Get an attic. Buy your wife a loom. Marry a spicy Canadian. Recycle. Communicate about your depression. Leading up to Brian’s wedding, the guys turn to literature to see what fiction has to say about how to be a good husband. Because only trouble is interesting (as Janet Burroway said in her book on writing fiction), good husbands are hard to find in great literature. But the boys find some solace in Bret Lott’s essay “On Posterity.”
Topics and Reading Discussed
- Bret Lott’s “On Posterity,” over at the Kenyon Review, provides fodder for an existential discussion about the purpose of writing.
- In the English marriage plot (see Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre), the story ends with the couple getting hitched.
- By the time modernism rolls around (see Ulysses or Tender Is the Night or Revolutionary Road), affairs and divorce become acceptable subjects for fiction.
- Brian looks back to the Odyssey to find a husband who just wants to get home to his wife. Along the way, remember to avoid the sirens, fight the cyclops and dress up as an old woman.
- Ben noticed Alice Munro often writes about long, relatively happy marriages (at least until the end — see “The Bear Came over the Mountain” in Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage).
- Ben’s favorite authors don’t do much with happy marriages. Gary Lutz’s most recent novel is called Divorcer, and Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask doesn’t end well for the marriage.
- Jon recommends Levin and Kitty’s marriage in Anna Karenina as a good model.
- He also noted that the importance of communication shows up in a section of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, and is a central theme of Bret Lott’s The Man Who Owned Vermont and Raymond Carver’s “A Small Good Thing.”
It’s summertime! Time to plan our vacation reading and, in Jon’s case, figure out what books are best to read to a newborn. In Episode 78, the guys talk summer reading, infant language development, World War II history, and cat leashes. Then they get blown away by Charles Baxter’s “The Next Building I Plan to Bomb.”
Topics and Reading Discussed
- “The Next Building I Plan to Bomb” by Charles Baxter is online at The New York Times. It says it’s an excerpt, which is true, in that it’s an excerpt from a book, but it’s the whole story. Trust us.
- Ben’s students agree, “The Rememberer” by Aimee Bender is a dope story. The WITTScasters read it back in Episode 20.
- Jon might take it easy this summer with the 800 page The Bone Tree by Greg Iles.
- Then again, Jon’s about to welcome a baby girl into the world. He’s going to have to decide whether The Very Hungry Caterpillar or some Henry James will make better reading for an infant.
- Brian might try a little non-fiction reading this summer, maybe brush up on his World War Two history. If he has room for useful information in his overcrowded mind, that is.
- If you want to learn about the presidents and spend quality time with your significant other (something that, according to Jon, you really oughta do), try PBS’ American Experience.
- How to take your cat camping (note: these instructions are from Australia; WITTScast listeners in the Northern Hemisphere should perform them backwards).
- Ben liked the story “Hawkins’ Boy” from Episode 71 so much he went ahead and ordered Charles Dodd White’s collection Sinners of Sanction County.
- Brian’s enjoying Charles Baxter’s new collection There’s Something I Want You To Do.
- Brian and Jon can agree that Baxter’s Saul and Patsy is a damn good book (dope, even?).
- When Jon’s reading Charles Baxter, he likes to watch for examples of the fiction writer practicing what he preaches in his critical work, like Burning Down the House.
- Maybe just steer clear of cheap motels altogether?