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Rediscovering James Joyce in Dublin with editor Maurice Earls

Note: This interview was broadcast on KUT-FM, an NPR station based in Austin,Texas.

James Joyce
James Joyce, 1915
James Joyce was born and raised in Dublin, and it was from Dublin he fled as a young man, to Trieste, in order to write Ulysses, perhaps the key novel of the early 20th century.
But before he left, he began to write A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which, as most of us will remember, is a rite of passage not only for its main character, the sensitive, acute Stephen Dedalus (the alter ego for Joyce himself), but also for the impressed and impressionable reader.
When I asked the scholar, bookseller and editor Maurice Earls to pick a piece of writing to discuss that’s had a tremendous impact on him, it was this novel that he chose.

Books Upstairs
Books Upstairs, Dublin

Himself a Dubliner, Earls is joint editor of the Dublin Review of Books. Of special interest to ThoughtCast listeners, he’s also penned an essay on Helen Vendler’s Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries.
Just hours before an author event was to take place in his small, singular independent bookstore Books Upstairs, ThoughtCast spoke with Earls about “A Portrait” at length. The conversation brought me back to my own strong feelings about this book, which had a tremendous impact on me as well, many years ago.

Click here (24 minutes) to listen!

Posted on April 23, 2012 in Literature
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Louis Menand, John Summers and Dan Aaron take on Dwight MacDonald

Louis Menand
Louis Menand
Back in the day when Dwight MacDonald was a household name (on the Upper West Side, at least) his critique of “middlebrow” American culture, and its inflated self-regard, singed eyebrows. Today, do his arguments still sting? After listening to three academics discuss MacDonald’s Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, recently released by New York Review Books Classics, the audience at the Harvard Book Store might say ‘yes’. But then they might not agree on what exactly MacDonald’s message is.
The conversation, with New Yorker staff writer and Harvard literature professor Louis Menand, the author and Baffler magazine editor John Summers, and the longtime scholar and critic Daniel Aaron, lasts 30 minutes.

Click here: to listen, and judge for yourself!

Posted on October 24, 2011 in Harvard Luminaries, Literature
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Tales from Donegal, told in Kenny’s Bookshop

Note: This interview was broadcast on KUT-FM, an NPR station based in Austin, Texas.

Charles McGlinchy
Charles McGlinchy
In 1861 in Clonmany, on the Inishowen peninsula in the far north of County Donegal Ireland, Charles McGlinchy was born.  His was a windblown, rough world, wracked with beauty and hardship. A weaver by trade, and a bachelor, in his old age he realized he was the last of the McGlinchys, the last of his name. Night after night, he told his tale to an old neighbor, the schoolmaster Patrick Kavanagh, who wrote it all down. Patrick’s son Desmond found these copybooks after his father’s death, and offered them to Brian Friel, the renowned Irish playwright, who then edited the manuscript into a book called The Last of the Name.
This same book is what Desmond Kenny, of Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway, chose to discuss in our interview. When asked to pick a piece of writing that’s had a tremendous impact on him, he wandered the rich shelves of the shop, musing over all the books he’s known and loved, until he lighted upon this one, and knew it was the right choice. We spoke after hours in the family run book shop, which recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Click here: to listen to this ThoughtCast interview (18 minutes).

Posted on September 8, 2011 in History, Literature
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Talks@Harvard Book Store: Sean Dorrance Kelly

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Talks@Harvard Book Store
Sean Dorrance Kelly

(photo by Jenny Attiyeh)

Sean Dorrance Kelly, a voluble, high-octane philosopher and Harvard professor, spoke at the Harvard Book Store recently about his latest creation: All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age,  which he co-wrote with Hubert Dreyfus, another professor of philosophy, this time at Berkeley.

ThoughtCast was there, and made this recording. (28 minutes.)
So take a listen, and let us know what you think!

Posted on August 10, 2011 in Harvard Luminaries, Literature, Philosophy
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Honor and Fair Play in Homer’s Iliad

Note: the audio version of this interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, and also on KUT in Austin, Texas!

In this fifth installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with the esteemed Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy about one of the earliest and greatest legends of all time: Homer’s epic story of the siege of Troy, called The Iliad. It’s a story of god-like heroes and blood-soaked battles; honor, pride, shame and defeat.
In this interview, we dissect a key scene in The Iliad, where Hector and Achilles are about to meet in battle. Athena is also on hand, and she plays a crucial if underhanded role, with the grudging approval of her father, Zeus.
And Nagy is of course the perfect guide to this classic tale. He’s the director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC, as well as the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard.

We spoke in his office at Widener Library.

Click here: to listen to a longer audio version of this interview! (9 minutes)

Posted on July 12, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Literature, Poetry
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Tom Perrotta on Flannery O’Connor — a literary affinity

Note: This interview was broadcast on the WGBH sister stations WCAI/WNAN, and also on KUT, in Austin, Texas!

Tom Perrotta, the author of Little Children, Election, The Abstinence Teacher and the upcoming novel The Leftovers, speaks with ThoughtCast about a writer who fascinates, irritates and inspires him: Flannery O’Connor.

Flannery O'Connor
Flannery O'Connor in her driveway in 1962 (photo credit: Joe McTyre)

His relationship with her borders on kinship, and he admires and admonishes her as he would a family member, with whom he shares a bond both genetic and cultural.
When asked to choose a specific piece of writing that’s had a significant impact on him, Tom chose O’Connor’s short story Good Country People, but then he threw in two others — Everything that Rises Must Converge and Revelation. As Tom explains, these three stories chart O’Connor’s careful trajectory, her unique vision, and her genius.
Click here (30 minutes) to listen!

This interview is the second in a new ThoughtCast series which examines a specific piece of writing — be it a poem, play, novel, short story, work of non-fiction or scrap of papyrus — that’s had a significant influence on the interviewee, that’s shaped and moved them.
Up next: Harvard Classicist Gregory Nagy on Homer’s Iliad, and the final, fatal battle between Hector and Achilles.

Posted on July 10, 2011 in Front Page, Literature
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