Monthly Archives: June 2015

Episode 79: How to Be a Husband

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.”

Episode 78: Summertime

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