Monthly Archives: September 2013

Episode 31: Wild Card 3

What is the plural of “apparatus?” What does the world have against Jonathan Franzen? Why, oh why, would someone think it’s a good idea to remake RoboCop? The WITTScasters tackle these and other heady issues in another wild card episode.

Reading Discussed

Episode 30: Place

Where are you going, where have you been? This week, the WITTScasters talk about place in fiction: what makes a place pop on the page, the merits of real, imaginary, and generic settings, and the difference between accuracy and authenticity. Plus, the boys start the day off right with Etgar Keret’s story “Healthy Start.”

Reading Discussed

Episode 29: Obsession

We’re obsessed! In Episode 29, the WITTScasters discuss obsessions in writing: different levels of obsessions, their own particular obsessions, and whether it’s wonderful or horrible to see your own obsessions in someone else’s work. Then it’s on to Kate Braverman’s creepy story about addiction, “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta.”

Reading Discussed

  • Kate Braverman’s “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta” is available at her website.
  • That’s Kate Braverman, not Kate Moss.
  • Michael Chabon, in an interview with our own Brian Beglin, admitted an obsession with sets of three dependent clauses. You can read that interview (plus an interview with Kate Bernheimer by the other two WITTScasters) in the collection Telling Stories, Talking Craft. Chabon explains that to achieve the clipped voice of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, he adopted a stop-and-frisk policy for his sentences, making sure they weren’t smuggling any extraneous similes before he’d allow them on the page.
  • Jon’s not alone in his tooth-sucking obsession. The very first word of Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz is “Sth,” which is a tooth-suck if Jon ever read one.
  • Ben’s love of the futile gesture is satisfied by Updike’s “A&P” as well as the song “Shotgun Wedding” from Jason Isbell’s spectacular album Sirens of the Ditch.
  • Brian has seen his own obsessions in Tony Earley’s “Charlotte” from Here We Are in Paradise (wrestlers), Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (communicating with gorillas), and Stephen Dobyns’ The Wrestler’s Cruel Study (which Brian can’t bear to read because it has wrestlers and gorillas).
  • Jon would read The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant if he hadn’t scratched the itch of his bootlegging obsession by writing his own damn whiskey book (coming out April 2014, Hub City Press). You can pre-order a copy of The Whiskey Baron with the assurance that Jon’s got the tooth sucking well under control.
  • Of course, we don’t only enjoy books that touch on our obsessions. Brian’s appreciation of Charles Baxter includes Feast of Love, which explores the theme of life-as-performance that Brian is drawn to, and Saul and Patsy, which doesn’t.
  • Leave it to Jon to dig up Conversations with Philip Roth, which includes some interesting thoughts on obsessions.
  • “Tall Tales of the Mekong Delta” was published in Kate Braverman’s collection Squandering the Blue.
  • In the negotiation that is central to the Braverman story, Jon heard echoes of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Episode 28: Time

In Einstein’s famous equation, E=MC^2, time is a variable inversely proportional to distance, thus ensuring the speed of light remains a const– Oh, wait. This is a fiction writing podcast, which means your hosts investigate how you handle time in a scene and the relationship between time and pace. Then they enter the spooky world of Mary Gaitskill’s “The Other Place.”

Reading Discussed

Episode 27: Poetry

This week, the WITTScasters trade in their boxy station wagon of fiction for the sexy, reckless sports car of poetry. The boys wade into some general poetry questions — given their quick nature and our short attention spans, why aren’t poems more popular? — before taking deep dives into poems by B.H. Fairchild, Richard Siken, and Elizabeth Bishop.

Reading Discussed