This episode kicks off with a discussion of the scientific laws of the universe–no big deal–including a proposal to defund the third law of thermodynamics and shut down physics. (FYI, the idea of entropy is a perfect metaphor for a struggling writer’s life.) Then, the WITTScasters convert their energy to discussions of grand-slam books, the benefits of writerly competition, and Lindsay Hunter’s story “Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula.” Apologies in advance to the Irish.
- Two things you should know: Lindsay Hunter’s “Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula” is available at Recommended Reading, and it’s from her new collection Don’t Kiss Me.
- Speaking of threes, these are the three laws of thermodynamics.
- What do we need to know about the universe that we can’t learn from Thomas Pynchon’s story “Entropy,” from his collection Slow Learner? (58 degrees sounds ominous, but Brian always figured 98 Degrees would have something to do with the end of the world.)
- Go Chiefs.
- Take heart, writers. Also, yes, The Situation has a book. So actually, take your heart out into an open field and leave it for dead.
- Jon wrote about the struggles of having to fight for writing time in the real world at The Writer’s Job, run by all-around solid dude Porter Shreve.
- WITTScast’s theory about how Notre Dame got its nickname isn’t among the possibilities posted by the school.
- Bob Shacochis’ The Woman Who Lost Her Soul has made Jon realize what he really wants to do is write big, thick, ambitious doorstop novels.
- Shacochis on (and in) context in the LA Review of Books.
- The Steven Millhauser story we read way back in Episode 1 is included in this year’s Best American Short Stories anthology.
- Grand-slam books: Einstein’s Dreams (Ben) and The Count of Monte Cristo (Brian), along with Underworld, Tree of Smoke, and Blood Meridian (Jon).
- Pynchon callback: One thing Ben has in common with great authors is that they’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow (disclaimer: not in its entirety).
- A Perkins restaurant after a school dance can be sad, much like Kendrick Perkins can be sad.
- Ben kept his cool at the Panic Film Festival in Oswego, where teams had 48 hours to come up with an original horror film…
- …which is a contest reminiscent of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Brian reached the finals in 2012. (Also, correction: In the contest, you’re given genre, character, and subject, not setting. Brian regrets this error, and points to it as a possible cause of why he didn’t win.)
- We all know the type. (FYI, here’s how you piss them off.)
The WITTScasters kick this episode off with the MacGuffin–what is it and how does it work?–which leads them into chatter about wandering books, backstory, aesthetes vs. humanists, novels vs. stories, Walt’s motivation in Breaking Bad, and more. They then take a look at Haruki Murakami’s “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.”
The boys discuss the nature of art, and they don’t hold back: fiction, poetry, photography, cave painting, film, basketball, sonatas, flambés, and advertisements… it’s all in here. And there’s no better way to prepare for a cross-genre discussion than James Baldwin’s masterful story “Sonny’s Blues.”
- “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin is in just about every short fiction anthology out there, and you can probably find it on the World Wide Web, too.
- Before you finish typing “What is art?” Google autocompletes it to “What is twerking?” … no wait, that’s just on Ben’s computer.
- Plan on sitting in at your local blues club? Better brush up on your twelve bar blues progression.
- Emily Dickinson’s poems would still be art even if they stayed “in Lady’s Drawer,” right?
- In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud proposes a definition of art: anything that is not done for reproduction or survival.
- It’s that age-old story: we were out walking, and then there was this fucking antelope!
- Leave it to Jon to go deep. Dude pulled out T.S. Elliot and Hegel (no Brian, not that Hagel).
- Art as variation on an established form, part I: the sonata.
- Art as variation on an established form, part II: the sick crossover.
- Elmore Leonard was unapologetically out to make a buck, writing western stories he could sell to magazines and then crime novels he could sell to Hollywood.
- Need reassurance that there can be justice in this troubled world? Pulp Fiction out-earned Get Shorty two to one.
- Can advertisements be art? Whether it was the Fleetwood Mac or the unabashed love a man can only show for a four-legged mammal, the saga of the baby Clydesdale got Brian all verklempt. And Jon almost hopped a plane to Paris mid-Super Bowl after watching Google’s “Parisian Love” ad.
- We’re all for taking risk in art and advertising, but don’t be that guy.
- Come across the word “funky” but don’t have a helpful footnote to define it for you? Start here. But don’t get too excited… Wikipedia assures us that Funky Town is only a metaphor. Well, that stinks.
This week, Ben, Brian, and Jon dust off the old card catalog to talk about the role of research in writing fiction. Where do you go to find the details that make writing crackle with life? Does good research give birth to a great story, or does it push an already strong effort across the finish line? Which of Jon’s relatives taught him filthy Southern historical slang? Listen and find out! Then, the boys get their creep on with Sam Nam’s story “Do Something, Anything.”
- Sam Nam’s story “Do Something, Anything” is available at the Kenyon Review Online.
- Get paid to write and daydream!
- Cathy Day on research and serendipity.
- People-watching at the airport, while nourishing to the soul, is not writing.
- The Whiskey Baron (April 2014, Hub City Press) is full of top-notch historical research.
- Track the phases of the moon, lest the night reveal a little too much about your characters.
- In researching food science for his Millard Fillmore story, Ben tried to stay true to fruit.
- A trip to the touring Body Worlds exhibit changed the way Brian thought about research (and bodies), though the project is not without controversy.
- Does this make you want to get your taxes done?
- GIVE ME MY QUASAR.
- What Grosse Point Blank can teach us about good fiction. Hint: It’s the protein, not the other part. (Also, where does the waitress go at the end of that scene?)
- In unprecedented literary news, Jon finds a metric by which Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has a leg up on Russell Banks’ Cloudsplitter. Internets, activate!
- Like Sam Nam, Ben went to Cornell. Y’ever heard of it?
- Ben loves when a character has nothing left to do but make a futile gesture; he explained why in our “Obsession” episode. The gesture Nam’s “creep” makes is Sam Lipsyte-esque.
- “Do Something, Anything” brought Murakami to mind for Brian. (Ben was thinking about the story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” to be featured on an upcoming episode!)
- Steve McNair + Vince Young = Steve Young