We’re scurrying around getting ready to celebrate one whole year here in the Ivory Tower Boiler Room. We’re so excited to celebrate a full year of being able to share interesting discussions with people who are passionate not only about their work, but also about sharing it with the rest of the world, and we’re so proud to have been able to bring attention to some really important topics in the academia–our mental health spotlight and our interview with Dr. Helana Darwin about her #MeToo PhD experience have not been easy for us to cover, nor do we expect that they were easy for you to listen to, but if we can help facilitate some of those difficult conversations then we are fulfilling a very important piece of our mission. And we hope you’ll join us on August 3 for our first birthday open mic event. It’s actually two events simultaneously, one online, the other in person in Pitman, NJ, at our official sponsor, Words Matter Bookstore. The online event is hosted by Erika, along with contributors to our site, Tiffany Sowa and Cameron Martin. The in-person event is hosted by Adam, Andrew and Mary.
Before that, on Saturday, we’ll be bringing you an interview with hiker, bagpipe enthusiast, and Edith Wharton scholar, Dr. Sheila Liming who came to us live from her childhood bedroom. She talks with Adam and Andrew about Edith Wharton, prestige, surviving university finances, and of course, teaching. There’s even something about library books and dog fur, too.
If you’re wondering what else there is to know about someone who studies Wharton, and hikes and plays the bagpipes, Dr Liming answered our Ivory Tower Boiler Room questions, and here’s what she had to share with us:
1.What are you listening to, reading, watching?
I’m always reading multiple things simultaneously, so right now, that includes Colin Jerolmack’s Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town (nonfiction, 2021), R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries (fiction, 2018) and Margaret Grebowicz’s Mountains and Desire (philosophy, 2021). I’m listening to a lot of ambient piano music, like the Dutch composer Joep Beving, because I need wordless beauty to keep me writing and reading. And, because I’m always very behind on TV, I’m watching the series Borgen, which I find exceedingly stressful.
2.Do you like to cook? What is your favorite thing to make?
Very much. It’s summer, so I’m cooking fresh fruits and vegetables–all manner of them. Lately, I’ve been barbecuing whole heads of cauliflower and clearing my schedule in anticipation of tomato season.
3.What is something you have read and loved, and wish more people would read?
Olga Tokarczuk. I read her Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead last winter and cannot get it out of my mind. What a novel. What a style. What a voice. Absolutely original and smart as hell.
4.Did you grow up with video- or computer-games? What were/are some of your favorites?
Yes, but back in my day that meant Mario Brothers games on the old Nintendo, and that’s where my skills have stagnated. (I put some pandemic time into Mario Galaxy in deference to this fact, but I am no virtuoso.)
5.You’re taking a sick-day from work. What movie are you putting on.
Paddington 2, no question.
6.What’s your favorite excuse for why you have writer’s block?
I need to read more.
7.What’s a book everyone says you should read, but you either read it and hated it, or haven’t read it.
Every Henry James novel that isn’t Portrait of a Lady is frankly overrated, and I’ve been induced to read all of them thanks to people saying I should.
The Boiler Room occupants are filling their time with more than just party planning, writing and work, and so from the Boiler Room, we bring you our recommendation for the week.
Adam has been in a bit of a funk this week, reading-wise, but has nonetheless managed to make dogged progress through Sholom Aleichem’s Wandering Stars. His music tastes this week have stretched to include some more recent stuff, like Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto and Tom Waits’s Small Change. He has been watching this new Netflix anthology called Ray (not to be confused with the biopic about the American musician), which is a modern take on the work of the great Bengali author/filmmaker/musician Satyajit Ray.
Erika didn’t get a chance to finish The Princess Bride Home Movie and is hoping that she might get to do that this weekend. It’s been an intense week with a lot of writing to catch up on for her, and so it’s been a lot of short YouTube content, especially Matt Baume, whose new Muppet video brought out all kinds of nostalgia. It’s hard to escape the influence of Disney where she is, and so this week, Defunctland has taken up some of the viewing time. She’s also been checking out iilluminaughtii. Netflix is calling to her with The Movies that Made Us for a little more nostalgia, and when she can focus on subtitles, there’s also Young Royals.
Something has drawn Erika to Shakespeare this week and she’s been reading sonnets again; not a bad thing to do for an aspiring poet, although Erika admits she doesn’t have the patience for poetic styles that require paying attention to rhymes and syllables. Twelfth Night has been beckoning to her, although a whole play feels like a lot at the moment and may have to wait until some other projects are finished first. Taming of the Shrew might also land in the “to read” pile soon, too. Another “highlight” from the week would be the slash fiction she happened across about Avram and Tommy from The Frisco Kid, (if we assume that “highlight” means “things that she never thought existed, and definitely never thought she would read.”) She’s hoping to start Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes soon, too.
It’s a chicken or egg question, which came first–a desire to read sonnets or a desire to listen to Kiss Me Kate; both came about on the same day as a way of dealing with writer’s block this week. Camelot also landed on the playlist, too. And because we were into kings and castles, Six The Musical also went back into the rotation. John Field’s Nocturnes have been popping up once in a while; although Erika stands firm in her preference for work from the Baroque and Classical eras, she is grudgingly acknowledging that not all of the Romantic work is too melodramatic to listen to.
Mary is flying through Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you need to! Trust Mary on this.
The White Lotus Hotel on HBO is Mary’s new show to watch. New episodes air every Sunday. It’s a great way to close the weekend.
Mary is listening to the newest episode of Dark History hosted by Bailey Sarian. This episode is about the origins of birth control. To no one’s surprise, birth control was not about women’s rights but about population control.
Andrew is coming to us from his vacation in Atlantic City, with a read/watch/listen special report.
He’s stuffed his tote bag from Words Matter Bookstore full for his beach trip.
In it, he’s packed The New York Times’ Summer Reading special issue, which he says is “a really good beach read.”On location, Andrew began Bryant Simon’s Boardwalk of Dreams), and tells us, “it’s such a meta reading activity,” since he’s reading it while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean and passing back and forth from the Claridge Hotel to the beach. He hopes to have Simon on in the future to discuss Atlantic City’s storied past. And, he’s about to start reading P.J. Vernon’s Bath Haus, which he knows will be quite a beachy, steamy (literally), queer-aesthetic, immersive experience. There is more to come about and he just caught up with a scene that left him with so many questions (all he can say, without spoiling it, is watch out for Jennifer Coolidge’s character…wow!).
He’s still absorbing a few podcasts each day, and he really likes listening to Behind the Velvet Rope hosted by David Yontef. Andrew is such a fan of A Chorus Line, and what a pleasure to listen to David’s interview with Audrey Landers. She plays Val in the movie and performs “Dance: Ten, Looks: Three.” He is also loving Patti Lupone singing Irving Berlin at the Hollywood Bowl.
(Andrew also shared this fun fact: Irving Berlin actually vacationed in Atlantic City’s nearby Ventnor’s St. Leonard’s Tract, and he entertained guests at the piano.
Andrew takes in the view and a good book.