The Joy of Serious Literature
The internet's last best hope for the cultural redemption of literary criticism.
info_outline Episode 10 | The Literature of Celebrity | Frank Sinatra has a Cold and Other Essays by Gay Talese 11/23/2018
Episode 10 | The Literature of Celebrity | Frank Sinatra has a Cold and Other Essays by Gay Talese When we think about literature, the last thing that comes to mind is the celebrity interview. Yet in the hands of the journalist Gay Talese, the lives of the famous are laid bear with all the insight, rhetorical verve, beauty, and tragedy of the best of short stories.
info_outline Episode 9 | The Old Bureaucrat and the Goose | Freeing a Migrant Goose by Bai Juyi 01/17/2018
Episode 9 | The Old Bureaucrat and the Goose | Freeing a Migrant Goose by Bai Juyi Once upon a time, more than a thousand years ago, there lived a poet in China named Bai Juyi (sometimes called Po Chu-I). Unlike most poets, however, Bai wasn’t just a poet: he was also a politician, a scholar-bureaucrat tasked with helping to guide China through a moment of immense social, military, and economic crisis. Did he succeed in this endeavor? No. He failed dramatically. But his and his country’s failure gave the world some of the most honest, most efficiently beautiful poetry ever written abo
info_outline Episode 8 | The Genius of Decadence | The Wings by Yi Sang 10/17/2017
Episode 8 | The Genius of Decadence | The Wings by Yi Sang Some writers ask the easy questions, others ask hard questions, but only one has ever asked the question: “Have you ever seen a stuffed genius?” This question—with all its despondency, moroseness, and arrogance evoke the world of Yi Sang, the weirdo titan of the Korean avant-garde. Trained as an architect, dead at 27, occasionally a pimp, obsessed with uselessness, devoted to laziness, imprisoned for thought crimes, Yi Sang was one of the most delightfully strange writers to ever walk the earth.
info_outline Episode 7 | One Single Haiku by Richard Wright | Haiku #31 by Richard Wright 08/15/2017
Episode 7 | One Single Haiku by Richard Wright | Haiku #31 by Richard Wright Have you ever read a poem and then, without even realizing it, discover that it has implanted itself in your mind forever? For the last twelve years, there has hardly been a month where I haven’t thought at least twice about a single haiku written by Richard Wright in the last months before his death. Somber and yet joyous, imprisoning and yet liberating, its word and image have become a permanent part of who I am as a person.
info_outline Episode 6 | The Wages of Ugliness | The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima 07/10/2017
Episode 6 | The Wages of Ugliness | The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima On November 25th, 1970, the leading East Asian contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature tried to overthrow the Japanese government in a dramatic coup d'état. Failing at this, he then committed suicide via a combination of disembowelment and beheading. For more than fifty years, Yukio Mishima's life and death have defined Japanese literature.
info_outline Episode 5 | What Makes a Genius Writer a Genius? | Report on the Thing by Clarice Lispector 06/01/2017
Episode 5 | What Makes a Genius Writer a Genius? | Report on the Thing by Clarice Lispector What makes the "genius writer" actually a genius? What does it even mean to be a "genius"? How does genius manifest itself on the page? When I think of these questions, a writer comes to mind: the Brazilian novelist, housewife, and national hero Clarice Lispector. Never was a writer more audacious, never was a writer more mindbogglingly strange. To understand her and genius itself, all we need to do is look at one single short story, Report on the Thing, about a woman deep in a metaphysical love affair with
info_outline Episode 4 | I Am Not Your Theologian | Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin 04/30/2017
Episode 4 | I Am Not Your Theologian | Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin When we talk about James Baldwin, we always talk about him in terms of America's racial politics. But Baldwin was more than just America's greatest racial pundit--he was one of America's finest novelists. In this episode, we examine his first novel: Go Tell It on the Mountain, the story of a young black boy trying to survive under the crushing weight of his father's draconian vision of Christianity. Both brilliant and beautiful, the novel tries to get at the heart of a question perhaps even more difficult t
info_outline Episode 3 | Lu Xun and the Birth of Modern Chinese Litereature | The Real Story of Ah-Q by Lu Xun 03/21/2017
Episode 3 | Lu Xun and the Birth of Modern Chinese Litereature | The Real Story of Ah-Q by Lu Xun Lu Xun was China's first great modern writer. He invented the Chinese short story. He revolutionized the Chinese language. He diagnosed the vast array of social and spiritual problems that had led China, in the early 20th century, to the brink of ruin.
info_outline Episode 2 | The Tyranny of Conformity | The Vegetarian by Han Kang 02/03/2017
Episode 2 | The Tyranny of Conformity | The Vegetarian by Han Kang Somewhere deep in Korea, a woman decides to become a vegetarian and thereby ruins the lives of everyone around her. Her husband's career is ruined. Her sister's marriage is ruined. Even her own life ultimately ends up annihilated. Why? Because there is nothing more evil in the world than difference.
info_outline Episode 1: The Prefiguration of Lalo Cura by Roberto Bolaño 11/22/2016
Episode 1: The Prefiguration of Lalo Cura by Roberto Bolaño We begin small--with a single short story by Latin America's greatest 21st century novelist, Roberto Bolaño.