Friday is here, and there’s a lot going on for us here in the Ivory Tower Boiler Room. Our most pressing and exciting piece of news is that we have a sponsor (you might have heard us mention as much one or two… hundred times in the last week). The sponsor is Words Matter, which is a bookstore, almost a year old, based in Pitman, New Jersey. So stay tuned for news on our collaborations, including an OPEN MIC PARTY, hosted by Words Matter, to celebrate our 1-year anniversary as a podcast. Any past guest or writer, and anyone who donates money to our operation, is enthusiastically encouraged to attend–in person, if convenient, or via Zoom, if it would be prohibitively inconvenient to fly in from Idaho, or Hong Kong, for example.
That may be our biggest news-item, but it’s far from our only one. Andrew and Erika just crossed an item off their respective bucket lists by getting to interview Lev Raphael (normally Adam does the interviews with Andrew, but this was one of Erika’s favorite writers, so it was a no-brainer). Look for that interview to get posted sometime in coming weeks. And today, Andrew, Erika, Mary, and Adam will by recording a roundtable where they discuss their experiences as teachers. Look for that to get released tomorrow (July 10).
Now a bit of a call-back. For those of you who appreciated “The Closet in the Library,” which was not only our first book-launch, but also a solid good time sitting down with our guests from the Broadview Press and nerding out about books, you’ll be happy to know that one of the editors, Kate Flint, sent us her responses to the questions we ask every interviewee. We published Jason Rudy’s answers a few days before the podcast came out. Please enjoy perusing her thoughts and feelings and, perhaps, most importantly, her recommendations. And if you haven’t listened to the podcast episode featuring Kate and Jason and their brand-new baby, the Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 5, make sure you check them out. Andrew and Adam had an amazing time recording that session, and the enthusiasm really comes through when you listen. Don’t forget that the anthology will be released just a few days from now, on July 13.
- What are you listening to, reading, watching?
Kate Flint: Mostly I listen to our local independent radio station, Radio Free Santa Fe (where yesterday I heard and enjoyed tracks from Grace Pettis’s new album), or NPR. Reading – I’ve just finished Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl, and am now reading Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground and Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot (you can tell it’s summer). Plus academic stuff about eco-art and environmental change, and biographies of nineteenth century nature writers in the UK and the US. Watching? Most recently, England beating Ukraine 4-0! Further back – and not counting the Rachel Maddow show – I much enjoyed Mare of Easttown.
2. Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?
KF: I think of myself as enjoying cooking, but pandemic exhaustion set in a while back, and I’m not yet back into the excitement of trying something new or complicated. So I’ll recommend the simplest of chicken salads – buy a rotisserie chicken, cut it into small pieces, and mix with chopped shallots, small avocado pieces, arugula, cilantro – can be served on the side, if, like me, you live with someone cilantro-averse – and lime juice. Salt, pepper. The lime is essential.
3. What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?
KF: I’m always convinced no one else reads Vita Sackville-West’s fiction, which is witty, poignant, closely observed …
4. Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?
KF: Um, no. But I played a lot of Racing Demon and Scrabble when growing up. I’ll do the NYT Spelling Bee on my phone – I doubt that that counts! – and occasionally Woodoku to calm my nerves (as when watching a depressing segment on Rachel Maddow, see above).
5. You’re taking a sick-day from work. What movie are you putting on.
KF: If I were taking a sick-day, I doubt I’d feel up to watching a movie!
6. What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?
KF: I can’t claim that I’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, luckily, though I’m practiced at procrastination. I do find taking a shower a very good place to Have Ideas, and I’ll think things through on long walks.
7. What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it, or haven’t read it.
KF: I’ll confess to a blind spot when it comes to science fiction of all types. I like the idea of it, and of course absolutely see its theoretical, speculative possibilities, but just as I had a low tolerance level for fairy stories when I was a kid, I always get stuck once it starts to seem improbable. I am committed, however, to reading Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower this summer – it’s an embarrassment not to have done.
So. When we’re not podcasting or writing or editing, what are your humble servants in the Ivory Tower Boiler Room doing this week to keep themselves occupied?
Adam is visiting family in the wild and wooded country north of New York City, and managed to hit up a local bookstore to the tune of:
–The Collected Stories and the Stories for Children by Isaac Bashevis Singer (he already owns both of these, but with some books, don’t you want to have just a few extra copies, so that if someone you know hasn’t read one, you can assign them homework then and there? No? Wait–really no? Then… how do you make sure your friends are reading the right books and not the wrong ones?)
–A Passage in the Night by Sholem Asch
–Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem
–Tales of Hoffmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann
–Last Stories by William Trevor
–Antígona González by Sara Uribe
He has been watching Little Things on Netflix, which is a show about two young people co-habiting in Bombay. It’s a really gorgeous and often funny show, and everyone–yes, everyone–should watch it. Also, he has now seen the movie The Prestige. It is good. That’s all.
Music recommendations are the same as they ever were, because if 17th-19th century European classical music helps you stay sane, and staying sane is even somewhat of a priority, it’s not that hard a decision. This week’s choices, though, are astonishingly recent: Le Tombeau de Couperin and Gaspard de la Nuit, both by the 20th century composer, Maurice Ravel. Gaspard, apparently, has the distinction of being the most difficult piano piece ever written, narrowly edging out “Islamey” by Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev.
Andrew is listening to Just Above my Head by James Baldwin on Audible. His review is pretty succinct: “wow, it’s incredibly powerful.” Listening to Baldwin’s narrative read aloud has helped him to understand what makes his writing so prophetic. Not only are Baldwin’s characters’ complexity on display, but the way he writes eroticism is, Andrew feels, unmatched.
As far as music goes, Andrew is currently listening to the different curated mixes on Spotify that match his fascination for the 70s. Here is the playlist Andrew is currently loving and listening to:
Sheila Liming’s What a Library Means to a Woman and Lev Raphael’s My Germany are two reads that Andrew can’t wait to dig into. These are books related to an Ivory Tower Boiler Room interview. It is exciting for Andrew (and the team) to be able to meet the authors. So far, Andrew does not plan on using either of these works for his dissertation but you never know!
Andrew will be visiting his local AMC movie theatre this weekend to see (finally) Cruella. It has been described as The Devil Wears Prada meets an action (especially heist) film. Andrew is curious to see how this mashup will look like, but, as Andrew says, “any film Emma Stone is in is usually a good time.”
Andrew also has an update from last week’s watch. He finished Cruel Summer, so if you haven’t seen it you might want to skip this part because SPOILERS! Andrew did not realize that the narrative was centered on a vice principal grooming his female students (gross). He says it was “a little soap opera-y…ok a lot, but the serious subject matter was full of nuance and demonstrated how manipulative grooming is.” We are preparing to release Helana Darwin’s interview, and Andrew feels Cruel Summer deeply resonated with Helana’s account of how the abuser manipulates their victim. Like Helana’s courage to share her narrative, Cruel Summer shows how powerful it is when the gaslighting of a victim ends.
Erika is skimming through the Jacobellis vs Ohio Supreme Court decision to try and better understand the lines between obscenity, porn, erotica and “just a plain old sex scene.”
Erika is skimming through the Jacobellis vs Ohio Supreme Court decision to try and better understand the lines between obscenity, porn, erotica and “just a plain old sex scene.” She’s still involved in her critically reading erotica project and has discovered a tremendous amount of free ebooks of questionable quality. In addition to some very bad erotica, she’s read Lev Raphael’s “Secret Anniversaries of the Heart” to prepare for the interview with the author, and she’s waiting for the arrival of Sarah Schulman’s book “Let the Record Show,” for an interview next month, too. Erika has also downloaded, and will make her way through The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure, too.
In the ongoing quest to figure out where the lines are between porns, erotica, obscenity and just a regular sex scene, she’s been listening to the Bawdy Storytelling podcast. Midnight Oil has been on the playlist this week, And because it’s summer vacation, and the incredible summer camp that Erika (and Adam, too) attended has put a whole lot of programming online this summer, Erika has been checking into the camp’s radio station, which is run by a friend of hers.
Erika has discovered Emily D Baker on YouTube, and has been watching because the legal analysis can be interesting, but also because she likes Emily’s live hosting style and is hoping to pick up a few skills and tricks before the Ivory Tower Boiler Room’s first birthday celebration next month. Netflix has brought the fourth and final season of Atypical out this week and coming up very soon, will also be the second season of Never Have I Ever.
Mary is still reading through various research materials for the Gainesville Ripper because, in her words, “there is a SHIT TON of it!”
While she is also listening to research materials such as The Last Podcast on the Left and True Crime All the Time, she has also been listening to the podcast Some Place Under Neith (which she has mentioned previously). The podcast recently completed a six-part series on an extremist religious group called the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP). This group’s members contain stars from TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting– the Duggars. Hosts Natalie Jean and Amber Nelson discuss the recent discovery of Josh Duggar’s crimes. For those of you who don’t know, a used car lot owned by the Duggars–that Josh was previously working for before he was arrested–was raided by special agents. Josh is currently being charged with multiple counts of downloading child sexual abuse materials, but that is as far as she will go, because this, and his other crimes (that have sadly surpassed the statute of limitations), are extremely disturbing and traumatizing. If you want to look more into it for yourself, Mary warns that the materials are easy to find but extremely difficult to digest. As of this moment, Duggar’s trial is scheduled for November of this year.
One night this week, Mary’s boyfriend put on one of her favorite movies–Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Mary can’t fully understand why she loves this movie so much. On one hand, adding fantasy creatures such as vampires to a historical narrative is not usually Mary’s cup of tea. But on the other hand, the movie was done just so damn well (in her opinion). The acting by Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is absolutely superb. Mary can’t help but gush: “Benjamin Walker truly embodies this strange take on Abraham Lincoln by combining elements of Lincoln’s personality with those of a badass vampire hunter. I just love this movie and I can’t wait for the Steelbook copy I ordered to get here!”