Monthly Archives: July 2015

Episode 81: Honest Fiction

It’s been a hell of a summer in WITTSville, and the guys are still trying to get their shit together. Brian is now a husband, Ben is now a landowner, and Jon is now a father. Amid all the turmoil, they find time to discuss wedding-crashing moose, single-malt free-for-alls, Paris author readings, newborn semaphore, and–better late than never–Edith Pearlman’s “Wait and See.”

Topics and Reading Discussed

  • Edith Pearlman’s “Wait and See” is online at The American Scholar.
  • When dealing with fiction writers, it’s always smart to verify any outlandish tales they tell you. In this case, Brian’s moose story checks out.
  • Ben stumbled onto a Lydia Davis / Jonathan Safran Foer reading at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. Some pics of the event are here.
  • Is Go Set a Watchman an intriguing complication of an oversimplified character or should it have never been published… or both?
  • If you were disappointed to see Atticus’ flaws in Go Set a Watchman, maybe don’t watch The Trip to Italy.
  • The Things They Carried, Jon says, is a great example of an “honest fiction.”
  • Jon’s still grumbling about All the Light We Cannot See, and while he liked The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan a lot more than Anthony Doerr’s novel, he sees in both books the “creaky hinge” of the fiction writer trying to wrangle a complicated plot into submission.
  • Beglin, Bender, and Pearlman… quite a lineup.
  • Hold the fucking phone! Everything you thought you knew about shrimp vision is wrong!

Episode 80: Marriage! Kids! Houses! (or, “Bring the Darkness”)

Ben, Brian, and Jon didn’t get to the story they’d planned this week. But it’s fine, it’s fine — instead, they set aside some time to talk about all the big, new milestones in their lives right now, including becoming a father, owning a home, getting married, seeing the world… and assessing all art through the prism of the Barenaked Ladies.

Topics and Reading Discussed

  • Jerry Rice: Number 80 on the field, number one in your heart.
  • Jon’s philosophy of parenting comes from — bear with him — Sheri Fink’s nonfiction book Five Days at Memorial, a life-and-death account of a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina and one of the best books Jon read last year.
  • Kids these days prefer All the Pretty Horses to Goodnight Moon, at least in the Sealy household.
  • Typing the first few pages of a great story or novel is a great way to jump-start your own writing session; Jon first tried this with Richard Brautigan’s story “1/3, 1/3, 1/3” (PDF) and just recently with Kent Haruf’s Plainsong.  (Just don’t let the whole exercise spiral out of control like it did in Tobias Wolff’s novel Old School.)
  • If you wanted to emulate a writer, you could do a lot worse than Sam Lipsyte or Aimee Bender.
  • “The prince has always liked his London,” begins Henry James’ The Golden Bowl. Hopefully Ben does, too.
  • It will help if London has an answer to Dublin’s Literary Pub Crawl. They must, right?
  • At the very least, Ben should be able to find some locals to talk about the greats of cricket, like Sachin Tendulkar, Lasith “Slinga” Malinga, and… well, they can’t all be great.
  • Historically, Brian will leap to defend Barenaked Ladies, but he thinks their last two albums have been a letdown. Ben has experienced a bit of the same with Lyle Lovett’s latest, Release Me. What to do when you aren’t connecting with your formative favorites anymore?
  • Jon (reliably) relates the problem back to writing, noting that even his dude Cormac McCarthy puts out a dud sometimes.
  • Similarly, sometimes you’re afraid to revisit novels you loved in your youth because they might not resonate like they used to. See McCarthy’s Outer Dark or Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.