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Episode 87: OOPS! Hiatus.

As you may have gathered from our infrequent posting, we’re taking something of a hiatus. We’re going to have a few special episodes in the coming months, with the goal of getting back into our regular rhythm some time in the spring. But keep your subscriptions current and check back soon. Meanwhile, here’s our going away ditty.


Episode 69: Don’t Know Shit About Shit

The WITTScasters discuss how, if they were to return to the classroom, they would teach introductory fiction to undergrads now that they are old and wise (in contrast to young people who, according to Jon, “don’t know shit about shit”). Then they turn to the excellent not-so-short story “A Rich Man” by Edward P. Jones, who shows ’em how it’s done.

Reading Discussed

  • Edward P. Jones’ story “A Rich Man” still seems to be up for grabs for free at The New Yorker. It isn’t short, but it’s damn good.
  • In Ben’s fiction class, each day will start with a quote about writing and a writing rule. (But rules, as we all know, are made to be broken.)
  • One of Jon’s favorite writers, Robert Stone, died recently. Jon offered a WITTScast remembrance for Mr. Stone, which also gave him a chance to do some more griping about those damn hypocritical baby boomers.
  • Robert Stone’s best known work is probably National Book Award winner Dog Soldiers, but Jon’s favorite is Outerbridge Reach.
  • Here’s the Paris Review interview with Robert Stone, which is WITTScast-recommended. (Q: Is writing easy for you? A: It’s goddamn hard.)
  • “A Rich Man” is from Edward P. Jones’ collection All Aunt Hagar’s Children. You might also want to check out a related collection, Lost in the City. (Oh, and he won a Pulitzer, too, so don’t overlook The Known World.)

Episode 20: Storytelling

What starts as a perfectly civil discussion of the role of storytelling in contemporary fiction devolves into an aesthetic dispute between Jon and Ben. Brian, emulating his favorite pro wrestling referee Earl Hebner, stays out of it and just tries not to get hit. Luckily, the balance of concept, metaphor, and heart in Aimee Bender’s story “The Rememberer” is something the WITTScasters can all agree on.

Reading Discussed

Episode 17: Wild Card 2

Episode 17 is another wild one. Among the topics on the WITTScasters’ minds are the rapid decline of civilization, Jon’s attempt to delay the cultural apocalypse (and how he may have given rise to the Caped Crusader), the relationship between art and elitism, and the struggle to balance gainful employment with soulful employment. Plus, a discussion of Alice Munro’s story “Amundsen,” in which Ben and Brian nearly make it all the way to the end without saying something negative.

Reading Discussed

  • Alice Munro’s short story “Amundsen”, from her recent collection Dear Life.
  • Jon was impressed by a recent performance by the Richmond Symphony. If only the rest of the audience shared his appreciation.
  • This is a bassoon.
  • Brian was able to avoid watching The Great Gatsby in the theater, but if he had been there you can bet he would have turned off his cell phone.
  • Not being the elitist snob that Jon is, Brian can admit that he enjoys a good fail video.
  • Edward P. Jones, who won the Pulitzer for The Known World, gives hope to those trying to write while holding down a day job…
  • … as does David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, who started his career as a software engineer.
  • Jon appreciated the realistic-yet-unimportant details in Alice Munro’s story, and was reminded of the work of Anton Chekhov. Here’s a link to enough of his stories to keep you occupied through the cold Russian winter.

Best book cover bio statement ever?

rothThat’s the inside back flap of an early edition hardback of Portnoy’s Complaint. Even DeLillo and Pynchon jacket flaps offer a complete sentence as a bio statement. I love that Roth’s just lets the work speak for itself. Also, as Ben noted, Roth looks like he’s about to seduce the photographer. (Also, also, it’s not like a bio statement appears anywhere else on the cover either.)


Weekly News Roundup

Chapter 16 has an interview with Appalachian poet Jesse Graves — the poet and the interview are both well worth checking out.

An argument against funding MFAs. Interesting, because the guy who donated to an MFA program — Sam Zell — is presented an anti-news, anti-journalism profit-monger in the Page One documentary.

On James Michener and post-40 bloomers. I’m not sure it’s news anymore to talk about late bloomers, but Michener is one of those interesting, omnipresent but never read writers.

Will authors get compensated for used e-book sales? What a messed up business the publishing world has become.

Support your local bookstores.

Michael Crichton knew Jasper Johns? Weird.

Is it time for authors to quit blogging? Probably.

Finally, enjoy this little aside.