Monthly Archives: March 2014

Episode 48: Stuck

In episode 48, the guys do their best to find something to appreciate in Gordon Lish’s story “In the District, Into the Bargain.” Once that fruitless endeavor is out of the way, it’s on to a discussion of what to do when you’re stuck: Do you give up, power through blindly, or try to think of an ending to write toward? Jon, his mind lubricated by well-aged whiskey, draws a parallel to opera, Beethoven, and bridge construction, while Brian and Ben hang on for the ride.

Reading Discussed

  • You can find renowned editor Gorgon Lish’s short story “In the District, Into the Bargain” online at Electric Literature.
  • Damn, dude! From the Recommended Reading bio of Gordon Lish: “Among the writers he is credited with championing are Harold Brodkey, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Barry Hannah, Jack Gilbert, Amy Hempel, Jason Schwartz, Noy Holland, Sam Lipsyte, Anne Carson, Ben Marcus, Gary Lutz, Cynthia Ozick, Christine Schutt, Dawn Raffel, and Will Eno.”
  • The WITTScasters’ grad school professor Sharon Solwitz documented her experience at a Gordon Lish writing workshop.
  • Welcome to Introductory Short Fiction Writing.
  • You call that a pipe?
  • Sometimes the perfect image for a story just presents itself to you.
  • Bad with endings? Become a novelist. That way you won’t have to write so many.
  • Writing can be hard. (Jon’s tip: Just go with B.)
  • Jon endorses The Great Courses for top quality, low-cost, at-home learning.
  • Looking for good writing podcasts that focus a little more than this one on writing rules, plot structures, and genre? Try Writing Excuses and I Should Be Writing.
  • The novel in progress (novelist shown in right foreground).

Episode 47: Public Stakes

Two big questions face the WITTScasters in this episode: 1) When confronted with a legitimate work of genius, how are we mere mortal writers supposed to react? With envy? Despair? Determination? Inspiration? 2) How can fiction tackle big world issues and current events without being pompous, short-sighted, or exploitative? Ben Fountain’s “Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera” helps the boys in their search for an answer. American Hustle, at least for Jon, does not.

Reading Discussed

Episode 46: Experimental Fiction

What exactly is “experimental fiction”? Is all fiction an experiment? Is 50-year-old fiction still experimental? Is “experimental” kind of insulting? Are experimentalists just weirdos? The boys explore the ins and outs of innovation in form, voice, narrative, and character, as well as the point of writing against conventions and the philosophy of fiction. Then they discuss this episode’s story: “Three Summers” by James Pate.

Reading Discussed

  • James Pate’s “Three Summers” is over at Slushpile Magazine.
  • Paris Review may have circumvented the laws of relativity to get Ben’s first rejection to him.
  • Jon’s forthcoming novel The Whiskey Baron recently got one hell of a review in Kirkus.
  • Donald Barthelme’s Sixty Stories is weird, even experimental.
  • Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones translates into “fictions,” so it seems he didn’t intend for these pieces to be called “stories.”
  • The same goes for Julio Cortazar’s Cronopios and Famas, which contains in part a series of instructions for everyday tasks.
  • Jon saw Samuel Beckett’s Molloy as a likely influence of Tom Stoppard’s.
  • Anti-Story seems to be the definitive anthology of “experimental fiction.”
  • Do we ever hear about the true experimentalists? Are the writers we think of as “experimental” just the Edisons to the Teslas of the literary world?
  • Maybe shows like House of Cards and Breaking Bad are a bigger deal than literature these days.
  • So what book did win the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction? Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.