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Tough love for literature


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Episode 368: Bernard Malamud (Winter of Wayback)

This week we continue our exploration of 1968 by checking out a Bernard Malamud story, “Man in the Drawer,” which won the O’Henry prize that year. Also: what were hippies up to in 1968? We take a deep dive into newspaper archives to learn how that term was being used, and what it could tell us about the state of the counterculture (and the attitudes of squares).

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

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Episode 367: Best American Short Stories, 1969

This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by checking out a couple stories from the Best American Short Stories anthology. We intentionally chose authors we didn’t know anything about, though it turns out both writers went on to fairly celebrated careers, albeit in different genres. Norma Klein was a beloved YA author, often compared to Judy Blume, though she died at the tragically young age of 50. Jack Cady, meanwhile, won numerous awards for his horror and sci fi novels and spent a couple decades teaching in the Pacific Northwest.

Also this week: The poetry of 1968 gets political, in a way that feels very similar to 2021.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

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Episode 366: William S. Burroughs goes to the DNC

This week we continue our Winter of Wayback season by reading a dispatch about the 1968 Democratic National Convention written for Esquire by William S. Burroughs. The convention itself was famously contentious, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was criticized for allegedly allowing the cops to run roughshod over protesters outside the convention hall. Burroughs, meanwhile, brings to the party a politics we’d describe as “confusing.”

Also this week: The poetry of 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. And the return of Raccoon News!

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

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Episode 365: Early Alice Munro

This week, we’re continuing our Winter of Wayback trip to 1968 by reading a story, “Boys and Girls,” from Alice Munro’s first story collection. We revisit arguments about Munro’s stories from our grad school years, and consider the unique structure of her stories, which often rely less on plot trajectory than on a kind of synthesis, looking at a character’s life from a variety of angles. Plus: a new game, Munro or No!

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and The Scarlet Letter

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Episode 364: 1960s Misogyny w/ Special Guest Lyz Lenz

This week we’re continuing our Winter of Wayback season, in which we’ve been reading books, stories and essays from 1968, a year that parallels our current moment in a number of ways. Writer Lyz Lenz (God Land, Belabored) joins us to discuss a writer she admires from that era: Ellen Willis, who began her career as a music journalist but did some of her most important work on misogyny within the progressive movement.

Also discussed: internet hate, why men love The Maltese Falcon, and the harassment Lyz has gotten in the wake of her recent profile of famous tweet thread guy Seth Abramson.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 363: Winter of Wayback, 1968, The South Carolina Review

This week we’re continuing our trip through 1968 by checking out the very first issue of a literary journal that still exists, and has published lots of famous writers: The South Carolina Review. The debut issue includes an essay on race relations in South Carolina, by an esteemed journalist, as well as a short story by Max Steele, who had one of the best names in the literary game.

Also this week: 1968 was a big year for children’s lit and YA. The National Book Awards started a category for children’s lit, and publishers began to invest in books that offered more realistic portraits of teen life.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 362: Winter of Wayback, 1968, N. Scott Momaday

This week we’re discussing the debut novel by N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1968. The book had an interesting road to publication, and the prize seemed to take both the author and his publishing house by surprise. We look at how people were writing about the novel in 1968, and discover that–surprise, surprise–white people were kinda racist about Native American culture! Even in praising Momaday’s book, they couldn’t help but drag out lots of stereotypical tropes about American Indians.

Also this week: critics worry (in 1968) that the memoir will kill the novel.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 361: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Pauline Kael

This week we’re discussing a famous Pauline Kael essay about the movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” which The New Republic refused to run, and which then accidentally launched her long, storied career at The New Yorker. Kael argued that the movie, which had been panned by many critics, was more interesting than people were giving it credit for, and that the negative reviews actually said something about the current cultural moment.

We also discuss the recent Harper’s special section on “life after Trump,” and what “the Trump novel” might look like.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 360: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Elizabeth Hardwick

This week we’re discussing a 1968 Elizabeth Hardwick essay about the Memphis funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece attempts to take the measure of both black and white Memphis after MLK’s assassination, and notes tensions within the Civil Rights movement that in certain ways echo arguments within progressive movements today. We also dive into some 1968 debates about whether fiction was up to the task of representing an increasingly fractured, absurdist reality. Plus: women’s magazines pull back on publishing short stories, drying up an important market for writers.

If you like the show, and would like to have more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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Episode 359: Winter of Wayback, 1968, Ursula LeGuin

When Playboy Magazine accepted an Ursula LeGuin story in 1968, the editors had only one request for the young author: could they use the byline U.K. LeGuin, so Playboy’s readers didn’t know the story was written by a woman? This week we discuss the story, and the circumstances of its publication. Plus: what were creative writing grad programs like in 1968? We take a peek at the Iowa Writers Workshop, thanks to a lengthy feature story from The Chicago Tribune, which features beer bars, Kurt Vonnegut, and a woman who the author of the piece chooses to describe, unfortunately, as “stacked.”

If you like the show, and you’d like to have some more of it in your life, you can subscribe to our Patreon for $5 a month and get access to our entire catalog of bonus episodes, including our new Hunt for the Worst Book of All Time, which so far has included Ethan Frome, The Christmas Shoes, and Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

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