Island Idylls riffs on books and life with Barry Menikoff. Author of Stone Mother, Brooklyn born and bred, retired Hawaii university professor, international scholar. Evangelical pastor Aaron Menikoff, author of Politics and Piety, spices this dialogue between father and son. Both chasing that elusive line in an old song, What's it all about, Alfie?
36 - The Gothic Lit of Flannery O’Connor
In their last episode of season three, the Menikoffs discuss one of the most interesting writers of the twentieth century, Flannery O’Connor.
Her stories, categorized in the genre of Southern Literature or Gothic Literature, are dark, realistic, and reflective of the South in her generation.
A Roman Catholic, O’Connor rejects the existentialism of other, famous, twentieth-century authors. But there is no sappy Christianese on the pages of her stories. She writes of horror, but she leaves room for hope, too.
Barry and Aaron talk about “Revelation,” “The LIfe You Save May Be Your Own,” and “Everything that Rises Must Converge.”
35 - Hemingway, Regret, and Death
Everybody’s heard of Ernest Hemingway, that leader of the “Lost Generation” and author of The Old Man and the Sea. By most accounts he wasn’t what we’d consider a “good” man but he was a writer of unparalleled skill.
Barry and Aaron look at three of his short stories: “The Killers,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” The main thread tying each story together is death, it’s inevitability, and how people respond to it.
Does Hemingway believe life has meaning? Not really, at least not more than any individual can give to it. Aaron disagrees, but that’s what makes their conversations so interesting.
34 - “Look it Up!” - A Dive Into the Dictionary
For those keeping track, this may be the only podcast episode on the dictionary out there!
In this episode, Barry and Aaron take a break from the short story to think and talk about English dictionaries. Where did they come from, what are they, and why do they matter? Are dictionaries prescriptive--telling you what words should mean or descriptive--reflecting how we use words today? In the world of Google does anyone even need a dictionary today?
Speaking of words, they begin this episode with a brief discussion of plagiarism, the stealing of someone else’s words.
Take a break and enjoy a conversation you won’t hear anywhere else.
33 - The Great Fitzgerald
Barry and Aaron are back working through three of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous short stories: “May Day,” “The Rich Boy,” and “Babylon Revisited.”
After emerging as a rising star in his twenties, critics largely dismissed Fitzgerald in his own generation. However, few writers in American are as influential. His description of life in the Roaring Twenties of a hundred years ago is picked up by students and readers all across the land.
Listen in as father and son discuss class conflict, getting ahead, wealth, and much more.
32 - God & Meaning
In this episode, Barry and Aaron take a break from working through literature to hit the question of God head on. Why is it family members have such a hard time talking about politics and religion? Should they?
These are hard questions to answer, but they’re important. Religion matters and even when we disagree we ought to be able to do so charitably, respecting the opinion of others regardless of whether we see eye-to-eye.
But this episode isn’t about lecturing the listener--it’s about a Jewish father and his evangelical son talking openly and honestly about questions they both care about deeply.
Listen and enjoy!
31 - J. D. Salinger & Bananafish
Salinger is most famous for that often-banned book, The Catcher in the Rye. It catapulted him to fame. However, in this episode, Barry and Aaron discuss his second popular work, a collection of stories not-so-creatively entitled, Nine Short Stories.
From a man who playfully pretends to swim with bananafish--have you heard of them?--to a child who tries to comfort a soldier before he heads to battle, Nine Short Stories present us with the fact that reality can be hard and cold. One might wonder if Salinger channels Thomas Hobbes who insisted life is “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Barry is captivated by the sparse and nearly-perfect writing of this mysterious, twentieth-century author. Aaron is impressed but raises questions about the theme of hopelessness that seems to saturate each tale.
Take a moment and join another fascinating conversation.
The whole series
I know Aaron and want him to know that this podcast has blessed me on 2 important levels. 1. It is informative and I have enjoyed the interchange between father and son. The fact that they do not share the same faith has not shaded their conversation in any way discernable.
On the 2nd level I have been emotionally touched as I wish that I could have shared an exchange like this with my dad before he passed. At 64, I am excited for Aaron and his father that they can experience this time together. I’m looking forward to next season.
I am thoroughly enjoying listening to this podcast. Father and son interplay is neat. Both are great founts of wisdom. Whenever I hear well-read people discuss what they have read, I wish I had paid more attention in high school English class. The suggested reading lists are excellent. I’ve already purchased a few and can’t wait to get started reading some. I’ve listened to five episodes so far and hope to listen to the rest in the upcoming weeks.
Can’t wait until season 2!
Sit Down With Barry and Aaron!
Having them in your living room—or wherever—is an amazing experience. Whatever your interests, you will find that listening in is illuminating and a great pleasure.