works: 1) We pick a year (actually, a year is picked for us by a random number generator). 2) We pick a story or essay to read from that year. 3) Each of us does some research into other happenings from that year, literary and otherwise. 4) We get together and press record and then start talking into microphones. 5) You listen to the things we said and you laugh and/or cry and/or experience other human emotions. 6) You tell your friends how podcasts work, and then you wait patiently for them to finish listening to Season 1 of Serial, and then you tell them about our podcast, and specifically these Winter of Wayback episodes, and they’re like, “Have you been sitting there this whole time, while I listened to Serial? Because honestly that’s kind of weird. Though not as weird as America’s criminal justice system, am I right?” 7) You might have to get new friends. Or just listen to more episodes of our podcast, and let us be your friends. We won’t judge you for turning down a Friday-night date because you’d rather eat Swedish Fish and watch ALF reruns on YouTube. We won’t judge you for drinking that expired eggnog at the back of the fridge. “You’re totally right,” we’ll say, “pouring a little more rum in there will totally kill off any harmful bacteria.”


Sorry, at least one-half of us is a little punchy this evening. A new semester starts tomorrow. It’s our last evening of freedom. And you know what we’re doing with it? Writing up these show notes, and making sure the episode is set to drop in the morning, because that’s how much we love you. Well, at least one-half of us loves you. The other half of us is off in suburban Jersey right now, probably drinking small-batch bourbon and watching old California Raisin videos on the internet, like some kind of goddamned robber baron.

What were we talking about again? Oh, right: the Winter of Wayback. It’s happening. It’s here. Get excited.

Up first is 1914. Which, as it turns out, is the year H.L. Mencken took over as editor of a magazine called The Smart Set, which after several years of serving as the only slightly higher-minded companion to the gossip rag Town Topics was completing its transition into a more serious literary publication. In fact, a number of scholars have posited that The Smart Set, under Mencken, served as a model for The New Yorker, which was founded in 1925.

You can check out back issues of The Smart Set, as well as several other influential journals of the period, via The Modernist Journal Project, which is a really great resource. You can also check out the re-booted, online Smart Set, which is run by Drexel University right here in Philadelphia.

H.L. Mencken in his office. He probably hates your dumb novel.

Mencken in his office. He probably hates your novel.

Rather than read one story this week, we checked out a few things from The Smart Set’s 1914 run, including Mencken’s pretty great roundups of new fiction. We also researched a couple authors published in the 1914 issues that we’d never heard of, including one who was a mentee of Theodore Dreiser’s and was later institutionalized, and another who was sued for libel and once attacked someone with a tennis racket. Literature!

Look, did we mention we were a little punchy? Did we mention we were feeling overworked and under-bourboned, as of late? Did we mention it’s nearly midnight, and we’re listening to Lucinda Williams and drinking Sleepytime Tea and hoping we’re adequately prepared for tomorrow’s classes?

Also this week we’ve got some news about tugboats, for some reason, and also some news about ladies, and also just a whole smorgasbord of high-quality podcasting entertainment. Won’t you give a listen?

Stream today’s episode by clicking on the little player below. Or download the mp3 file, and do with it what you will. Or, even better, visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and download all the back episodes you’ve missed while catching up on Adam Carolla or whatever. While you’re there, leave us a review, and a rating, which will help us reach new listeners. And tell your literature loving friends! Unless you hate the show, in which case: mum’s the word.

Stream Episode 109:

Download Episode 109 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

3 thoughts on “Episode 109: Winter of Wayback, 1914 (The Smart Set)

  1. This has got to be the best blog intro y’all have ever written. Love the show and am looking forward to another Wayback winter. 🙂

  2. Thanks! Not that I can take credit for the post itself, but for the other stuff. I guess if I were being fair, I would offer to take turns writing the blog posts, but Mike maybe enjoys them? I don’t know.

    Anyway, thanks for listening!

  3. Pingback: 2016: The Book Fight! Year in Review | Book Fight!

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