Party decorations are still hanging around here in the Boiler Room; our official birthday is next Saturday and we’ll bring you some reflections on our first year then. We’d love to hear from you, too. What brought you to the Boiler Room? What have you learned or discovered here? Email, Tweet, leave a comment on the blog or on the podcast page. Before that we’re going to bring you a return-visit by author Lev Raphael, whom we last interviewed 2 weeks ago, in July. Lev’s work has been shared and admired by the Ivory Tower Boiler Room family, and his support for us here has been immeasurable. Part 2 of Andrew and Erika’s chat with Lev continues their conversation from two weeks ago and ranges across topics from writing, to the Gilded Age, to identity, and even more.
We brought you Lev’s full questionnaire two weeks ago, but he has provided us with an updated list of what he’s been watching, listening to and reading, and a bonus recipe for amazing scrambled eggs. Here’s what he’s recommending to our readers and listeners:
Watching: I’ve returned to Hitchcock after a very long time and just saw Rear Window again. I fell in love with the wit when I first saw it years ago without realizing how sexualized it is, and also how the Grace Kelly character seems to enter Jimmy Stewart’s world of adventure. Of course it’s rooted in gender stereotypes of the time, but that just makes it a perfect period piece, down to the clothes. Here’s a terrific blog about the fashions in the movie.
Reading: My fascination with WWII in all its aspects never wanes and I’m re-reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts about the American ambassador to Germany in 1933 Berlin, and his amazing daughter. Larson’s eye for detail and the telling quote or anecdote is always impressive. Earlier this month, I finally got around to his book about the Galveston hurricane in 1900 and that one is stunning, harrowing, and darkly beautiful. It made me stream Twister for the umpteenth time.
Listening: The title of my coming-out novel, Winter Eyes, is a sort of pun on Schubert’s song-cycle, Die Wintereise (The Winter Journey), and I think I’ve loved Schubert since some time in elementary school when my folks took me to hear Alfred Brendel at Carnegie Hall. Right now I’ve been playing and replaying his second trio, whose slow movement is in Barry Lyndon. It’s the kind of music that seems so perfect you can imagine that it always existed and just had to be transcribed rather than composed.
Eating: It’s been so hot I’ve steered clear of anything elaborate, even with the AC on, and I’ve relied on easy dinner favorites at our house like Dan Barber’s Scrambled Eggs. They’re unique and creamy, not like the rubbery eggs you see onscreen or get in brunch buffets. People tend to assume I’m conterminous with the narrator of the Nick Hoffman books and we do share some things like cooking, but I escaped academia and he’s knee-deep in it and always will be.
Our Ivory Tower Boiler Room residents also have some recommendations for you…
Erika’s been going through documentaries this week. Among the ones she’s watched are The Town that Was about Centralia Pennsylvania, a topic that has fascinated her since she learned about it as a teenager; she credits her seventh grade science teacher Mrs. Kohen, who taught about Love Canal with her fascination with human-created environmental disasters like this. She also tuned in to Hulu for Pride, Netflix for Pray Away, a documentary about conversion therapy, and into Vimeo for a repeat viewing of “Yes, We Fuck!” It’s in Spanish with subtitles, and is a great documentary about disabled people and sexuality; one of the frustrating things that is a common part of the disability experience is infantilization–Erika says “In my chair especially, I suddenly become stupid or invisible, as well as helpless,” and this documentary goes a long way to combat that. To lighten the mood, she’s been watching favorite episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation and has begun watching The Good Place again.
Mika’s been on repeat for Erika this week (thank you Andrew for reminding her of how much she enjoys the music.) Coldplay has also been mixed in there, too. She’s also been listening wistfully to Telemann viola concertos and missing her viola playing days.
And while in search of things to read at this week’s Ivory Tower Boiler Room open mic event, Erika went back to her poetry books. Natalie Diaz’s Post Colonial Love Story was on top of the stack. If Erika hadn’t read her own work that night she would have read These Hands if Not Gods. She’d also have waited until the last minute to choose between Danez Smith’s “My President” and something by sam sax, perhaps Prayer for the Mutilated World–although they are definitely one of Erika’s favorite poets, finding something that didn’t contain language that might have crossed the line for some of the audience can prove challenging with sam sax’s work. This is remarkably similar to the conversation Erika and Adam had, just prior to the open-mic event about Allen Ginsberg’s work; as Adam considered which Ginsberg work to share, the same question faced him, and, as Erika is also a fan, and hasn’t read any Ginsberg but Howl in a while, she decided to go and spend a little time going back to Alan Ginsberg’s work, too.
Adam definitely enjoyed getting back into Ginsberg, not only “Song” from Howl and other Poems, which was the work he recited at the open-mic, but also some of the pieces from Death and Fame. The title-poem is particularly good, because it’s this long, meandering fake-eulogy about how, when Ginsberg goes he wants to be remembered for having been good in bed. Adam is still reading Wandering Stars by Sholom Aleichem a few pages at a time and enjoying it tremendously. But there’s place in his heart (and on his shelf) to reread The Gentleman Bastards series by Peter Lynch. And to listen to an audiobook of The Lord of the Rings late at night or while out on long walks. Actually the last two chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as some lovely phone-calls, helped him get home safe to Long Island after attending a certain open-mic event in South Jersey.
Adam is still listening to Bach like it’s about to go out of style (which is silly because that would never happen) but a recent jaunt through youtube has led to some interest in more modern fare, like Fantasie Espagnole by the 20th century English-Parsi composer Kaikhosru Sorabji and the Concerto for Solo Piano (yes you read that right) by the French-Jewish composer Charles-Valentin Alkan. The latter is shockingly beautiful in places, and it’s all the more wonder why Alkan never caught on the way other single-instrument-composers of that era–Chopin, Paganini–did.
The piano has been a bit of a theme this week, as Adam has been watching the anime Your Lie in April about a 14-year-old virtuoso piano player and domestic abuse survivor who falls in love with a violinist suffering from an undisclosed (both to the audience and her friends) terminal illness. It’s really schlocky, but the characters are decently drawn, and the animation of the music-performances is surprisingly well-done.
Mary is currently re-watching Downton Abbey. She is at the end of season two and can not stop crying. If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey, you know how sad seasons 2 and 3 are.
Kurt Vonnegut has been on Mary’s must-read list for a long time now and she is finally getting into Slaughterhouse-Five. So it goes.
Soon by Moonpools and Caterpillars and Stop Making This Hurt by the Bleachers have been playing on a loop in Mary’s car. These songs are helping put Mary in the right headspace for a new project she will start working on (hopefully) next week.
Andrew has finished the recent episode of The White Lotus and he is on the edge of his seat for the next episode (it premieres on Sunday)! Since Andrew just arrived back from New Jersey, he is ready to watch Before Homosexuals, a documentary tracing same-sex desire from antiquity to the Victorian period. He can’t wait to see how this can make its way into his dissertation chapter.
Reading: He’s currently losing himself in Bryant Simon’s Boardwalk of Dreams, and he hopes to get Simon onto the podcast to talk all things Atlantic City. He started listening to Sarah Schulman’s Let the Record Show, while driving back to Long Island, and it’s already really captivating. He can’t believe that he gets to interview Schulman with Erika in a few weeks.
Listening: Andrew is getting his daily comedic relief from the Michelle Collins Sirius XM show (if you have Sirius XM, you need to listen!). And, for music, Andrew is currently obsessing over Natalie Cole and Frank Sinatra’s version of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Have a listen: