Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 164: Winter of Wayback, 1978 (H.L. Sintetos, “Telling the Bees”)


In 1978, the writer H.L. Sintetos had a story featured in the annual Best American Short Stories anthology, after which she seemed to mostly disappear from the literary world. Which is particularly disappointing given how good that story was. We both enjoyed “Telling the Bees,” a thoughtful portrayal of a woman coming to terms with her own solitude.

This week we talk about Sintetos’s story, and what (to our minds, at least) separate it from lesser versions of stories about “wise country folks,” some of which can come across as patronizing. We also try to figure out what happened to Sintetos, and why we’d never heard of her work.

In lieu of a photo of the author, please enjoy this image of a Billy Joel mask, which will make more sense once you listen to this week’s show.


In addition to the story, we talk about lots of other 1978 stuff, including serial killers, a Papal conspiracy theory, dark days in Philadelphia, a possible Owl Man, plus Grease and Sha Na Na!

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, by clicking on the little player thingy below. Or download the mp3 file to play on your favorite device. You can also find us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another episode.

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Thanks for listening!


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

4 thoughts on “Episode 164: Winter of Wayback, 1978 (H.L. Sintetos, “Telling the Bees”)

  1. A 1978 story about a woman who has sex outside of marriage and is struggling with her identity outside the context of a relationship to a man sounds pretty interesting from a historical/cultural perspective, but not really my cup of tea as a reader. I’m struggling to puzzle out why, exactly. Like… I can always appreciate a story that’s been executed well, but that’s not really enough in of itself to get me to pick it out, especially if I hadn’t heard about it before hand. And the subject matter isn’t as… transgressive, these days, I guess? Or I guess it still kind of is, it’s just the way our culture has changed tactics to downplay it instead of be shocked by it, and maybe I’m buying in to that on some level?

    I always enjoy the section of what was going on in that year outside of books, but, –and I’m sure this is probably difficult to gauge– it would be interesting to get more about what the attitude, or culture, or whatever, in the literary world was like at the time.

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