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Tough love for literature


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Episode 220: Winter of Wayback, 1959!

This week we’re talking about Allen Ginsberg and Diana Trilling. Specifically, we’re talking about an essay Diana Trilling wrote for The Partisan Review about attending an Allen Ginsberg reading at Columbia University in 1959, one which her husband–famous literary critic Lionel Trilling–chose to skip, despite being Ginsberg’s former teacher. We try to parse Diana Trilling’s attitude toward the reading, which seems to be simultaneously salty and tender.

You can read Diana’s essay, and peruse all of The Partisan Review’s archives, via Boston University.

We also talk about lots of other 1959 goings-on, including monkeys in space!

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

Stream Episode 220:

Download Episode 220 (right-click, save-as)

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Episode 219: Winter of Wayback, 1958!

This week we continue our season-long exploration of the 1950s with an essay by Truman Capote, first published in Holiday Magazine, called “A House on the Heights.” The piece is essentially Capote’s walking tour of his Brooklyn neighborhood, which was in the process of being gentrified by artists, writers, and various hipster types. One of the houses he describes in the essay–the one he assumes to be the oldest in the neighborhood–went up for sale a couple months ago, for the low low price of $10.5 million.

We also talk about lots of other 1958 goings-on, including the first hit by Little Anthony and the Imperials, South Jersey’s version of Levittown, the Thalidomide tragedy, and the young couple who would inspire the 1994 movie Natural Born Killers.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

Stream Episode 219:

Download Episode 219 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!


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Episode 218: Winter of Wayback, 1957!

In 1957, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Gould Cozzens published the novel By Love Possessed, which took the literary world by storm. Glowing reviews poured in: from Harper’s, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time Magazine. It was called the best book of the year, and even the best book of its generation. Then, in January 1958, critic Dwight MacDonald–apoplectic over seeing so much praise for a book he thought was terrible–wrote one of the greatest literary take-downs of all time, “By Cozzens Possessed,” for Commentary Magazine.

That review is credited with ruining Cozzens’s literary reputation (though a 1957 Time interview in which Cozzens comes off like a real racist, misogynistic and anti-semitic buffoon probably deserves an assist). At any rate, we decided we had to check out this book, to see what all the fuss was about. And it is … really something. For more, you’ll have to listen to the episode.

In the second half of the show, we dive into other important cultural events of 1957, including a still-unsolved mystery in South Jersey, the life and times of Mickey Mantle, a little book called On The Road, and much, much more.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps offset our costs and allows us to keep doing the podcast each week. In exchange for $5, you’ll also get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we discuss the wide world of romance novels.

Stream Episode 218:

Download Episode 218 (right-click, save-as)

Thanks for listening!