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Better Read than Dead: Literature from a Left Perspective

Better Read than Dead: Literature from a Left Perspective

By Better Read
Three jerky socialists talk about books you've probably heard of. With Megan Tusler, Tristan Schweiger, and Katie K.

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Episode 100: Middlemarch, Part 1
For our 100th episode (!!!), it’s only fitting we tackle a Big One. And George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871-1872) is certainly that – literally (it’s SO MANY PAGES). Middlemarch tells the stories of several intersecting characters all trying in various ways to find meaning amid the alienation of industrial modernity, and we discuss epistemology, philosophy, gender, class and bourgeoisification, marriage, capital-H History, politics. This kind of is a novel about everything. Also, failsons abound! It wouldn’t be Better Read than Dead without failsons. Don’t forget to join us next week for Part Two! We read the Oxford edition, edited by David Carroll with an introduction by Felicia Bonaparte. For more on Eliot’s interest in nineteenth-century science and its bearing on Middlemarch’s epistemological concerns, we highly recommend Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, which we discuss on the show. And for another good discussion of Middlemarch and its contexts, check out this 2018 In Our Time episode: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/middlemarch/id73330895?i=1000409248380. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:48:44
August 07, 2022
Episode 99: The Mountain Lion
It’s a journey Out West with the book jerks–we’re reading Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion (1947)! One of the many under-appreciated women’s novels of the midcentury, this account of Molly and Ralph Fawcett and their bonneted, foofy, bunny rabbit sisters Rachel and Leah moves us into a conversation about childhood, gender, and geography in the US. We also discuss Stafford’s hilariously punchy introduction, in which she apologizes for the book’s ending, as well as embodiment and publication genealogy. We read the reprinted (and beautiful) NYRB version from 2010. We recommend a recent article by Katie Collins in the Journal of Modern Literature called “‘Her Ruined Head’: Defacement and Disability in Jean Stafford's Life and Fiction.” Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:18
July 31, 2022
Episode 98: Murder on the Orient Express
All aboard! This week we are bringing you a one way ticket...to murder! It's Agatha Christie's 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express. We talk about stabby eye-talians, big ole mustaches and detective fiction, and bust out some top-tier French accents. You'll feel like you're riding a bicycle built for two past the Eiffel Tower with a scarf made of cheese tied around your neck. Oui oui! This is particularly impressive when you consider that our heroic clue collector Hercule Poirot is Belgian. Who knew? We read the Harper Collins edition (1990) and for more on Agatha Christie, film adaptations of her work, and the class politics behind Christie's popularity check out Eileen Jones's 2021 Jacobin article "The Crime of the Century." Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:48
July 24, 2022
Episode 97: Wuthering Heights
It has taken your favorite commie book jerks nearly 100 episodes to answer the much-debated question – what is the horniest novel of the British 19th century? Comrades, it’s Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847). We absolutely love this brilliant novel about the torrid love affair between Catherine Earnshaw and the mysterious, often sinister, Gothic villain/anti-hero Heathcliff. (Did we mention he’s her adoptive brother? He’s her adoptive brother. It wouldn’t be a Gothic novel if it wasn’t HAVING THOUGHTS about endogamy and incest.) We talk gender, sexuality, patriarchy, repression that’s kind of not, and racialization, as well as the pressure this novel puts on Victorian “realism.” This is one damp novel, folks. Who knew the Yorkshire moors were so turnt? We read the Oxford edition with notes and introduction by John Bugg. For a wonderful and concise reading of Wuthering Heights that explores Brontë’s novel as a critique of normative Victorian epistemology, we highly recommend Nathan K. Hensley’s blog post “The Lapwing’s Feather (Wuthering Heights)”: http://www.nathankhensley.net/blog/the-lapwings-feather-wuthering-heights. There is a ton of great scholarship on Heathcliff as a figure of otherness, but one book we recommend is Terry Eagleton’s Heathcliff and the Great Hunger which discusses many texts but builds part of its analysis by thinking of Wuthering Heights in the context of the Great Famine, ongoing as Wuthering Heights was published. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:31:39
July 17, 2022
Episode 96: Naked Lunch
You’ve been asking for it (and by “you” we mean “nobody”), so here’s Naked Lunch (1959)! It’s almost unfair to accuse Burroughs of having written this “high,” because there’s really no version of a Burroughs novel that isn’t about being absurdly high and abject. This nightmare account of heroin, orifices, evil doctors, and grime gets us talking about noveliness and what isn’t a novel, the humor of the grotesque, and the question of literary nihilism. We consider if Allen Ginsberg was to Burroughs as Hawthorne was to Melville: helping him keep his sh*t together in order to write a non-insane novel and if he just gave up on this one. We also talk about Olympia Press, which published this along with The Ginger Man and Lolita, and why filthy-minded publishers are necessary. We read the Grove Press 2013 restored edition. We recommend Jennie Skerl’s writings on Burroughs, particularly the collection William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989. We also recommend Burroughs’s letter collections, published in two volumes by Ecco Press. Check out some of the weird side-projects he did, including collaborations with Kurt Cobain and Laurie Anderson. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:36:02
July 10, 2022
Episode 95: Jews Without Money
To kick off Season 6, we are joined by comrade, friend-of-the-pod, and Indiana University South Bend associate professor of English Benjamin Balthaser to talk about Mike Gold’s amazing proletarian lit masterpiece, Jews Without Money (1930). If you haven’t heard of this semi-autobiographical novel about growing up on the Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century, it’s because US reactionaries tried very hard to bury the history of 1930s communist literature – and succeeded for a long time. We talk about left efforts to recover that history, plus Gold’s moving, hilarious, sad, and often shocking portrait of life in a Jewish tenement. We read the 1996 Carrol & Graf edition with an introduction by ultra-lib Alfred Kazin. You must read this introduction to, like us, get very mad and so you will understand why we dunk so hard on it. Ah, the end-of-history ‘90s, folks. For more on Gold, you should definitely check out Benjamin’s outstanding essay in Jacobin, “Mike Gold, the Writer Who Believed Workers Could Speak for Themselves” https://jacobin.com/2021/07/mike-gold-literature-jewish-american-proletariat-red-left. And you should also check out Benjamin’s fantastic book, Anti-Imperialist Modernism: Race and Transnational Radical Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War from University of Michigan Press. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Benjamin on Twitter @BL_Balthaser, Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:41:52
July 03, 2022
Episode 94: Season 5 Wrap-Up
In our Season 5 wrap-up, we try to stir up a little controversy amongst Yr Worships’s favorite book commies by rerunning Pilgrim’s Progress as a series of debates about the Greatest Hits (™) from past pods. A fierce argument breaks out over whether we have to lose Tristram Shandy or Ulysses from our boat to make it through the Slough of Despond – until we remember some jackass put a crate of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the hold. Which Season 5 failchild will we use as a life raft? (Pierre, obv., he’s pretty and buoyant what with entirely lacking a brain.) But never fear, we come together and make it to the Celestial City. Of communism. We’re off for a couple months, comrades, but will see you in the spring for Season 6! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
39:15
March 06, 2022
Episode 93: The Pilgrim's Progress
You all demanded it, so we delivered! Delivered you from evil. Today we have The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) otherwise known as John Bunyan’s Excellent Ambien Adventure. It’s about his dream of a Christian named Christian who sets off on a little journey to the Celestial City where the grass is green and the girls are into religious allegory. We follow our hero with his backpack full of sin as he meets wingmen like Faithful who is full of faith, a guy named Help who helps him, and a woman named Lust of the Flesh whom we should not have to explain any more about. You get it. Do we find salvation? Does Christian make it to Mount Zion? Is it a good idea to do mixed martial arts with a fish monster who wears bears as shoes? We answer all these questions and talk about genre, allegory, interpretation, and some Puritans who buckled their hats too tight. We read the Norton edition, with notes and introduction by Cynthia Wall. If you still can’t get enough of Pilgrim’s Progress, we highly recommend Gregory S. Jackson’s article “A Game Theory of Evangelical Fiction” (yes there is a Pilgrim’s Progress board game and yes there are pictures included) and David M. Diamond’s “Sinners and ‘Standers By’: Reading the Characters of Calvinism in The Pilgrim’s Progress.” And check out our Joseph Andrews episode, which David guest hosted! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:30:00
February 20, 2022
Episode 92: Inkle and Yarico
Today in “men are trash,” and enslaving, colonialist white men are the trashiest of trash, we bring you Sir Richard Steele’s 1711 Spectator retelling of the “Inkle and Yarico” story. For 150 years, versions of Inkle and Yarico were among the most famous narratives of British colonialism in the Americas, and we discuss a few of the most important examples. It’s a story in which an English merchant is saved by a Native woman, gets her pregnant, and promptly sells her into slavery. (As we said, the trashiest of trash.) We talk constructions of race, imperial violence, genre, and why this story was read in so many ways in the eighteenth century. We read from and highly recommend Frank Felsenstein’s English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World. For more on Inkle and Yarico and racist European representations of Native people from Columbus through the eighteenth century, we also recommend Peter Hulme’s Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:39
February 13, 2022
Episode 91: Lady Chatterley's Lover
Even we, three very experienced Book Jerks, weren’t really prepared for the nightmare that was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, aka Dicks out for Fash. One of us is Bolshier than ever, another has a distracted but still Polish mind, and the third is just a broken woman. We hope that you have your loins thoroughly girded, because this episode is sure to punch you right in those same loins. If you have haunches, watch out for punches to those too. We talk unsexy sex, Lawrence’s revolting fascist politics, disability, and… coal mining? We read the Penguin edition with the gross cover and intro by Doris Lessing. We do not recommend that you read this or any other edition, because your brain is much less smooth having not read it. We discuss it on the show and recommend Terry Eagleton’s chapter on Lawrence in The English Novel, because it is genuinely hilarious. We also recommend Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society and The Country and the City, because they both mention Lawrence and we all need more Raymond Williams in our lives. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:42
February 06, 2022
Episode 90: Persuasion
If you like dunking on useless aristocrats, novels brimming with the psychological tension of unfulfilled desire, and ships, have we got a great one for you! Persuasion (1818) is Jane Austen’s last completed novel, and as it involves boats, it is obviously Tristan’s favorite. We talk changing class forms, the novel’s interest in bodies and time, and capital-H History as both a lens onto the personal and the national/global. Katie also tells us what the U.S. version of a knighthood is – having a rest stop named for you on the New Jersey Turnpike. We read the magnificent Oxford edition with notes and introduction by friend-of-the-pod Deidre Shauna Lynch. There’s so much excellent Austen scholarship, but you can start with Lynch’s The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning or another favorite of ours, Claudia L. Johnson’s Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:38
January 30, 2022
Episode 89: Mrs. Dalloway
Modernist grouch, Bloomsbury group member, Freud-to-tea-haver, and Great Novelist Virginia Woolf takes center stage in our discussion of Mrs. Dalloway (1925). We recommend this book if you like books or good writing, and we discuss interwar anxiety, shell shock, gender trouble, and class. This episode also features some discussion of real nerd shit, including Viennese playwright/libertine Arthur Schnitzler and many, many Star Trek opinions. Many. Even for us. We read the new Liveright (Norton) edition with truly marvelous notes and introduction by Merve Emre. We recommend Elizabeth Abel’s Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis, because she shares our affection for reading Woolf with Freud. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:30:14
January 16, 2022
Episode 88: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Friend, comrade, fellow podcaster, and University of Pennsylvania Ph.D. candidate Devin Daniels joins us to discuss Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)! Devin is the co-host of You’re Tall but I’m Standing in Front of You, and he’s with us for a fun romp about an ordinary guy who likes maps and trips to Italy and is in no way weird or sinister. He is not a confidence man in any way and definitely doesn’t kill people with ashtrays. We discuss gender construction, surveillance mechanisms, self-making, and queerness. We also consider the ethics of telling people about your European vacations and if you should ever do that. We read the Vintage edition. We mention it on the episode and recommend Erin Carlston’s book Double Agents, which is about queer fiction and spying in 20th century literature. And we really really insist that you go check out the cluster of essays that Devin and Kimberly Andrews edited for Post45’s Contemporaries series on Nic f*cking Cage. Find Devin on Twitter @stalecooper and You’re Tall but I’m Standing in Front of You @youretallpod. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:29:46
December 19, 2021
Episode 87: Pierre, Part 2
Wrapping up our two-parter on Herman Melville’s Pierre (1852), we talk about religion, the mind bending plot, what Melville was doing with these characters, writing and publishing, and a splash of Transcendentalism. We also consider the eternal question: what are ladies for? Tristan delivers a discourse on sea clocks and why sailors used to just have to go on vibes to know where they were. And stay tuned for the game, when you’ll find out how many elephants your hair can hold up. Farewell, Pierre! We will miss you and some of your cousins. For some reading that is fun and also educational (for real!) check out Joel Pfister and Nancy Schnog’s edited collection Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America. We recommend especially John Demos’s essay, “History and the Psychosocial: Reflections on Oedipus and America.” Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:18:03
December 12, 2021
Episode 86: Pierre, Part 1
This week we are bringing you what the people want, and have always wanted, Herman Melville’s Pierre (1852)! Wait, you don’t want to read a book about a guy who breaks up with his mom for his sister? But you haven’t even heard about his dad yet! Technically it’s more of a painting of his dad, but the painting has a mischievous stare that lets you know it’s very into French ladies. And that’s how Pierre got a secret sister. He likes her more than a friend. She likes hiding in her hair and playing guitar more than a friend. This makes Pierre’s mom so mad she throws a fork into a painting of herself. We didn’t make this up. Herman Melville did. Come take a ride with us. We discuss why Melville is so cool, the mom/dad/sister triad, artistic mediation, and the nation. This is a two-parter, so come back next week to find out how it ends! We read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Robert S. Levine and Cindy Weinstein. For more on this totally regular book, check out Gillian Brown’s “Anti-sentimentalism and Authorship in Pierre” in Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in Nineteenth-Century America. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:28:51
December 05, 2021
Episode 85: Caleb Williams
This week, we bring you the OG ACAB novel, William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794). We very much stan Godwin, awesome radical, proto-anarchist, Mary Wollstonecraft wifeguy AND Mary Shelley daughterguy. Caleb Williams is about a rich dude who really does mean well, but does that matter? Of course not! It’s structure, structure, structure, so he does murder and then hounds his poor servant (Caleb Williams) all over Britain when his servant finds out about it. We talk Jacobinism, 1790s politics, and Godwin’s utopia of reason. This book rocks so much it almost made Meg an eighteenth-centuryist. We read the Oxford edition with notes and introduction by Pamela Clemit. For more on Godwin, his politics and fiction, and his connection to other BRtD favorites, check out Clemit’s The Godwinian Novel: The Rational Fictions of Godwin, Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley. Note to listeners: we’re off next week (blame capitalism, for real). But then we’ll be back with an epic two-parter on Herman Melville’s Pierre! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:30:14
November 21, 2021
Episode 84: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Closing out this year’s Halloween episodes, we have the much-requested Picture of Dorian Gray (1890/91) by Oscar Wilde. You probably know the story. Magic picture gets old while dude the picture is of stays young, dumb, and, uh, dtf? And smoking lots of opium, for it is late Victorian London, and what else does one do? We talk queerness and sexuality, how aesthetics might actually be liberatory, as well as Wilde’s (very good!) politics and tragic bio. We also dive into Wilde’s literary innovation of the f*ck flower. We read the Penguin edition with notes and introduction by Robert Mighall, which we highly recommend as it gives you both a sampling of the hilarious freakout by reactionary late-C19th chud reviewers AND the (exceptionally light) edits and expansions Wilde made between the 1890 and 1891 versions in part to “appease” them (read: screw with them even more). For a great recent article on how Dorian Gray subverts Victorian epistemological claims, check out Chiara Ferrari’s “Subversive Aims: Science and Contamination in Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.” Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:35
November 14, 2021
Episode 83: The Case of George Dedlow
The next installment in our Halloween fright fest comes from the guy who brought us classics like “the rest cure” and a book called Fat and Blood: It’s Silas Weir Mitchell’s 1866 short story “The Case of George Dedlow.” The noted Philadelphia physician gave us this fine tale of a Civil War doctor(ish) who loses all of his limbs in a series of events so unfortunate you won’t believe people thought it was a true story. And you extra won’t believe that once you hear about the ending. We chat about epistemology, the mind/body connection, nineteenth-century medicine, photography, the genre of the case, and which one of the Real Housewives is most Christ-like. We read the version from the 1900 publication The Autobiography of a Quack and the Case of George Dedlow. Go to the Mütter Museum. We recommend checking out Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science (2017) by Shauna Devine for further reading. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:31:22
November 07, 2021
Episode 82: Carrie
Friends, it’s our third annual Halloween series! We’re talking about Stephen King’s horror classic Carrie (1974), which is about a teenage girl with telekinesis, which the “scientists” cited in the novel conveniently refer to as “TK.” We discuss King’s uneven canon and its political resonances (lots of liberal stuff, but we obviously deliberately misread.) In typical BRtD manner, we talk about the evils of people who ask, “do you know who my dad is?” For those interested in Brian DePalma’s 1976 movie version, we touch on how it does and doesn’t follow the novel, and how they’re both really good. We talk about the “female” body, high school social orders, and Skinny Legend Jonathan Edwards. We read the Anchor mass market edition. It’s about a different King novel, but we recommend Adrian Daub’s “Where ‘It’ Was: Rereading Stephen King’s ‘It’ on Its 30th Anniversary” from the LA Review of Books, September 11, 2016. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:22:32
October 31, 2021
Episode 81: McTeague
Hey comrades! We’re back with more swears, random Frankfurt School references, and messy book takes. In our Season 5 opener, UChicago PhD candidate, friend of the pod, and union organizer Josh Stadtner talks with us about Frank Norris’s McTeague (1899), which is about an amateur dentist and his obsession with a concertina. We establish that Frank Norris was a frat douche and social Darwinist (yeesh), and that his having written in the late 19th/early 20th century is still not the slightest excuse for this. We talk about the scene in which a lady has some steamy naked times with a pile of money. This really happens in the novel and we did not make it up. We talk about teeth, money, the terrifying desert, and Freudian forms. We read the Norton Critical Edition with an introduction by Donald Pizer. We recommend you go back to a classic and read Georg Lukács’s 1936 essay “Narrate or Describe?” to bone up on your “is naturalism good?” takes. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Josh on Twitter @joshstadtner, Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:28:05
October 24, 2021
Episode 80: Season 4 Wrap-Up
We are capping off Season 4 with a tribute to next season’s two-parter, Herman Melville’s sister-boinking polycule classic Pierre. We inhabit the mind of Melville and create a Frankenstein Pierre using some old favorites. All we have to do is find a mom with no chill, a theme for our polycule, a “man-child invincible,” a sister to pine after, a forgettable plot device character, and someone to write this bananas-ass book. Plus Jello. You don’t need to know anything about Pierre to have a good time with this unholy creation, but we hope you want to by the end of the episode. While you’re listening, we suggest you find a recipe for Pretzel Salad, google some pictures of the Phillie Phanatic, and scroll through Joe Gorga’s instagram (@joeygorga) for some nuggets of New Jersey wisdom. You won’t regret any of it. As you may have guessed, this is our last episode of the season. We'll be back with you in the fall, comrades! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
43:52
August 15, 2021
Episode 79: Wieland
This week we are thrilled to bring you Charles Brockden Brown’s 1798 novel Wieland. It’s about a guy who gets tricked by a ventriloquist into murdering his family and—we can’t stress this enough—not anybody else. Not another soul was present. There was absolutely no other character involved in this situation. Even to suggest it would be ridiculous. And that’s final. Also, the ventriloquist is a clown who shows up at a stranger’s house demanding milk. There is spontaneous human combustion. Please read this book. We talked about the gothic, the terrifying continent of Europe, and religion and madness. And we have our own moment of quasi-religious epiphany: this book is early American It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Bryan Waterman, which includes Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist. For more on Wieland, ventriloquism, and so much more, we recommend Leigh Eric Schmidt’s Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment. It’s amazing. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:52
August 08, 2021
Episode 78: Lucy
After devoting much of this podcast to the pressing topic of Dads Who Are A**holes (and have failsons), here’s our second back-to-back episode on Moms Who Are A**holes (this time with a success daughter). We love Jamaica Kincaid, and we especially love her 1990 novella Lucy about a young West Indian woman who comes to work as an au pair for clueless bourgie white people in the United States. We’re talking race and colonialism, capital, gender and sexuality, and, yes, mothers. We also plunge into the pressing question: why do rich white sh*theads love claiming to be “Indian” so much? We read the Ferrar, Straus and Giroux edition. There are two pieces of scholarship we talk about on the show which we highly recommend. For how Lucy explores outsider-ness as a way of disrupting white, bourgeois structures, check out Jennifer J. Nichols’s “‘Poor Visitor’: Mobility as/of Voice in Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy” in MELUS. And for more on Lucy’s sexual adventures as strategies of resistance and becoming, see Gary E. Holcomb’s “Travels of a Transnational Slut: Sexual Migration in Kincaid’s Lucy” in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:17:60
August 01, 2021
Episode 77: No-No Boy
It’s a drizzly day in Seattle in John Okada’s No-No Boy (1957), and we’re feeling the mood. No-No Boy is about Ichiro Yamada, a Japanese-American man who refused military service after being drafted from an internment camp and was imprisoned for it. He careens around Seattle and Portland, turning down jobs (always a good instinct) and connecting and disconnecting from his friends and family (including his rather… conspiratorially-minded mother.) We discuss war-era masculinity, citizenship, and racialization. We get into the absolutely wild publication history of this novel, which was (re)found, (re)published, and then published without the estate’s permission. We read the University of Washington Press edition with forward by Ruth Ozeki, introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada, and afterward by Frank Chin. We recommend King-Kok Cheung’s Articulate Silences as a foundational work in Asian-American literary studies, and Jeffrey Santa Ana’s Racial Feelings: Asian America in a Capitalist Culture of Emotion for a recent study of Asian-American literature/affect studies. *Note to our listeners -- Katie is off this episode. She’ll be back next week. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:16:59
July 18, 2021
Episode 76: Silas Marner
The Bible says something somewhere about children who are worth their weight in gold. Well, George Eliot’s Silas Marner (1861) explores what would happen if we took that proverb super literally! (Or figuratively? Mythically! That’s it. Or is this more of a fable? Wait, it’s a realist novel???) Silas Marner is about a linen weaver in the Midlands countryside whom the village folk assume is Gandalf (natch) and who adopts a daughter who mysteriously appears at his door. But, as with everything Eliot wrote, it’s also about, uh, everything -- industrialization, capital, parentage, class, religion and modernity, epistemology, and much much more. We read the Oxford edition with notes and introduction by Juliette Atkinson. For an excellent discussion of how Silas Marner critiques materialist/financial forms of value, see Mary Poovey’s influential Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain. And for a landmark study of how the English novel was shaped by -- and critiqued -- the emergence of the capitalist market, as always, we recommend Deidre Shauna Lynch’s The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning. *Note to our listeners -- Megan is off this episode. She’ll be back next week. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:28
July 11, 2021
Episode 75: The Great Gatsby
If you’re one of those try-hards who read this for the AP Lit test (and we are), you’ll be pleased to see us finally take this one on. This week we have F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, which is about extremely non-embarrassing things like throwing enormous parties so your ex-girlfriend will notice you. We talk about Fitzgerald’s accounts of sex and money, gender and sexuality, and Long Island guys who are really transplants so they go particularly hard. We read the Scribner edition with introduction by Jesmyn Ward. For a wild ride, read Gore Vidal’s “Scott’s Case,” published in the May 1 1980 issue of The New York Review of Books, as it contains some truly wacky bon mots, like “All Americans born between 1890 and 1945 wanted to be movie stars,” which… probably not? Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:20:39
July 04, 2021
Episode 74: Dune
It is time to ride the worm and ask the eternal question “what’s in the box?” This week we have Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic about a future where drugs have replaced computers, the nuns are magic and scary, money is worm [redacted], and the East India Company rules space. We chat about this book’s politics, and we get into religion, time, and environmentalism. You simply must try the spice. Everything will make sense. Even the terrifying toddlers in grim reaper robes. Fear is the mind killer. We read the Penguin edition with an afterword by Brian Herbert. Check out Jordan S. Carroll’s excellent piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books “Race Consciousness: Fascism and Frank Herbert’s Dune,” which we read excerpts from in this episode. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:21:47
June 27, 2021
Episode 73: The Man of Feeling
If you like feckless boobs who are also giant crysacks (Megan does not), do we have a book for you! Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771) is a classic sentimental novel with all the trimmings -- a useless protagonist who thinks crying is hot and who can’t stop getting conned by every sharp, coxcomb, and failson in London. It’s a delightfully ridiculous book, one we suspect is very much in on the joke, and we talk discourses of feeling, sentimental critiques of empire and capital, and the funniest sorry sorry we meant saddest death scene in all of eighteenth-century literature. We read the Oxford edition edited by Brian Vickers with notes and introduction by Stephen Bending and Stephen Bygrave. There’s a ton of scholarship on sentiment and the related "cult of sensibility," and we highly recommend both Janet Todd’s Sensibility: An Introduction and John Mullan’s Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:18
June 20, 2021
Episode 72: Lolita, Part 2
We close up our discussion of Lolita and try not to reflect too much on what has brought us to this point. We consider what sort of people would read this as a morality play, and what in the actual eff is wrong with them (everything). We talk about the road novel as a genre, the doppelgänger (doing a Freud while simultaneously hating the Good Doctor), what reading “with” a character is like, and why this book makes it so difficult not to talk about word objects as though they’re “people.” Also, Tristan is still feeling pretty bolshy, and we indulge in a fun round of “you might be a Russian novelist if.” We read the Alfred Appel, Jr. Annotated Lolita published by Vintage. As before, we’re kinda not into Nabokov criticism, so either go watch the Kubrick movie (really good! veeeeerrrry different) and have a Kubrick-fest, or read some of Nabokov’s other books—Ada if you’re a word pervert, The Defense if you’re a chess pervert, or Pnin if you’re an academic and therefore every kind of pervert. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:59
June 13, 2021
Episode 71: Lolita, Part 1
Our Season Four two-parter is on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), and there’s some truly gruesome material here. If you’ve ever wondered where a Vulgar Marxist and an As*hole with Fussy Modernist Aesthetics might diverge in opinion, it’s over this one. We talk about noveliness, comedy, being a reader (bad and good), and the book’s review genealogy. We roll our eyes over blunt commentary (Blanche Schwartzman, really) and nonstop Edgar Allen Poe references. We read the Alfred Appel, Jr. Annotated Lolita (more on the annotations next week, yowza) published by Vintage. The scholarly engagements with this book are pretty terrible, so we recommend browsing around contemporaneous reviews (The National Review said, “[Nabokov] excoriates the materialist monstrosities of our civilization—from progressive education to motel architecture”) but maybe also check out this listicle of Lolita covers: https://lithub.com/the-60-best-and-worst-international-covers-of-lolita/ ? Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:16:10
June 06, 2021
Episode 70: Black No More
Friend of the pod, cultural critic, and Northwestern University professor of African American literature Lauren Michele Jackson joins us for our discussion of George Schuyler’s Black No More (1931). If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to read a wacky-ass novel written by a socialist-turned-right-wing nut, have we got the one for you. Schuyler’s novel takes up the story of what might happen if there were a machine that turned black people white (extra-white, in fact) and how various social and political actors would handle it. Spoiler: the KKK doesn’t handle it great. We discuss the terms/objects of satire and whether Schuyler was mostly just being a dick when he wrote this, the notion of the “grift” or confidence scheme, and how the novel puts pressure on “race” as a series of concepts. We read the Penguin edition with an introduction by Danzy Senna. For more context on Schuyler and his contentious relationship with other black writers of the 1920s and ‘30s, you can read Schuyler’s essay “The Negro-Art Hokum” and Langston Hughes’s response, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” And, of course, we highly recommend Lauren’s White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue… and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, published by Beacon Press. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Lauren on Twitter @proseb4bros, Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:24
May 30, 2021
Episode 69: Of One Blood
Got a sister? Are you SURE you don’t have a sister? Pauline Hopkins's Of One Blood (1902-1903) explores this important question along with mesmerism, race, the legacy of American slavery, colonialism and imperialism in Africa, and--somehow--much more. In this episode we simply marvel at the adventures of our protagonist, doctor, anti-colonialist Indiana Jones, enemy of big cats, and king of the ancient Ethopian secret city of Telassar. This novel blew our minds, knocked our socks off, while keeping our pants secured in an upright position. Because you never know who your sister might be. We read the edition from The Givens Collection with an introduction by Deborah E. McDowell. For more on Hopkins’s amazing work check out Dana Luciano’s “Passing Shadows: Melancholic Nationality and Black Critical Publicity in Pauline E. Hopkins’s Of one Blood” in David L. Eng and David Kazanjian’s Loss: the Politics of Mourning (2002). And if you’d like to learn more about the wild world of mesmerism, we recommend Emily Ogden’s Credulity: A Cultural History of US Mesmerism (2018). Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:11:36
May 23, 2021
Episode 68: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Are you on the bus or off it, man? The book commies, dear listener, are decidedly off it. Or rather, we’re punching, clawing, screaming, and fighting our way out of this goddamn thing, past balls-trippin’ Ken Kesey, speed-addled Neal Cassady, the rest of the Merry Pranksters, and the 400+ freaking pages Tom Wolfe decided to write about them. It’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) this week, and we’re wrapping up our convo on the New Journalism and talking the counterculture’s reactionary side, how saying “f*ck it” actually isn’t a politic, man, and the psychology of going through one’s professional life wearing an all-white three-piece suit. We read the Picador USA edition. Wolfe thought he basically invented New Journalism, and he did coin the term in the 1973 anthology called The New Journalism. You can check that out for more from Wolfe and our old pals Didion, Capote, McGinniss, and other people we might get around to talking about on the show someday. If you don’t want to read Acid Test, or at least want a skimming aid, just watch Magic Trip, the 2011 (heavily edited) release of the film from the Pranksters’ 1964 escapades. Cassady is very high. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:22:60
May 16, 2021
Episode 67: The Journalist and the Murderer
Friend of the pod Sebastian Stockman joins us for the second episode in our three-part series on The New Journalism. Sub is a teaching professor in English at Northeastern University, and a journalist and essayist. We discuss Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer (1990), a book about another book -- Joe McGinniss’s Fatal Vision, for which the subject (convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald) sued McGinniss for fraud. We take up the whole idea of the “nonfiction novel,” Malcolm’s interest in psychoanalysis as a lens for thinking about the journalist-subject relationship, and the ethics of writing about real people. Tristan also gets to dunk on William F Buckley (his favorite thing), and Sub shares some tips on good work habits via Tom Wolfe -- we’ll get to him next week. We read the Vintage edition. For more Malcolm, you can read In the Freud Archives, which Sub talks about on the show. That book spawned its own famous lawsuit, an experience Malcolm discusses in The Journalist and the Murderer and which, in part, frames her discussion of the McGinniss case. You should also check out Sub’s newsletter! You can find it -- and subscribe! -- here: https://sebastianstockman.substack.com. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Sub on Twitter @substockman, Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:33:39
May 09, 2021
Episode 66: The White Album
DID YOU MISS US? Reading with Reds returns for Season Four, and we’re talking about Joan Didion’s The White Album as the first of a three-part series on The New Journalism. We discuss Didion’s recording and perception of the 1960s, non-fiction writing and style, reactionary politics, and why you have to take a bottle of bourbon on all your travels. Remember to email us with suggestions for institutions that we should for real abolish, like for real for real. We read the Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux edition. We recommend Sulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex because Didion hates it and it deserves to be revisited. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus. And next week, journalist Sebastian Stockman joins us to talk about The Journalist and the Murderer, so definitely don’t miss it!
01:24:17
May 02, 2021
Episode 65: Season 3 Wrap-Up
Join us as we revisit some of our favorite fail-lords of the season and conduct a highly scientific and professional grading meeting! We discuss the dastardly deeds of professors and shrubbery as we take a look back at Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter" (1844) to determine final grades for “Evil STEM 207.” Then we get into Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959) to find out whether "blood dad" or "tall nephew" is at the top of the fail-class in “Spooky Real Estate 305.” We then perform the highest stakes assessment of all as we review the robust mustaches and costume enthusiasts of Sydney Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806) and award grades for “King Shit 433," which is required if you would like to receive your official Better Read than Dead Sexy Harp Playing Certificate. Then we toast our favorite success-sons, recall some top-notch literary ding dongs from past seasons, and close the book on BRtD Season 3! We will be back this spring with brand new episodes including F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925), Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), and Frank Herbert's Dune (1965)! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
51:58
January 17, 2021
Episode 64: Absalom, Absalom!
If you’ve been listening to Better Read for a bit, you’re probably aware that Megan’s favorite genre of novel is "brother hearts sister but in a distressing sex way." In that vein, we present one of the absolute classics of the genre, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, which is 300 pages but feels longer. A lot longer. The novel features an upwardly-downwardly mobile Scots-Irish bigamist and his children, both “legitimate” and “illegitimate,” and the problem of racial panic in the 19th-century US. We talk about race, colonization, incest (of course), property, and style. In lieu of a game we induct some very special novels and films into the Literary Incest Hall of Fame. We read the Vintage edition. We sort of recommend the midcentury books on Faulker like Irving Howe’s William Faulkner: A Critical Study, but suggest first checking out Toni Morrison’s article “The Color Fetish” from the September 14, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. *Note to our listeners -- Katie is off this episode. She’ll be back next week. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:21
January 10, 2021
Episode 63: The Wild Irish Girl
In keeping with Better Read than Dead’s mission of bringing you literature’s greatest failsons -- and Tristan’s favorite genre of novel, “feckless boob goes on a trip” -- may we present Sydney Owenson’s The Wild Irish Girl (1806) and its hero, Horatio M. (We assume he just forgot the rest of his last name.) Horatio is an English aristocrat whose dad exiles him to Ireland in penance for his failsonery, but he soon becomes quite horny for both a harp-playing Irish princess and for Ireland itself, where Horatio learns they do many mind-blowing things -- have picturesque ruins, speak Irish, and grow mustaches. We’re talking gender, the nation, internal colonialism, and more! We read the Oxford edition with notes and introduction by Kathryn Kirkpatrick. For more on Owenson (a nineteenth-century radical!), we recommend Mary Campbell’s biography Lady Morgan: The Life and Times of Sydney Owenson. And for more on the nation, the novel, and imperialism, check out Katie Trumpener’s landmark Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:19:07
January 03, 2021
Episode 62: A Christmas Memory
If you need some salty tears in your fruitcake, have we got the one for you. We’re talking about Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory,” originally published in Mademoiselle in 1956. It’s his semi-autobiographical short story about a young boy’s friendship with his way-older cousin in 1930s Alabama and their alienation from the rest of the adults in the family, something that most of us can relate to. We talk about writing childhood, outsiderness, and the troubles with reading autobiography. We read the version in Vintage’s The Complete Stories of Truman Capote. We mention it in the show and recommend Steven Bruhm and Natasha Hurley’s collection Curiouser: On the Queerness of Children. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:16:41
December 27, 2020
Episode 61: A Child's Christmas in Wales
Ho ho ho! Or in Welsh, cywnwn cywnwn cywnwn! (Probably. Or definitely not, we don’t speak Welsh). For the first of two Christmas episodes this year, we’re getting all poetic-like -- or rather, prose fiction that follows TONS of poetic conventions -- with Dylan Thomas’s 1952 A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Whether you love Christmas or hate it, this is a beautiful and hilarious piece, and a lot more complex than its surface nostalgia would indicate. We talk mythic vs. historical time, the nation, class, and more, plus Thomas’s notoriously messy (and, ultimately, tragic) biography. We read the David R. Godine edition, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. For more on Thomas, two often-cited biographies are those by Paul Ferris (1977) and Andrew Lycett (2003). Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:14:47
December 20, 2020
Episode 60: The Screwtape Letters
This week we descend into the bowels of hell to bring you C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (1942), a Christian epistolary novel about what happens when your demon uncle is also your boss and you’re both very concerned with meeting the Dark Lord’s soul quota for professional reasons. We talk about religion, Anglicanism, Lewis’s politics (confusing!), and Eton’s satellite campus in the underworld. We also discuss the two surest paths to damnation: saying “after you, my dear” too much and complaining about toast. We read the Harper Collins 60th anniversary edition, which includes “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” For more C.S. Lewis, check out his series of safety tips following an enchanted journey through furniture, The Chronicles of Narnia. If you don’t have time to read those just remember not to take candy from any sexy witches and that lions are your friends who would never eat you, unlike your demon uncle. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:19:32
December 13, 2020
Episode 59: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Have you ever wondered how to take some pointless old rich men for a ride? Have you ever wanted to learn to do close-up magic with a diamond tiara? Join us for a discussion of Anita Loos’s 1924 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and hear all about diamonds, silly hats, funny brunette best friends, and remarkably dumb aristocrats. We talk about money, sexuality, and gender, and living the dream of having a rich husband and a fun boyfriend at the same time. We also ponder the timeless question, “what do gentlemen prefer?” turning to a most educational Cosmo survey of thousands of “horny men.” We read the Liveright edition with an introduction by Jenny McPhee. We recommend Loos’s autobiography A Girl Like I and T.E. Blom’s 1976 reconsideration of the novel, “Anita Loos and Sexual Economics: ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’” published in The Canadian Review of American Studies. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:21:00
December 06, 2020
Episode 58: Rappaccini's Daughter
Under no circumstances should you stop and smell the flowers. We learned this lesson and had many more plant-based epiphanies chatting about Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1844 short story, “Rappaccini's Daughter.”  This tale is set in a sinister garden in Padua, Italy, and we find out some similarly sinister facts about Megan's loving embrace of shrubs. We chat about science and medicine in the olden days, the gothic, monks who probably should have just peed their pants, scary Catholics, and (most importantly) incest. We meet a real hall-of-fame ding dong, Giovanni, and discuss his ill-fated courtship with Buca di Beppo's daughter, a living breathing Georgia O'Keeffe painting. This blooming maiden has both a morose and monomaniacal dad and a secret, and we dive deep into both.  We conclude with a game that contains shocking Hamburger Helper-related revelations.  After its initial publication, "Rappaccini's Daughter" was included in Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse (1846). After Melville read it he wrote his famous 1850 review "Hawthorne and His Mosses" and we highly recommend you check that out too--but please be sure to budget some time for a cold shower afterward.  Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:02
November 29, 2020
Episode 57: A Passage to India
The book commies get into one of our favorite topics this week -- liberal imperialism (well, *dunking on* liberal imperialism is one of our favorite topics, because it is very, very bad). We’re conflicted about E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924), a novel with some great writing (you know, Forster) that tries to think seriously about empire’s many incoherences and oppressive structures… but that also tends to reproduce those incoherences and structures. And that does plenty of its own “orientalizing.” And then there’s the novel's extremely fraught and fucked up gender politics. (Marabar Caves, wtf.) Tl;dr Edward Said was right, again. Speaking of Said, you can find his brilliant reading of A Passage to India in Culture and Imperialism, one of those extremely famous critical texts that very much deserves its reputation and is always worth revisiting. For more on liberal imperialism, we highly recommend Uday Singh Mehta’s Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought. *Note to listeners: we’re actually doing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” next week. We’re saving “The Minister’s Black Veil” for a future Halloween. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:21
November 22, 2020
Episode 56: A Clockwork Orange
Wrench those eyeballs wide open for our discussion of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962), a novel about a teenage droog and his rehabilitation by a dystopian police state. We have a very hard time with the politics of this one, given that they’re wildly incoherent, but we discuss the language games, ultraviolence, the police state, and the conditions of Kids These Days. We get into the “angry young man” genre and how this novel does a pretty shitty job with what is actually a cool moment in British class politics. We read the Norton edition, edited by Mark Rawlinson. We do not recommend Burgess’s own introduction to the book, because it ruins what remains of the novel’s fun qualities. We discuss Dick Hebdige’s germinal Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) and recommend it for anyone interested in cultural studies and youthful rebellion. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:40
November 15, 2020
Episode 55: Joseph Andrews
Friend of the pod David Diamond visits us to talk about Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1742) and join in Tristan and Katie’s nefarious plot to turn Megan into an eighteenth-centuryist. David is assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, a scholar of religion and literature, and a Fielding expert. We discuss the relationship between Calvinist thought and novelistic character, how Joseph Andrews has pretty good class AND gender politics (especially for the time), and why eighteenth-century literature is so raunchy. We also manage a few dunks on Samuel Richardson and that asshole Colley Cibber, and Katie discovers that Joey Andrews is a Jersey guy. We read the Oxford edition edited by Douglas Brooks-Davies and Martin C. Battestin with an introduction by Thomas Keymer. For more on Fielding, theology, and secularism, we highly recommend David’s essay “Secular Fielding,” published in ELH: English Literary History in 2018. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find David on Twitter @david_m_diamond, Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:32:20
November 08, 2020
Episode 54: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
We conclude our 2020 Halloween spectacular with the scariest one yet, Jonathan Edwards’s 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” That’s right, we read an EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY SERMON voluntarily. If that’s not chilling enough, to wrap things up we take a very special journey to H-E-double hockey sticks ourselves. We get into Calvinist theology, Enlightenment thought, demon babies, the First Great Awakening and Edwards’s status as a skinny legend—and the surprising location where you can read more about that last one. We also discuss his place among slave-owning shitheads. For more on Edwards, check out Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden and Kenneth P. Minkema’s article “Jonathan Edwards on Slavery and the Slave Trade.” For more on Edwards and the logic and legacy of Hellfire sermons, see Gregory S. Jackson’s chapter “Hell’s Plot: The Hermeneutic of Fear” in The Word and Its Witness. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:18
November 01, 2020
Episode 53: The Haunting of Hill House
We continue Halloween 2020 with Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House! We talk about Women Who Are A Problem, sexuality, what the f*ck a pompous spiritualist is doing just showing up for no reason, space and home, and the haunted house genre. Basically, everybody who wrote a horror novel in the second half of the 20th century loves the shit out of this novel, so thanks Shirley Jackson, now we have Ira Levin who also rules. For more on the haunted house, we recommend William Gleason’s Sites Unseen: Architecture, Race, and American Literature. We always recommend reading more Shirley Jackson, particularly her other major novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Carmen Maria Machado has an interview about the novel in The Atlantic, in which she says, “the ‘friendship’ between Theodora and Eleanor in The Haunting of Hill House is unmistakably some of the gayest shit I’ve ever read,” which is just true. And of course go back and listen to our episode on “The Lottery”! Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:21:31
October 25, 2020
Episode 52: The Monkey's Paw
Welcome to our second annual Halloween spooktacular! We begin our frightfest with W. W. Jacobs’s 1902 short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” We talk about the historical and political implications of this story, from the racist legacy of imperialism and the insurance industry to hazardous labor conditions and mortgages. On a lighter note, we get into the overvaluation of Herberts and learn a very important lesson: the only thing scarier than wishing on a cursed monkey's paw is what bonobos do with theirs. For more on slavery, empire, and insurance, we highly recommend Ian Baucom’s tremendous Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. If one of your three wishes is to read more W. W. Jacobs, we recommend The Lady of the Barge (1902), an anthology of short stories including other terrifying tales like "A Golden Venture," which may or may not be about what you think it's about, and "Cupboard Love," which is about exactly what you think it's about. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:18:21
October 18, 2020
Episode 51: The Call of the Wild
We are talking about Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903), a book about a dog named Buck, his manly adventures on the frontier, and his tragic love affair with a guy named John Thornton whose hand he likes to chew on. Because he is a dog. Fortunately, that didn’t stop Jack London from narrating this tale entirely from Buck's point of view! We talk about how violent, erotic, and racist this novel is and then engage in some sport of our own to determine who will be crowned the Big Dog of the podcast. We read the Oxford Edition, edited by Earle Labor. If you can’t get enough of London, check out The Book of Jack London (1921), by Charmian Kittredge London. It includes not one but two chapters titled “Tramping,” so you know it’s good. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:37
October 11, 2020
Episode 50: Tristram Shandy, Part 2
Comrades! It’s our 50th episode!! And what better way to celebrate than wrapping up our discussion of one of the raddest books of all time, Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-67)? Fear not, we are *far* from exhausting the staggering number of dick jokes you find in these spry nine volumes. But we also talk about the politics and philosophy behind the sentimental novel, how Sterne simultaneously loved that genre and thought it was a prime target for satire, and how discourses of feeling and of the body intersect. In addition, we finally get to the amours of Uncle Toby and the Widow Wadman and discover that reading a goddamn map is apparently an extremely horny thing to do. And, as a teaser to our upcoming Henry Fielding episode, we land a few sick burns on the sentimental novel’s OG himself, Samuel Richardson. We read the Penguin edition, with an introduction by Christopher Ricks and edited by Melvyn New and Joan New. There’s a ton of great scholarship on the sentimental novel on both sides of the Atlantic, but John Mullan’s Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century remains a terrific account of the conceptual underpinnings of the genre and has a ton on Sterne’s place within it. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:32:47
October 04, 2020
Episode 49: Tristram Shandy, Part 1
MADAM, today we have the first of two episodes on Tristan’s *favorite novel ever,* Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. This behemoth, published in nine honking volumes between 1759 and 1767, is filthy, and silly, and brilliant, and absolutely delightful. Yes, dick jokes abound (good ones! for the most part). But Tristram Shandy is also about challenging, important, and baffling questions: What does it mean to write a life? Have you ever noticed how weird an object a book is? How the f*ck do we know that we know anything? And why, MADAM, do you have such a dirty mind, because the Rev. Doctor Sterne was MOST CERTAINLY NOT about to say the thing you thought he was about to say (how dare you? nudge nudge wink wink). We read the Penguin edition, with an introduction by Christopher Ricks and edited by Melvyn New and Joan New. It’s a bit old, but Melvyn New’s Laurence Sterne as Satirist: A Reading of ‘Tristram Shandy’ has good context for figuring out Sterne’s iconoclastic place in the whole “rise of the English novel” tradition. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:35:39
September 27, 2020
Episode 48: Go Tell It on the Mountain
It’s taken us a while to get to James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), which is too bad because it is delightful. We wander the many paths of this novel’s points of view, and talk about Pentecostalism, midcentury black literary debates (who’s mad at who among Wright, Baldwin, Himes, Ellison, Redding, et al.), and why Baldwin is enjoying a bit of a Moment. Following some of our many Pod Themes, we talk about bad dads and awesome aunts -- and the process of coming (out) to Jesus. We read the Vintage International edition. We recommend Baldwin’s own nonfiction writing and discuss both Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name. Given our (Megan’s) interest in literature and photography, we recommend Baldwin’s collaborations with Richard Avedon and Truman Capote. We also recommend Carmen Merport Quinoñes’s introduction to the unfinished photo collaboration “Unto the Dying Lamb” in PMLA from March of 2020. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:48
September 20, 2020
Episode 47: Ragged Dick
Get ready to give those bootstraps a nice firm tug, because we are opening Season 3 with Horatio Alger’s 1868 novel Ragged Dick! We discuss what critics have called the Dunkaroo of American literature. We chat about how much fun it is being a Very Good Boy living in a box on the streets of nineteenth-century New York City, the dangers of large Irish children, labor, finance capital, and why you should read this instead of Lean In. We read the Norton edition edited by Hildegard Hoeller, which includes Hoeller's essay, "Freaks and the American Dream: Horatio Alger, P. T. Barnum, and the Art of Humbug." For further reading, we suggest checking out one of Alger’s other novels, such as the elegantly titled Timothy Crump’s Ward (1866) or Ben’s Nugget (1882). Just kidding. Check out some of the excellent Ragged Dick send-ups, including Mark Twain’s 1879 “Poor Little Stephen Girard,” or Stephen Crane’s 1899 "A Self-Made Man: An Example of Success That Anyone Can Follow." Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:29:35
September 13, 2020
Episode 46: Season 2 Wrap-Up
For our Season 2 finale, we do a round of roasts and toasts. Hear us dunk more on the readership of The New Yorker, marvel at the dipshit failsonery of Horace Walpole, wonder why the f*ck Hester Prynne was so hot for Arthur Dimmesdale, and much much more! We still disagree sharply about how much one might cry while reading Little Women and not be embarrassed about it (don’t listen to Megan -- there’s no such thing as too much crying in the sentimental novel), but we very much agree that Billy Budd is extremely dope. Ships! Butts! Herman Melville! You’ll also want to listen for details on how to get some awesome Better Read than Dead swag if you leave us a review. And we say happy birthday to us! The pod is a year old! Stay safe, comrades. We’ll be back with you mid-September. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
45:00
July 26, 2020
Episode 45: The Dispossessed
Our friend and comrade Hilary Strang joins us this week to discuss Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) and we’re talking about anarcho-communism and utopia. Hilary is the director of the MA Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago and the co-host of the podcast Marooned on Mars with Matt and Hilary, about the works of Kim Stanley Robinson and leftism: https://anchor.fm/marooned-on-mars. The book is about the physicist Shevek and his encounters on the planet Urras, where he experiences egoizing on the part of “propertarians,” who are definitely bad guys because, you know, property. We discuss the sci-fi tradition of utopian worlds, anarchism and communism, the problems of scarcity/inequality, and the structure of the family. For more on Le Guin and utopia, we recommend Darko Suvin’s “Locus, Horizon, and Orientation: The Concept of Possible Worlds as a Key to Utopian Studies” from the journal Utopian Studies. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Marooned on Mars on Twitter @podcastonmars, Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:31:19
July 19, 2020
Episode 44: The Outsiders
It’s a real weeper this week: we’re reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967) and talking about tough, dangerous, sensitive teenagers and the readers who love them. You might be familiar with this book if you like teen melodrama (you should) or the 1983 movie with the entire Brat Pack. The book is about a 14-year-old greaser, Ponyboy Curtis, who is both School and Cool, his brothers Sodapop and Darry, and their gang of buddies, who range in charisma from Steve (who?) to Dally (why, Matt Dillon of course.) We discuss the emergence of young adult fiction, the invention of the “adolescent,” boy gangs, and teen cuddles. We mention it in the episode and suggest checking out Michael Cart’s Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism (we discuss the third edition from 2016). For funsies, might we also suggest checking out some of the 1940s and 50s books on adolescence, like Erik Erikson’s Childhood and Society (1950)? Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:13
July 12, 2020
Episode 43: The Masque of the Red Death
Have you ever tried to ride out a plague by welding yourself and 1,000 of your closest friends in a psychedelic castle for some depravity and debauchery? Only to have some ASSHOLE decide to show up to the party dressed as the plague? Except it turns out it’s not some asshole but the actual plague, and then all of you bleed out at once? It’s Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842) on the podcast today, and we’re talking symbols, aristocracy, and psychoanalysis. And, you know, more plague. We read the version in The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Tales and Sketches, 1831-1842, edited by Thomas O. Mabbott. For a comprehensive Poe biography, see Kenneth Silverman’s Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:11
July 05, 2020
Episode 42: Journal of the Plague Year
Not sure why we wanted to talk about Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (1722) in the middle of a global pandemic -- let’s just say we needed some light reading. Sorry folks, we’re commies, and historicists, and literature helps us think about f*cked up structures of the past, and of the present, and that’s what we’re doing today. We get into the Puritan/Dissenting theology behind Defoe’s historical novel about the 1665 Great Plague of London. But we also discover that he got a lot of things right about epidemiology and quarantine protocols, even if he did think “smells” and “little dragons” might make you sick, and we discuss what pre-Victorian representations of poverty looked like (somewhat less sociopathic!). Also, learned 17th-century Drs Megan and Tristan prescribe remedies for your ills which may involve, er, interesting uses of tobacco smoke. We read the Penguin Classics edition edited by Cynthia Wall. Helen Thompson’s essay “‘It was impossible to know these People’: Secondary Qualities and the Form of Character in A Journal of the Plague Year” in Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation is a terrific exploration of 17th-century epistemology and Defoe’s novel-thing. For a modern history of the Great Plague, see A. Lloyd Moote and Dorothy C. Moote’s The Great Plague: The Story of London’s Most Deadly Year. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:26
June 28, 2020
Episode 41: Of Mice and Men
It’s everyone’s favorite book from freshman English, John Steinbeck’s novella-play Of Mice and Men, which is about two migrant ranch workers in the 1930s and the incidents that befall them during one of their awful temp jobs. We do find the one moment of hilarity in this book, which concerns a very special asshole called Curley who keeps one of his hands in a big glove full of Vaseline to “keep it soft for his wife,” so there’s a little levity. We get into religion, class, loneliness, and the problems of fractured affects and bonds in the 1930s US. We discuss the many dead animals in this book, ranging in size from mice to dogs, and work through our collective annoyance with holding novelists to standards of political perfection (look, sometimes you stay friends with Elia Kazan). We recommend Barbara Foley’s Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929–1941. While they aren’t on Of Mice and Men, we also recommend Steinbeck’s journal Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath, in which he writes, “I'm not a writer; I've been fooling everybody, including myself,” which is… relatable. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:48
June 21, 2020
Episode 40: Parable of the Sower
On this episode, we talk environmental catastrophe, economic collapse, and racism in the 2020s. If any of that sounds awfully familiar, stay tuned, because we are diving into Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel about the long, slow end of the world. We get into class, the family, religion, the biblical parable (which we definitely all knew and did not have to google), race, and metaphor. We also chat about our cool, tall protagonist—a Black teenager who starts her own religion—and why blasting off into outer space with her sounds so much more appealing than the Elon Musk version. As you’re checking out more Octavia Butler, we recommend her 1980 essay “Lost Races of Science Fiction” on race, writing, and sci-fi. It was originally published in Transmission magazine, and you can find it reprinted in Vice’s Garage Magazine, Issue 15, as “In 1980: Octavia Butler Asked, Why Is Science Fiction So White?” Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:35:42
June 14, 2020
Episode 39: Things Fall Apart
We recorded this episode before the police murder of George Floyd and before the nationwide protests against structural racism and police terror. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and with all those fighting against white supremacism, capital, and the carceral state. This week, we take up a novel that deals with one specific scene in the long history of empire and anti-Black violence. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) concerns the early years of Britain’s formal colonization of what is now Nigeria. But it is also a story of precolonial Igbo society and culture, modernity, and one man’s damaging and obsessive masculinism. We talk anti-colonialism, race, paternity, gender, psychoanalysis, and ludicrous colonial uniforms. Penguin Classics has a very good deluxe edition that includes all of the African Trilogy -- Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God. For more on Achebe, his contexts, and ongoing debates in his critical reception, check out Jago Morrison’s Chinua Achebe from Manchester University Press. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:28:54
June 07, 2020
Episode 38: The Most Dangerous Game
We have made--and stand by--the claim that the whale is the most dangerous game of all. Well, apparently Richard Connell felt differently, because he wrote “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), all about a Russian aristocrat and his human-hunting playground, Ship Trap Island, which is actually called that, and has a swamp called Death Swamp, which is actually called that. The story’s hero is also a giant dope, who falls off a yacht (?) smoking a pipe in the middle of the ocean because he’s super cool and hunts snow leopards for sport. And admits to it. We discuss Obvious Symbolism, why you’d have a Russian villain in 1924 (because he’s Russian, duh), and genres of human-hunting fiction, which sadly seems not to be a field of academic study as of yet. The academic conversations around this work are so few that a Project Muse search for “Zaroff” turns up nine results, so we suggest you listen to the Orson Welles Suspense episode from 1943: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecEVvjBRqn8. We then suggest you watch or listen to everything Welles ever did because he was a comrade. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:24
May 31, 2020
Episode 37: On the Road
Once upon a time, Jack Kerouac got very drunk, taped a 120-foot roll of paper together, and started typing for three straight weeks. He ended up with On the Road (1957), in which Kerouac is “Sal Paradise,” his BFF Neal Cassady is “Dean Moriarty,” and which recounts their travels across the United States and Mexico -- full of cool musings on how wives are a drag, man, and how they call beer “cerveza” in Spanish. OK, we find plenty to dunk on in this famous Beat novel (e.g. misogyny, ambivalent-to-non-existent class politics or any politics for that matter, and racism/essentialism). But we also have a lot of great convo about the refusal of Cold War capitalist hegemony, homosociality and desire, the Beats, and how Kerouac is like a B minus minus minus Walt Whitman (sorry, we couldn’t resist). Also, Megan convinces Tristan and Katie that this is better if you read it as an eighteenth-century epistolary novel. We read the Penguin edition with an introduction by Kerouac biographer Ann Charters. For more on the Beats and gender, we highly recommend Michael Davidson’s Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics. And Megan’s article “Caption, Snapshot, Archive: On Allen Ginsberg's Photo-Poems” in the March 2019 issue of Criticism is a pretty kick-ass discussion of the Beats and image culture if we do say so ourselves. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:29
May 24, 2020
Episode 36: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill)
If you thought porn originated in 1972 or 2017 or with the invention of the pizza delivery man, goodness madam are you mistaken. We’re reading John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748/49), which reminds us that porn has existed ever since the media to make it have been around (see also: the very hornt paintings from Pompeii ca. 79 CE). Our young heroine Fanny boinks her way through this touching novel, revealing a staggering knowledge of profuse pubes and metaphors for penetration. We discuss the bildungsroman, sex and commerce, eighteenth-century liberal philosophy, John Locke, and John Cleland being a shameless size queen. We also feel the need to mention that this is a listener request, and we take those extremely seriously except we still won’t read Infinite Jest so don’t ask. We read the Oxford edition edited by Peter Sabor. For a landmark account of the interlinkages between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pornography and philosophical discourses, see Frances Ferguson’s Pornography, the Theory: What Utilitarianism Did to Action. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:48
May 17, 2020
Episode 35: Moby-Dick, Part 2
Regrettably, we bring our discussion of this whale of a tale to a close today. That's right, we are wrapping up Moby-Dick (1851). We talk labor, the environment, liberalism, and that chapter where they all get together and...uh...you'll see. We also get into why Ahab and Elizabeth Holmes might be more alike than you think. Unless you already think they are very much the same. In which case, they are exactly as alike as you'd expect. We read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Hershell Parker and Harrison Hayford. If you want to set sail on a vast, beautiful sea of knowledge and harpoon some ideas about Melville, check out Myra Jehlen's chapter in Readings at the Edge of Literature (2002), “The Novel and the Middle Class in America.” There is also a good Emerson joke in there! Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:28:40
May 10, 2020
Episode 34: Moby-Dick, Part 1
Continuing our Melville spectacular, we bring you the first of two episodes on Moby-Dick (1851). Yes, this is Melville’s famous, uh, novel? romance? manifesto? -- let’s say “book” and leave it at that -- about a megalomaniacal sea captain’s obsession with a really big whale. But did you know that whales are in fact fish? Honest, it’s in the book, people. Moby-Dick is about everything -- ontology, nature, society, the nation, race, ethnicity, queerness, and so much more. And we’re going to do our damnedest to get to all of it in these two shows. We love this bonkers text. We read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Hershell Parker and Harrison Hayford. If you want to read some very smart things about this whale of a tale, check out Herman Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Myra Jehlen. To get your Moby-Dick fix, start with "Incomparable America" by Leo Bersani and "When Is a Painting Most Like a Whale?: Ishmael, Moby Dick, and the Sublime" by Bryan Wolf. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:44
May 03, 2020
Episode 33: Benito Cereno
This week, we begin our three-part Melville spectacular with our friend, comrade, and very first guest host, Peter Coviello, Professor of American literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Pete is a scholar of Melville, empire, intimacy, and queer theory, and he’s a fellow traveler on the good ship San Dominick where everything is regular and normal! On this episode we shoot the salty sea breeze about Melville’s 1855 novella Benito Cereno, where Melville takes on racism, slavery, imperialism, ding-dong sea captains, and why Very Nice Liberals and tyrannical exploitation are so often bunkmates on the R.M.S. Society. We also get into slave revolts, sentimentality, suspense, boats, religion, spooky skeletons, and a docuseries we made up called “The Dad Definitely Did It,” where who did it is… anybody’s guess! Plus, we chat about a very special barbershop at sea where Cap’n Crunch can get a nice, close shave. We read Benito Cereno in the Pete’s marvelous Penguin Classics edition Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories. His introduction includes the line “Reader: keep an eye on that dog,” and dives deep into Melville’s brilliance and rage. And it sure did learn us a thing or two about hangings! Also be sure to check out Pete’s terrific essay “The American in Charity: ‘Benito Cereno’ and Gothic Anti-Sentimentality” in Studies in American Fiction. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Pete on Twitter @pcoviell, Tristan @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:33:43
April 26, 2020
Episode 32: Native Son
We can’t believe that we occasionally get to read books by real-deal leftists on this podcast, given the time we spend dunking on politically terrible novels, but Richard Wright is truly a fellow traveller. We discuss his 1940 novel Native Son, which is the story of a young Black man in Chicago and also the story of every diabolical and white supremacist institution of capital. So a lot of fun. We discuss the questions of determinism and naturalism, the form and possibilities of form in politically-oriented novels, and the questions of how Wright directs his critique. Wright’s own essay “How Bigger was Born,” included in most editions of Native Son, also informs our conversation and helps us to reflect on how Wright wanted to write a book that “would be so hard and deep that [readers] would have to face it without the consolation of tears.” We read the Harper Perennial edition. We recommend Bill Mullen’s Popular Fronts, which discusses Black literary culture in Chicago in the 1930s and '40s. Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front, about left literary and cultural production in the US in the '30s and '40s, is always worth revisiting. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:51
April 19, 2020
Episode 31: The Turn of the Screw
Here at Better Read than Dead we are here to tell you that work sucks and we should seize the means of production! But in the meantime, one job we definitely wouldn’t recommend is haunted house governess. Sure, the pay is good but the benefits package is just a bunch of ghosts and two very unnerving children. Henry James knew that too, which is why he wrote his 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw. We talk about why James named his characters such mean things (Fanny Assingham, anyone?), the upstairs-downstairs class dynamics when ghosts get thrown into the mix, and we tackle the New Critic’s burning questions: was this governess just making stuff up? Hallucinating? Cloud of gas? Too scared of redheads to think straight? Megan and Tristan also applied to be haunted house governesses and got called back for an interview! They really, for sure, definitely, absolutely want this fantastic position, so tune in to see who walks away with the prize! We read and recommend the Penguin edition, edited by David Bromwich. If you haven’t gotten your fill of thrills and chills yet, check out Brad Leithauser's "Ever Scarier: On 'The Turn of the Screw'" in the New Yorker. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:07
March 15, 2020
Episode 30: Rob Roy
If you were to write an historical novel about the Scottish hero-outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor, you’d probably make it about Roy Roy, right? Well, you are an amateur, because that, comrades, is just not how Walter Scott rolls -- which actually shows us why his theory of history is pretty sophisticated. His sprawling Rob Roy (1817) is in fact about a failson named Francis Osbaldistone, with world-historical figures and Rob Roy himself sword-fighting, kilt-wearing, and doing other manly-man things around the periphery. We’re talking Marxism and history, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century constructions of the nation, and how lots of Scott’s (brunette, “Celtic”) heroines are kinda domme-y. This is a deep dive into Tristan’s dorkdom, so buckle up. We read and highly recommend the Oxford edition edited by Ian Duncan. For more on Scott’s central role in nineteenth-century Scottish literature and modern conceptions of the nation, see Duncan’s marvelous Scott’s Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh. Our outro music this week is “Donald MacGillivray,” a song about the Jacobite risings, by the Scottish folk band Silly Wizard, used with permission. Many thanks to the band! Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:34
March 08, 2020
Episode 29: The Lottery
Megan is back to lead our discussion of Shirley Jackson’s most famous work, “The Lottery” (1948), and hoo boy, do we talk about how mad the readers were when this was published. The New Yorker famously lost like a billion subscriptions and got a grazillion angry letters from their readership of middlebrow prudes, who wondered, “is it based on reality? Do these practices still continue in back-country England, the human sacrifice for the rich harvest? It’s a frightening thought.” Even though Shirley Jackson, in her essay “Biography of a Story,” claims “it’s just a story I wrote,” we discuss totalitarianism, the terror of the rural, the expanded family, and the history of strange rites in literature (and movies for, like, a minute.) We also talk about how we all read it in high school and what a trip it was to read with our peers. We read The New Yorker’s archival version. While there is scant academic writing on Jackson, we recommend Ruth Franklin’s biography A Rather Haunted Life, and suggest checking out Elaine Showalter’s review of it in The Washington Post, where she reminds us that “behind her cheery masks, Jackson was hiding an angry, vengeful self, dreaming of divorce and flight to a place where she could be alone and write,” which is truly our kind of broad. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:23:34
March 01, 2020
Episode 28: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) allows us to take up a crucial question -- is it a ship or a boat? Well, it’s actually a raft, on a river, but even Tristan doesn’t hold that against this blistering satire of Antebellum American society. We talk about the novel’s fraught racial politics, its scathing critiques of the plantation class, and its interesting (and troubling) commentary on nineteenth-century constructions of childhood. We also talk about the Mississippi River and how Twain understands it as a symbol of enslavement and freedom, capital, and liminality. We read and recommend the Norton Critical Edition edited by Thomas Cooley. However, Toni Morrison’s introduction in the 1996 Oxford edition is a fantastic discussion of both the novel’s major themes and the broader debates about how Twain treats race and racism. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave, but she’ll be back next week! Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:21:23
February 23, 2020
Episode 27: Fantomina
Eliza Haywood doesn’t get read much today outside of eighteenth-century lit classes, which is a shame because she’s 1) as important to the English novel as Defoe or Fielding and 2) great and weird in all all the right ways. We’re discussing Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (1725), a novella all about feminine desire and agency, subjecthood, and Enlightenment discourses of “identity.” (That is, how do you know that you’re a distinct, legible person in the world? Maybe you don’t! Maybe you change your dress and hair a little, and how could we even tell you’re you???) It’s amatory fiction, a genre known at the time for its horniness, but Fantomina shows how the amatory takes on important -- and troubling -- questions around consent and rape. We read the Broadview edition edited by Alexander Pettit, Margaret Case Croskery, and Anna C. Patchias. For more on Fantomina, see Croskery’s essay “Masquing Desire: The Politics of Passion in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina” in The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood: Essays on Her Life and Work. And for more on Haywood and economic discourses, see our good friend David Diamond’s piece, “Eros and Exchange Alley: Speculative Desire in Eliza Haywood’s Memoirs of a Certain Island” in Eighteenth-Century Fiction. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. She’ll be back on the show in a couple weeks. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:15:25
February 16, 2020
Episode 26: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Calling all gumshoes! Get ready to hear how Sherlock Holmes cracks the case of a magical glow-in-the-dark dog who eats aristocrat failsons in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901/1902)! He ate Sir Charles Baskerville, and if Sherlock and Watson don’t help him, his boring nephew who can’t keep track of his shoes might be next!!! We talk righteous supernatural canines, unsettling butterfly-net-wielding neighbors, sexy butlers, racist boneheads, and the greatest mystery of all: can Tristan pass the CIA entrance exam, or will Mayor Pete dash his high hopes? We read and highly recommend the Broadview edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles, edited by Francis O'Gorman. We also suggest Penguin's The Complete Sherlock Holmes if you have already made it through CSI, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York. But you can find out from any edition that the dog does not actually eat anyone. For another cool read, get your luminescent paws on Arthur Conan Doyle's The History of Spiritualism (1902), a collection of essays on the movement, his favorite mediums, spirit photographs, Spiritualist experiments...and a full chapter on ectoplasm! For more ectoplasm and a look at Spiritualism in the U.S. check out Molly McGarry's brilliant book Ghosts of Futures Past (2008). *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. She’ll be back on the show in a couple weeks. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:56
February 09, 2020
Episode 25: Great Expectations
As previously noted on the classic Better Read than Dead Christmas Carol show, Katie and Tristan are both fans of Charles Dickens. So needless to say, we had, uh, great expectations about this episode! Before you delete us for that horrible dad pun (thanks, Tristan), may we just point out that the phrase “great expectations” appears about 400 million times in Great Expectations (1861). Which actually makes a lot of sense. This novel is all about contingencies, and the unseen and often unknowable forces that come to bear on our lives, and what all that means for even starting to understand “the individual.” It also works toward a compelling critique of the nineteenth-century carceral state via the transported felon (Abel Magwitch), it has interesting things to say about class, and we could literally spend three episodes just talking through Miss Havisham and Estella and gender politics in this novel. We repeat -- Dickens is good. Fellow pinkos will like him, despite certain unfortunate lib tendencies (give the guy a break, he’s a freakin' Victorian). On the show, we read the Oxford edition edited by Margaret Cardwell with an introduction by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. For more on capital, empire, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century penal codes, see E. P. Thompson’s landmark Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act and Kirsty Reid’s Gender, Crime, and Empire: Convicts, Settlers, and the State in Early Colonial Australia. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. She’ll be back on the show in a couple weeks. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:18:58
February 02, 2020
Episode 24: The Time Machine
In 1985, Doc Brown and Marty McFly traveled into the distant future of 2015, where we all had flying cars and hoverboards, wore our pockets inside out, and Pepsi cost $50. But Doc Brown and Marty were chumps, because real time travelers don’t mess with a few decades. Real time travelers say, “hey, I wonder what the year 802,701 is like” -- and hoooo boy is it f*cked. This week, we’re bringing you H. G. Wells’s 1895 novella, The Time Machine. We talk about the radical potentials of sci-fi and other speculative fiction, what it means to envision a human timeline on this massive a scale, how Wells envisions the evolution of class conflict, and what exactly is up with the Eloi. (It’s a little icky, if we do say so ourselves.) We also discuss the Anthropocene and how the novella kinda might have an account of that, even though Wells in the 1890s couldn’t possibly have known what that is. Beat that, Jules Verne! Oh, did we mention V. I. Lenin thought Wells was bae? He did, and we have proof. On the show, we read the Penguin Classics edition edited by Patrick Parrinder with an introduction by Marina Warner. We also mention Frederic Jameson’s fabulous Archaeologies of the Future -- a must-read for leftists interested in the relationship between utopian concepts and political critique and community. For more on Wells, Aaron Rosenberg’s “Romancing the Anthropocene: H. G. Wells and the Genre of the Future” is a compelling account of how form intersects with Wells’s conceptual and political concerns. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. She’ll be back on the show in a couple weeks. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:17
January 26, 2020
Episode 23: I, Claudius
We here at Better Read than Dead do not care for fascists. So when we had the chance to kick off our 2020 season with an historical novel that dunks on fascists and their fascist f*ckery, well, let’s just say you didn’t need to ask us twice. Robert Graves’s I, Claudius (1934) is about a lot of things. The early Roman Empire, gender, political intrigue (including powerful grandmas who poison people -- we didn’t know that was one of our favorite character types, but we do now, and not just because we don’t want to be poisoned, please). Famously, it’s about disability, specifically with regards to its protagonist, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who became the Emperor Claudius in 41 C.E. But it’s also a scathing critique of Europe’s rising fascist governments of the 1920s and 1930s. Read your history, folks. Somewhat unexpectedly, Graves’s explorations of the absurdities of despotism had us thinking yet again about Hannah Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem. And while you’re reading Arendt, everyone (no hyperbole) should read her Origins of Totalitarianism, too. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. She’ll be back to the show in a few weeks. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:28:28
January 19, 2020
Episode 22: A Christmas Carol
Katie says, “bah humbug,” but Tristan says, “oi guv, Bob’s your uncle an’ bless us all, every one” to this most beloved of Victorian Christmas kitsch. We’re diving into Charles Dickens this week with A Christmas Carol (1843) and all kinds of lighthearted topics for the holidays -- like child labor, poverty under industrial capital, killer smog, and reactionary political economy (we want to go on the record as being very much against all those things). We do some admirable BOTHSIDES analysis of Dickens, discussing the good (he’s often an incisive critic of structural conditions) and the bad (we Marxists do not care for his lib af resolutions). And we explore the repressive Victorian psyche as manifest in their terrifying parlor games. There are a million editions to choose from. Pick the one that best captures your own relationship to Christmas. To learn more about the economic, social, and political forces at play in Dickens and many other nineteenth-century writers, check out Mary Poovey’s phenomenal Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864. *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. This is the last episode of our 2019 season. Katie and Tristan will be back with new episodes starting in mid-January, and Megan returns to the show later this winter. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:23
December 01, 2019
Episode 21: Hamlet
Our apologies to Stephen Dedalus. Previously, we referred to him as King F*ckboy, but that’s grossly unfair to both Stephen and perhaps literature’s Kingest F*ckboy of them all -- Hamlet. This week, we discuss William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1599? 1602? no one is sure, but it’s something like that) in all its beautiful, bonkers glory. We have many pressing questions. Like, why is this so long? (Four hours, at least -- Billy S needed an editor.) How should we read its notoriously fraught sexual politics? Or its bizarre moral calculus? What’s up with the whole Fortinbras plotline? And what do novel jerks need to keep in mind when pretending to be theater jerks? As we aren’t Early Modernists, we’re a little out of our depth with the scholarship here. But as leftist literary critics, we *highly* recommend anything Stephen Greenblatt, one of the OGs of New Historicism. Maybe start with Greenblatt’s magnificent and influential essay, “Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and Its Subversion, Henry IV and Henry V.” Read any Hamlet you like, but if you want to be a total tool like Tristan, you can always get one of the 10-lbs. compiled Shakespeare editions. Remember, folks -- “gravitas.” *Note to our listeners. Megan is on maternity leave. We’re also going on break for the holidays soon, and next week’s episode on A Christmas Carol will be our last episode of our 2019 season. Katie and Tristan will be back with you in mid-January, and Megan returns to the pod later this winter. Follow our social media pages for updates about the new season! Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:25:02
November 24, 2019
Episode 20: Ulysses, Part 2
Welp, friends, we made it through all eleventy billion pages of Ulysses and are the better for it. (Better Read than Dead 1, Mayor Pete 0.) And we all agree that the second half of the book is delightful. From Chapter 15 (“Circe”), a 150-page play about… kink? the nation? gender? all of that? to Chapter 17’s catechism, wherein Bloom and Dedalus pee together in true Hegelian mutual recognition, to Chapter 18 (“Penelope”), where we finally get to spend some time in Molly Bloom’s head (best character in the book -- we very much stan). We have more thoughts on form and stream of consciousness, and more thoughts on which character is the drunkest, and we have some great conversation about sexuality in this novel. AND -- we play a fun little round of “which extremely NSFW love letter did James Joyce write?” As before, we suggest you get the Gabler edition, which is both suitably bulky to convey your gravitas (Big Joyce Energy) and is pretty much the standard these days. For more on Joyce, modernism, and psychoanalysis, we highly recommend Maud Ellmann’s The Nets of Modernism: Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Sigmund Freud. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:04
November 17, 2019
Episode 19: Ulysses, Part 1
After these next two episodes, will Megan manage to convince Katie and Tristan that our novel in question is hysterically funny and good indeed, or will we remain a Pod Divided? We know you jerks have just been up nights waiting for this one--we’ll be spending two episodes tackling James Joyce’s big-ass 1918 or 1922 novel Ulysses. We talk about form and structure, poo jokes, Irish history, day drinking, the little magazine, and King F*ckboy Stephen Dedalus. We propose that James Joyce would almost certainly have been the most fun high modernist to drink whiskey with, and… that’s about the only point of agreement. We read the Gabler edition, with a preface by Richard Ellmann. We recommend skipping other books and either reading the back of a Jameson bottle or listening to the BBC radio drama from 2012: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01jl7l9 Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:07
November 10, 2019
Episode 18: The Castle of Otranto
Was Horace Walpole a second-grader when he wrote The Castle of Otranto (1764)? “And then a big helmet squished the guy, and then grandpa walked out of the painting, and then the statue had a nosebleed, and there were boogers and and and.” Nope! He was the 40-something failson of Britain’s first prime minister! (God, who knew failsons would be such a theme of the pod -- not us.) It’s the “first Gothic novel” in English this week, and we’re talking epistemology, gender, the nation, and why this book is so freakin’ goofy. We suspect that’s the point… although maybe not? Michael Gamer’s excellent Penguin edition has really helpful historical context about The Castle of Otranto’s reception and about Walpole himself. For more on ideologies of the Gothic genre and its legacies, we highly recommend Michael’s book, Romanticism and the Gothic, published by Cambridge University Press. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:19:01
November 03, 2019
Episode 17: Rosemary's Baby
We’re back to one of our usual themes this week--creepy babies! We take on Ira Levin’s 1967 genre novel Rosemary’s Baby, which asks if pregnancy, neighbors, or husbands are the most creepy (they’re all creepy AF.) The DEVIL HIMSELF shows up in the form of a tin whistle in this episode, and there is much discussion of (maybe poison) smoothies, the terror domestic, and HIPAA regulations (turns out they’re useful). We read the Pegasus Books edition, with an introduction by Otto Penzler. We mention Sophie Lewis’s spectacular Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, published this year by Verso Books, which argues for a utopian notion of communal and communist belonging against blood parenthood and nuclear familial ties. If you’re into this sort of thing, we also recommend Shulamith Firestone’s manifesto, The Dialectic of Sex. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:32
October 27, 2019
Episode 16: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
There are few things Better Read than Dead enjoys more than owning dipsh*ts/watching dipsh*ts get owned, which is why we were so psyched to read Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820). Irving’s spooky (no, hilarious) short story is about a tall dipsh*t who gets owned by a Headless Horseman. Or a pumpkin? Or, really, just the Dutch version of Gaston. Also, did you know Irving was the OG flat-earther?? He sure was! Chemtrails -- google it, folks. We’re talking genre, colonial histories, Cotton Mather, and more. We read the version of "Sleepy Hollow" in the Oxford edition of The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., edited by Susan Manning. We don’t get into this aspect on the show all that much, but David Anthony’s article “‘Gone Distracted’: ‘Sleepy Hollow,’ Gothic Masculinity, and the Panic of 1819” offers an interesting reading of the connections between Irving’s treatment of gender and the story’s immediate historical context. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:24:47
October 20, 2019
Episode 15: Little Women
Put your crying pants on, because it’s time for Little Women (1868)! We talk about why Jo is so cool, whether it’s bad to steal a lady’s glove so you can sniff it in private (it is), and whether Beth—the shy sister who suffers from noted 19th-century ailment “paleness”—is actually the biggest psycho of them all. We get deep into how Megan lost her soul and ability to feel, as she found herself unmoved by the many touching and ennobling scenes in this book. We also discuss class (boy are they classy!), marriage (hooray!), the Civil War (serious.), and religion (hallelujah!). On the show, we read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Anne K. Phillips and Gregory Eiselein. For more on Little Women and the religious novel, check out Katie’s favorite work of literary criticism ever, Gregory S. Jackson’s The Word and Its Witness: The Spiritualization of American Realism. If you still can’t get enough of Pilgrim’s Progress in American history after this episode, we also recommend Jackson’s article “A Game Theory of Evangelical Fiction.” Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:26:44
October 13, 2019
Episode 14: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
We’re such goths (apparently), we didn’t even realize we were doing a Halloween month when we recorded this episode on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). Stevenson’s novella is about an insufferable prick who invents a potion that turns him into a tiny psychopath -- and then he gets stuck like that. What did your (deranged, race-sciencey) grandmother tell you about the dangers of making a face of THE CRIMINAL TYPE? Lots of great discussion on Victorian anxieties about “the criminal” and the city, epistemology, and, once again, phrenology. We read the Penguin Classics edition edited by Robert Mighall. Chris Baldick’s In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing puts Stevenson in conversation with several C19th authors (including Shelley, Melville, and Conrad!) working through the political in horror/early science fiction. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:27:01
October 06, 2019
Episode 13: Heart of Darkness
We follow one of literature’s least-impressive boats up the Belgian Congo in our discussion of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). It’s yet another magazine novella, this time about how our “hero” Charles Marlow journeys up the Congo seeing some truly horrifying effects of European colonialism, and how he encounters the ivory trader and Big Thoughts Guy Kurtz. We talk about empire, space, doubling, gender, and Marlon Brando. We read the Norton Critical Edition edited by Paul B. Armstrong. Although it certainly shows its years, it’s always illuminating to read Edward Said’s “Two Visions in ‘Heart of Darkness’” from Culture and Imperialism. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:15:04
September 29, 2019
Episode 12: The Fall of the House of Usher
If you're trying to decide whether to reconnect with your creepy old childhood friend who lives in a fungus covered mansion deep in the woods with a secret twin sister, this episode is for you!* We're talking about “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which is goth icon Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story about twincest. We dig into the uncanny, phrenology, family trees, and olde timey doctoring...and while we were digging we just may have found someone buried alive under these many layers of nineteenth-century degeneracy and weirdness! Hey, we all make mistakes. If you want to read up on Freud's uncanny, his 1919 work The Uncanny is the perfect place to start. For more about the uncanny in American literature, check out American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative, edited by Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus *Note: do not, under any circumstances, rekindle any friendship. Friendship is unnecessary. That is why you have podcasts.
01:17:05
September 22, 2019
Episode 11: Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver’s Travels (1726) may indeed be the “goofiest book that was ever written,” which is why it’s so fun to talk about! We get into all the nitty-gritty of Jonathan Swift’s scathing, sprawling, scatalogical satire -- its historical contexts, its politics that range from pretty good (empire is bad!) to terrible (it thinks women’s bodies are gross), and how its horses seem like they’re probably murderous eugenicists. Also, just FYI for a certain kind of tankie -- satire need not be some self-indulgent bourgeois form of nonpolitics. We read the Oxford edition edited by Claude Rawson with explanatory notes by Ian Higgins. For a transhistorical study that situates the concepts Gulliver is working through in the long history of European empire, we recommend Rawson’s God, Gulliver, and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination, 1492-1945. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:20:58
September 15, 2019
Episode 10: The Awakening
This week we read Kate Chopin’s novella The Awakening (1899). Chopin’s short work is about a tall lady who doesn’t want to listen to her husband (hetereosexuality! the best!), but she also doesn’t really want to do anything else either. We talk about bourgeois malaise, women’s suicide, atmospherics, and being a lady f*ckboy. We read the Norton edition, edited by Margo Culley. While she doesn’t directly mention Chopin, we recommend Jacqueline Rose’s On Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World (2003) for her discussions of privacy, intimacy, and psychoanalytic approaches to literature. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:16:14
September 08, 2019
Episode 9: In Cold Blood
Slightly less snark than usual in this episode on Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1966). Capote’s “non-fiction novel” (sure) is about the investigation of a 1959 murder of a family in Kansas and the trial and execution that followed. We discuss midcentury magazine culture and why The New Yorker sucks, how awful it must be to be a prodigy like Capote, and the fact that true crime is both the most fun and the most reactionary genre of them all. We read the Vintage International edition. We mention it in the show, but it’s always a delight to read left culture critic and general middlebrow hater Dwight MacDonald’s Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, rereleased in 2011 and edited by John Summers. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:17:17
September 01, 2019
Episode 8: Billy Budd
All aboard, it's time to sail the high seas with Herman Melville's Billy Budd (1924)! Melville's posthumously published tale is about a very hot dumb guy who is kidnapped into the navy, then executed for reasons that involve mutiny, gossip, and soup. We talk about how a lot of things on this ship are described as erect, which is definitely just a coincidence, and what hundreds of sailors sleeping in hammocks would have smelled like. (Good!)  We also discuss all the bodily fluids released in a 19th century hanging. ALL. OF. THEM. We read the Penguin Classics edition Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories edited by Peter Coviello. Be sure to check out Pete’s great introductory essay and his very helpful and, um, vivid explanatory notes. For further reading, check out Barbara Johnson's "Melville's Fist: The Execution of Billy Budd" in Studies in Romanticism. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:14:11
August 25, 2019
Episode 7: Robinson Crusoe
We have conflicting opinions about Daniel DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). Megan for some reason finds a book about a dude making lists of every single item he builds, finds, or otherwise encounters on a desert island boring, while Tristan and Katie recognize that as a hallmark of Very Fine Literature (™). There’s lots of good conversation about empire, race, and the novel’s fraught and often quite bad politics. We also discuss Puritans again (we have problems, we know). And goats. SO MANY GOATS. On the show, we read the Oxford edition edited by Thomas Keymer, with notes by Keymer and James Kelly. For terrific scholarship on what Crusoe’s interactions with animals might tell us about the novel’s political community, see Heather Keenleyside’s Animals and Other People: Literary Forms and Living Beings in the Long Eighteenth Century. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:12:51
August 18, 2019
Episode 6: 1984
A slight verge from previous eps in that we spend a lot of time on this one talking Bad Takes. We’re still not sure why neoliberals, conservatives, and libertarians spend so much time citing the work of literal ANTIFA George Orwell, but hey--we’re just average book-loving sh*theads, not psychologists. We debate the merits of coveralls and yet again encounter child monsters. There is some discussion of RATS on this one, folks. Prepare yourselves. On the show we read the Plume edition with foreward by Thomas Pynchon and afterward by Erich Fromm. For a left discussion of utopia and dystopia, check out Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future, and his essay “Progress or Utopia; or, Can we Imagine the Future?” from Science Fiction Studies. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:14:05
August 11, 2019
Episode 5: Pride and Prejudice
It’s Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen’s beloved 1813 novel about two jerks who discover that they’re hot for each other. We talk about character and the novel, as well as economies of desire and of the social, and we discuss the relative awfulness of the bourgeoisie vs. the aristocracy. We also wonder who even is Mary Bennet and grow concerned that Kitty Bennet might be secretly alt-right. On the show, we read the Oxford edition edited by James Kinsley with notes and introduction by Fiona Stafford. For a landmark study of how the rise of capital shaped the development of the novel (and Austen’s role in that story), see Deidre Lynch’s The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:18:00
August 04, 2019
Episode 4: The Scarlet Letter
We discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and everyone’s favorite religious extremists — Puritans! We’re talking adultery, history and the novel, and whether children are evil. (Of course they are. How is this a question?) We also talk about how much Hawthorne hated work and how that makes us love him even more. On the show, we read the Norton edition edited by Leland S. Person. For more on Hawthorne (and Melville!), colonial history, and American imperial ideology, read Myra Jehlen’s American Incarnation: The Individual, the Nation, and the Continent. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:13:19
July 28, 2019
Episode 3: The Sun Also Rises
Are you sick of novels that are way too chill with their symbolism? Do you want a novel that has no chill at all? That blasts its symbolism on pretty much every page? Then Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) may be the book for you. We talk masculinity and the phallus, the First World War, bullfighting, and whether Hemingway was for real with this thing. (Answer: yeah, probably?) Also, Megan thinks “the fishing stuff is dope.” We read the Scribner edition. For more on American modernism and economic inequality, check out Walter Benn Michaels’s Our America. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:10:03
July 21, 2019
Episode 2: Dracula
We continue our Creature Feature and discuss Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). We get to the important stuff here, trying to figure out why blood transfusions are so very sexy and who you should pick if your dating choices are doctor, lawyer, lord, cowboy, or insane Dutch scientist. We wonder what it might take to transform any one of us into a “train fiend.” We read the Oxford edition, edited by Roger Luckhurst. Nina Auerbach’s Our Vampires, Ourselves is a great cultural history of the vampire in 19th- and 20th-century British and American literature and film. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
01:06:50
July 14, 2019
Episode 1: Frankenstein
Frankenstein On the inaugural episode of Better Read than Dead, we talk about why three jerky socialist academics wanted to do a books podcast. We also talk about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and answer every leftist’s burning questions about it. What does this novel have to do with political revolution? Why is the 1831 edition so much more anti-science than the 1818 edition? And is this novel (as Katie puts it) “19th-century Human Centipede (only less creative)”? For a terrific discussion of the political currents of the novel, check out Maureen McLane’s Romanticism and the Human Sciences: Poetry, Population, and the Discourse of the Species. On the show, we read Marilyn Butler’s Oxford edition of the 1818 text. Find us on Twitter and Instagram @betterreadpod, and email us nice things at betterreadpodcast@gmail.com. Find Tristan on Twitter @tjschweiger, Katie @katiekrywo, and Megan @tuslersaurus.
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July 09, 2019