The internet's last best hope for the cultural redemption of literary criticism.
Episode 10 | The Literature of Celebrity | Frank Sinatra has a Cold and Other Essays by Gay Talese
When we think about literature, the last thing that comes to mind is the celebrity interview. Yet in the hands of the journalist Gay Talese, the lives of the famous are laid bear with all the insight, rhetorical verve, beauty, and tragedy of the best of short stories.
Join our wayward host as basks in the glory of the most minute and piercing descriptions ever written of the famous.
Frank Sinatra has a Cold on This American Life: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/574/sinatras-100th-birthday
Episode 9 | The Old Bureaucrat and the Goose | Freeing a Migrant Goose by Bai Juyi
Once upon a time, more than a thousand years ago, there lived a poet in China named Bai Juyi (sometimes called Po Chu-I). Unlike most poets, however, Bai wasn’t just a poet: he was also a politician, a scholar-bureaucrat tasked with helping to guide China through a moment of immense social, military, and economic crisis. Did he succeed in this endeavor? No. He failed dramatically. But his and his country’s failure gave the world some of the most honest, most efficiently beautiful poetry ever written abo
Episode 8 | The Genius of Decadence | The Wings by Yi Sang
Some writers ask the easy questions, others ask hard questions, but only one has ever asked the question: “Have you ever seen a stuffed genius?” This question—with all its despondency, moroseness, and arrogance evoke the world of Yi Sang, the weirdo titan of the Korean avant-garde. Trained as an architect, dead at 27, occasionally a pimp, obsessed with uselessness, devoted to laziness, imprisoned for thought crimes, Yi Sang was one of the most delightfully strange writers to ever walk the earth.
Episode 7 | One Single Haiku by Richard Wright | Haiku #31 by Richard Wright
Have you ever read a poem and then, without even realizing it, discover that it has implanted itself in your mind forever? For the last twelve years, there has hardly been a month where I haven’t thought at least twice about a single haiku written by Richard Wright in the last months before his death. Somber and yet joyous, imprisoning and yet liberating, its word and image have become a permanent part of who I am as a person.
In this episode, I explore that poem, it’s troubled author, and its relation
Episode 6 | The Wages of Ugliness | The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
On November 25th, 1970, the leading East Asian contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature tried to overthrow the Japanese government in a dramatic coup d'état. Failing at this, he then committed suicide via a combination of disembowelment and beheading. For more than fifty years, Yukio Mishima's life and death have defined Japanese literature.
But what about the actual writing? What made this man so magnetic? So popular? So powerful? So determined to die in the most ostentatious way possible?
To help u
Episode 5 | What Makes a Genius Writer a Genius? | Report on the Thing by Clarice Lispector
What makes the "genius writer" actually a genius? What does it even mean to be a "genius"? How does genius manifest itself on the page? When I think of these questions, a writer comes to mind: the Brazilian novelist, housewife, and national hero Clarice Lispector. Never was a writer more audacious, never was a writer more mindbogglingly strange. To understand her and genius itself, all we need to do is look at one single short story, Report on the Thing, about a woman deep in a metaphysical love affair with
A Rewarding and Enriching Podcast
The Joy of Serious Literature is an informative and in-depth podcast. Davis's eloquent commentary deepens my understanding of writers, like Clarice Lispector and Richard Wright, who I already admire and exposes me to new writers that I can't wait to read.
Essential literary listening
Authoritative discussions of world literature from an explicitly aesthetic perspective. Bryant Davis works a wonderful alchemy that fuses critique and reading into short but comprehensive analyses of fascinating works. You'll finish each episode dying to read the work in question, but feeling like you already have in case you never do.
keep it up kiddo
The Joy of Serious Literature is a series about literature that features history lessons, social commentary, and a catchy theme song - it's basically an adult version of the hit children's show, Reading Rainbow and everybody loved that show so everyone will love this.