Tag Archives: marriage

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.

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.”