77 episodes

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world.

Recall This Book Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz

    • Arts
    • 4.7 ‚ÄĘ 24 Ratings

Free-ranging discussion of books from the past that cast a sideways light on today's world.

    72 Caryl Phillips Speaks with Corina Stan

    72 Caryl Phillips Speaks with Corina Stan

    Our second January Novel Dialogue conversation is with Caryl Phillips, professor of English at Yale and world-renowned for novels ranging from The Final Passage to 2018’s A View of the Empire at Sunset. He shares his thoughts on transplantation, on performance, on race, even on sports. Joining him here are John and the wonderful comparatist Corina Stan, author of The Art of Distances: Ethical Thinking in 20th century Literature. If you enjoy this conversation, range backwards through the RtB archives for comparable talks with Jennifer Egan, Helen Garner, Orhan Pamuk, Zadie Smith, Samuel Delany and many more.
    It‚Äôs a rangy conversation. John begins by raving about Caryl‚Äôs¬†italics‚Äďhe in turn praises Faulkner‚Äôs. Corina and Caryl explore his debt (cf. his¬†The European Tribe)¬†to American writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Meeting Baldwin was¬†scary‚Äďback in those days before there were ‚Äúwriters besporting themselves on every university campus.‚ÄĚ Caryl praises the joy of being a football fan (Leeds United), reflects on his abiding loyalty to his class and geographic origins and his fondness for the moments of Sunday joy that allow people to endure. John raises Orhan Pamuk‚Äôs claim (In¬†Novel Dialogue last season) that the novel is innately middle-class; Caryl says that it‚Äôs true that as a form it has always taken time and money to make‚Äďand to read. But ‚Äúvicars and middle class people fall in love, too; they get betrayed and let down‚Ķa gamut of emotion that‚Äôs as wide as anybody else.‚ÄĚ He remains drawn to writers haunted by the past: Eliot, W.G. Sebald, the huge influence of Faulkner trying to stitch the past to the present.
    Mentioned in the Episode

    James Baldwin, Blues for Mister Charley, The Fire Next Time


    Richard Wright, Native Son


    Johnny Pitts, Afropean


    Caryl Phillips, Dancing in the Dark


    J. M. Coetzee, ‚ÄúWhat We like to Forget‚Ä̬†(On Caryl Phillips)

    Graham Greene (e.g¬†Brighton Rock¬†and¬†The Quiet American) wrote in ‚ÄúThe Lost Childhood‚Ä̬†(1951) that at age 14 ‚ÄĚ I took Miss Marjorie Bowen‚Äôs¬†The Viper of Milan¬†from the library shelf‚ĶFrom that moment I began to write.‚ÄĚ

    Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter


    William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom



    Read a transcript here
    Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.
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    • 49 min
    71 Jennifer Egan with Ivan Kreilkamp: Fiction as Streaming, Genre as Portal (Novel Dialogue crossover, JP)

    71 Jennifer Egan with Ivan Kreilkamp: Fiction as Streaming, Genre as Portal (Novel Dialogue crossover, JP)

    This week on Recall this Book, another delightful crossover episode from our sister podcast Novel Dialogue, which puts scholars and writers together to discuss the making of novels and what to make of them. (If you want to hear more, RtB 53 featured Nobel Orhan Pamuk, RtB 54 brought in Helen Garner, and in RtB 72 we haveCaryl Phillips). Who better to chat with John and Jennifer Egan--prolific and prize-winning American novelist--than Ivan Kreilkamp? The distinguished Indiana Victorianist showed his Egan expertise last year in his witty book, A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread.
    Jennifer Egan © Pieter M. van Hattem
    Their conversation ranges widely over Egan‚Äôs oeuvre‚Äďnot to mention 18th and 19th century literature. Trollope, Richardson and Fielding are praised and compared to modern phenomena like TikTok and gamers streaming (including gamers streaming chess, a very special instance of getting inside someone else‚Äôs thought process).¬†The PowerPoint chapter in¬†Goon Squad¬†gets special treatment, and tantalizing details from Egan‚Äôs¬†forthcoming novel,¬†The Candy House¬†(April, 2022) make an appearance. Egan discusses her authorial impulse towards camouflage, her play with genre‚Äôs relationship to specialized lingos and argots‚Äďand the way a genre‚Äôs norms and structure can function like a ‚Äúlifeline‚ÄĚ and also a ‚Äúportal.‚ÄĚ
    Mentioned in the Episode

    Jennifer Egan: Visit from the Goon Squad; Look at Me; Manhattan Beach; The Keep


    Samuel Richardson: Clarissa; Pamela


    Henry Fielding, Shamela


    Herman Melville, Moby Dick


    Patrick O’Brian (e.g. Master and Commander)

    Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat


    Read the transcript here.
    Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.
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    • 37 min
    70 Recall this Buck 5: "Studying Up" with Daniel Souleles (EF, JP)

    70 Recall this Buck 5: "Studying Up" with Daniel Souleles (EF, JP)

    John and Elizabeth continue their conversation with Daniel Souleles, anthropologist at the Copenhagen Business School and author of Songs of Profit, Songs of Loss: Private Equity, Wealth, and Inequality (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press 2019).
    Dan’s work fits into a newish approach in anthropology of researching people with greater power and influence than the researchers themselves. That's sometimes called "studying up" and Dan and Elizabeth (who's writing a book about gold, after all!) have both thought a lot about it.
    Read the transcript here.
    Read Aneil Tripathy's RTB piece about actuarial time scales and how they shape the sort of anthropology that both he and Souleles practice.
    Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.
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    • 11 min
    69 Recall this Buck 4: Daniel Souleles on Private Equity (JP, EF)

    69 Recall this Buck 4: Daniel Souleles on Private Equity (JP, EF)

    In this installment of our Recall this Buck series (check out our earlier conversations with Thomas Piketty, Peter Brown and Christine Desan), John and Elizabeth talk with Daniel Souleles, anthropologist at the Copenhagen Business School and author of Songs of Profit, Songs of Loss: Private Equity, Wealth, and Inequality (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press 2019). Dan's work explores the world of private equity "guys" (who are indeed mostly guys) and the ways they are "suspended in webs of significance [they themselves have] spun" as Clifford Geertz puts it.
    Further, he explores the ways we are all suspended in these webs through the immense buying and managing power of private equity firms. Private equity investors buy out publicly traded companies, often through enormous debt (which is why these deals used to be called "leveraged buyouts" or LBOs), manage the companies and then sell them. They argue they are creating value by cutting fat in management; typically workers bear the brunt of the debt while executives--and the private equity firm and lawyers and others servicing the deal--receive hefty payments.
    Dan pulls off a tough feat in his book, helping us see the concerns and motivations of people he's working with as understandable and the people themselves as reasonable and even likeable, while also maintaining his own view of private equity as, generally speaking, a noxious force in society.
    We end with a discussion of the Occupy movement and how it helped to change public conversations about inequality and the power of finance (another angle on the themes we tackled in our earlier "Brahmin Left" conversations).
    Mentioned in this episode:


    Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, Barbarians at the Gates: The Fall of NJR Nabisco


    Karen Ho Liquidated; ethnography of Wall Street, and of "smartness"

    Edwin Lefèvre, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, (John misremembered the title as Confessions of a Stockjobber)

    Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991)


    The transcript for this episode is here. 
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    • 38 min
    68 Martin Puchner: Writing and Reading from Gilgamesh to Amazon

    68 Martin Puchner: Writing and Reading from Gilgamesh to Amazon

    Book Industry Month continues with a memory-lane voyage back to a beloved early RtB episode. This conversation with Martin Puchner about the very origins of writing struck us as perfect companion to Mark McGurl's wonderful insights (in RtB 67, published earlier this month) about the publishing industry's in 2021, or as Mark tells it, the era of "adult diaper baby love."
    Aside from being a fabulous conversation about Martin's wonderful history of book production through the ages (The Written World) this episode brings back happy memories of Elizabeth and John piling their guests into a cozy sound booth at Brandeis, the kind of place that's utterly taboo in Pandemic America.So travel with us back to 2019 for a close encounter with the epic of Gilgamesh. The three friends discuss the different stages of world writing--from the time of the scribes to the time of great teachers like Confucius, Socrates and Jesus Christ, who had a very complicated relationship to writing.
    In Recallable Books, Martin recommends the fan fiction website Wattpad; Elizabeth recommends "No Reservations: Narnia," in which Anthony Bourdain goes through the wardrobe. John feints at recommending Dennis Tenen's book on the writing within coding before recommending the Brautigan Library.
    Come for the discussion of writing, stay for the impressions of Gollum!
    Discussed in this episode:


    The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History and Civilization, Martin Puchner


    Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse, David Ferry

    Wattpad

    "No Reservations: Narnia," Edonohana


    Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation, David Tenen

    The Brautigan Library

    Episode transcript available here: Episode 6 Puchner 3.28.19
    Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.
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    • 43 min
    67 Everything and Less: Mark McGurl on Books in the Age of Amazon

    67 Everything and Less: Mark McGurl on Books in the Age of Amazon

    What do you make of Amazon: The new Sears Roebuck? A terrifying monopoly threat? Satisfaction (a paperback in your mailbox, a Kindle edition on your tablet) just a click away? John and Elizabeth speak with Stanford English prof Mark McGurl, whose previous books include the pathbreaking The Program Era.
    Mark faces that question squarely in his terrific new book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon: if you want to know even more about it, check out the NY Times review by RTB's own book-history maven, star of RTB 46, Leah Price. Mark ponders when service became an idiom for the relationship between writer and reader and how strong a claim he is willing to make about Amazon's impact on the modern novel (pretty strong!). Finally, he tackles the key question: is the genre of "Adult Diaper Baby Love" (a breakout hit in Kindle sales; google it at your peril!) the perfect metaphor for Amazon's effort to soothe, pacify and succor its infantilized consumer-base?
    Mentioned in the episode:
    Laura Miller, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption
    Public libraries going trashy or classy: John wrote an article about this topic, praising a compelling database, "What Middletown Read"
    Recallable Books:
    Walter Tevis, Mockingbird (1980)
    Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1853)
    Anthony Trollope, The Warden (1855)
    Transcript available here
    RTB 67 Transcript
    (or Visit the Recall this Book Transcript page)
    Upcoming: Mark's discussion of the history of books and book publishing inspired next week's blog post: tune in next Thursday to find out more! It also sent us back to the archives for a golden RTB oldie starring Martin Puchner. That will appear, freshly rewrapped for the occasion, just before Thanksgiving.
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    • 44 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
24 Ratings

24 Ratings

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I discovered the podcast after listenting to the episode with Christine Desan... what an amazing program !! Thank you for these amazing conversations and for the exciting resources attached to each episode.

uhhfdrry ,

Great interviews with authors & other creators

The conversations are lively, erudite, and smart!

current highschool teacher ,

Brilliant pod about arts and letters

This is a great podcast on arts and letters with conversations as wide-ranging as they are intellectually rich. Highly, highly recommended!

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