The Boiler Room may be a great place for us to hang out, but it’s not a good place for us to celebrate our first birthday. For that, we’re going out into the world. Our podcast is turning one, and we hope you’ll join us to celebrate on August 3 at an open mic poetry reading event. (Two events actually…one in person at our sponsor, Words Matter Bookstore, for those who can make it to New Jersey, and one on Zoom.)
Other than planning our party, we are trying to enjoy summer when we can. Adam spent time away last week. Andrew is getting ready for a little time at the beach (and we promise to share more of his thirst-trap photos so he can show off his great… books.) Mary took a trip to an amusement park. Erika is just trying to stay cool and wait until February when the roles are reversed and the team has had enough of winter, so she can gloat about the sunny days she’s having.
This week’s guest on the podcast, Lev Raphael is one whose work first became an important part of Erika’s reading when she was trying to figure her own self out, and his book “Dancing on Tisha B’Av” helped her understand that it was possible for identities to be as intersectional as she was finding hers to be; she says it helped her to understand how to “embrace the and.” She suggested to Andrew that he might enjoy it, both because of the queer, Jewish perspective, and because of some of the fabulous Gilded Age settings. Erika kept her overexcited fangirl squeeing to a respectable level (a majestic feat when you realize that someone whose writing she likes and admires calls Erika “a writer” in spite of her struggle to adopt the label herself. She says she’ll get there, one day…it’s just a slow process). Lev was a delight to talk to, sharing advice and suggestions and telling interesting stories. By complete coincidence, he and Erika both had a chance to interview writer Erica Jong, and Lev encouraged Erika to write about that, so there may be a forthcoming piece about Erika at sixteen.
While our interviews are a great way to get to know our guests, there’s never enough time to find out all we want to know, and we love getting their recommendations for things, so, here are Lev Raphael’s answers to our Writer’s Questionnaire:
1. What are you listening to, reading, watching?
I’m currently enjoying Spoon’s Hot Thoughts and some Mendelssohn Quartets. I’m watching Berlin Station on Epix because it’s a great spy drama and I love seeing a city I wish I’d spent more time in on my German book tours. I’m reading the new Philip Roth biography because it’s been such a cultural flashpoint and also Unruly Desires about homosexualities and American sailors in the 1800s.
2.Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?
Absolutely. I find the whole process very zen–and that’s been amplified during the pandemic. I’m a big fan of pasta dishes and of frittatas. Challah French Toast is my go-to brunch dish and in the winter I often make the lentil soup from the Joy of Cooking. I read a number of different cooking columns and web pages and enjoy trying something new.
3.What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?
I think Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West about the Balkans before WWII is an amazing blend of reportage, memoir, history, written with a novelists’ eye. It’s stunning, deep, rich, and unforgettable. I reveled in it while traveling in Europe one summer and it was perfect.
4.Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?
I’d rather be writing. 🙂
5.You’re taking a sick-day from work. What movie are you putting on?
Moonstruck or The Bourne Identity. Maybe both if I’m really feeling low.
6.What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?
I don’t believe in writer’s block and here’s my blog explaining why:
7.What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it, or haven’t read it.
When I was on heavy rotation as a reviewer for the Detroit Free Press, other papers and some radio stations, I often felt pressure from publicity people, reviewers and even readers to like a book I found boring or just plain awful. I’ll keep my opinions to myself on this one because tastes vary so wildly, but I will say I haven’t read Ulysses and probably never will.
So much for what Lev is reading these days. The Team’s media recommendations for the week span the universe, as always.
Mary says she’s “reading nothing at the moment mostly because I don’t have time.” She’s already researching her next case for True Crime Tuesday though, and we know she’s reading for that…she just likes to surprise us sometimes.
For viewing this week, it’s been a revolutionary documentary made by the close friend of a murder victim. Instead of focusing on the killer, this documentary is about the victim-the person he was, how he was killed and by whom, and the twisted, horrifying events that take place afterwards. Mary is probably going to write about this in next week’s True Crime in Academia.
Mary is listening to a new case from Some Place Under Neith. This case is about a missing YouTube-famous child named Sophie Long. Her claim to fame started when her father, Matthew uploaded and shared a video to YouTube of Sophie begging him not to take her to her mother’s house. Some people saw this as a father’s last resort in trying to get help for his daughter.
Adam tried listening to the song ‘Love Shack’ by the B52s and immediately regretted it. God, what a shitshow that song is. It sounds like it was composed by an Enigma machine. Sorry. Neutral third-party narration resume. It’s been a light week for new music, (the greatest novelty has been listening to Gardiner’s version of Bach’s Mass instead of Raphaël Pichon’s) but not for new literature. Wandering Stars by Sholom Aleichem, translated by Aliza Shevrin and with an introduction by Tony Kushner (are you listening, Andrew?) Is proving as much of a delight as everything else Sholom Aleichem ever wrote. Do check it out! Also Last Stories by William Trevor–excellent, but not up to Trevor’s usual standards. Adam also finally had a look at the Netflix show ‘Never have I Ever,’ which turns out to be a delight, and surprisingly well-acted for a show about kids.
Erika apologized to Adam for making him listen to Love Shack (a Twitter thread of the B-52’s “Love Shack” rewritten in the style of Chaucer? Of course she had to read it, and share with the team). She’s been listening to Playing for Change and a lot of shuffling through her playlists. She hasn’t been able to settle into anything at all this week, and shuffling through familiar music is a little like comfortable sweater (comfortables sweaters are almost always too warm for in Florida.) After the Lev Raphael interview, where he encouraged her to write about her reflections on Erica Jong, and a conversation with Andrew, she picked up the novel Fear of Flying for the first time in many years. It had been her first exposure to Erica Jong, and she’s enjoying it in just as cringeworthy a way as the first time she read it, but the cringeworthy things are entirely different at this stage in her life. Between observing the holiday of Tisha B’Av last week and having the conversation with Lev Raphael, she’s also been reading from the Book of Lamentations (one of the shorter books of the Bible; Jews have the custom of reading it on Tisha B’Av) and the Book of Amos (which Lev referred to several times during their conversation.) She’s also reading Ray Bradbury’s I Sing the Body Electric, because she’s been watching The Electric Grandmother, which is based on the story. Way back when she was a kid, the public library used to screen movies for kids and Erika remembers seeing that film with her siblings and finding it very disturbing. Something about it recently came up in Facebook memories, and the film is on YouTube, so why not look? She’s also been watching The Princess Bride Home Movie, which she missed last summer when it aired on the short lived Quibi service. It’s on YouTube now, which means Erika can enjoy it. Erika is also hoping someone from the team will take a dive into creation-mythology from around the world with her soon…mythology has never been her favorite genre, but there’s something about a good origin story that Erika feels drawn to right now.
Andrew is reading Stuart Barnes’ Glasshouses. Andrew has such a nice Instagram relationship with Stuart and he wants to manifest Stuart as a future poetry contributor. As Andrew prepares for his Atlantic City vacation, he is pondering which books to pack, but one that he needs to bring with him is Boardwalk of Dreams by Bryant Simon. It’s a history of Atlantic City’s urbanization (he can’t wait to dig in since Andrew is about to write a ghost story set in Atlantic City in the 1920s).
Andrew is starting to get addicted to the HBO comedy The White Lotus, and, of course, he is watching the Real Housewives after writing to treat himself with this pleasure viewing.
After reading Jesse Green’s NY Times article on Ted Chapin stepping down from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization , Andrew is now bingeing all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein overtures! And, Andrew is closely linked to Oscar Hammerstein since his aunt works in Doylestown (where Oscar lived, see the photo below of the farmhouse).
The whole team is also getting ready to pick up PJ Vernon’s Bath Haus in preparation for the launch of our book club this fall. Watch for more details about it here, and an interview with PJ Vernon, too. While we’re often recommending books to each other, or reading books together, this is actually the first time all four of us will be reading the same thing at once, and it will be exciting to bring all the wonderful differences among us to the discussion. We may even discover similarities we didn’t know we had.
We’re looking forward to seeing you at one of our celebrations, in person or online! In the meantime, don’t forget to share your suggestions with us… future guests, things we should read, watch, or listen to, or even things you would like us to blog about. Or get in touch and let us feature your writing. We’ve got lots of space in the boiler room.