232 The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a successful administrator and general man-about-town in Restoration London. As a devoted theatergoer, a capable bureaucrat, and a privileged witness of the King and his court, he saw firsthand many of the most important developments of the 1660s, including events like the Great Plague of London (1665) and the Great Fire of London (1666). And he was one of the world’s great diarists, carefully recording his daily life and general observations in a work he kept secret from all eyes but his own. For over a hundred years his name was little known, until the publication of the diary shocked a nineteenth-century audience. Here was a previous London brought to life – a city rich with intrigue and packed with sexual escapades and scandals – and here too was an unassuming narrator, whose descriptions of food and fashion and activity and his own marriage and many infidelities, proved a perfect guide to transport readers to another era. Pepys’s diary became a perfect bedside book, readable even today for its fascinating detail, wry good humor, joy and heartbreak, and insight into the human condition.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

231 James Baldwin | Going To Meet The Man

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a fearless artist, an uncompromising critic, a brilliant essayist, and an American who lived within his time and yet was decades ahead of it. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Going To Meet the Man,” Baldwin’s provocative story of the power dynamics at play within a white Southern man who attends a lynching. (Warning: This story of racism, violence, and sexual activity is graphic and brutal. Listeners may want to exercise caution.)

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

230 William Faulkner – A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner (1897-1962) is one of the most celebrated and divisive figures in American literature. Widely recognized as one of the greatest novelists America has produced, his fiction and his life have become the stuff of legend. In this episode of The History of Literature, Jacke talks through our understanding of Faulkner and what he means to us today. Are these the revelations of a Southern prophet? Or “corncobby chronicles” (as Nabokov put it)? And how do we assess a writer whose undeniable storytelling power was accompanied by personal views that shock us today? Can we see those moral blindspots when we look at his fiction? What truths do we find in his works – and are they the truths he wanted us to see? And finally, Jacke and Mike take a deeper look at Faulkner’s masterpiece, “A Rose for Emily.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“DarxieLand” and “Greta Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

229 Baldwin v Faulkner

In the 1950s, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was one of most celebrated novelists in America, highly praised for this formal innovation, his prodigious storytelling gifts, and his sweeping, multigenerational portrait of Southern society.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer on the rise, youthful and energetic, fearless and incisive, known for essays and commentary as brilliant as his fiction.

In this episode of The History of Literature, we take a look at the public debate surrounding the civil rights movement, which Faulkner addressed in a (purportedly) drunken interview in which he said, “If I have to choose between the United States Government and Mississippi then I’ll choose Mississippi. If it came to fighting I’d fight for Mississippi against the United States, even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negros.” At calmer points, Faulkner freely acknowledged that desegregation was the correct view “morally, legally, and ethically” but was not, in his view, “practical.”

In 1956, writing in the pages of the Partisan Review, Baldwin responded to these and other Faulkner statements with a brief, dazzling essay “Faulkner and Desegregation,” in which he analyzed Faulkner’s position on race, linked Faulkner’s publicly expressed views to the inner world of the Southerner of the 1950s, and – it became clear a few months later – set the stage for his own efforts to inhabit and portray the mindset of a white Southerner in his fiction.

How does the fiction of these two men work? What did it say about race and power and the precarious balance of a time, a place, and an era? What does understanding this mean for us today? We’ll explore those questions in our next two episodes, where we look at a pair of short stories, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Darxieland” and “Allemande Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

228 England vs France – A Literary Battle Royale

“Our dear enemies,” a French writer once said of the English. Englishman John Cleese called them “our natural enemies” and joked “if we have to fight anyone, I say let’s fight the French.” With the exception of a few big twentieth-century alliances, the French and the English have been at each others’ throats for a thousand years. Occasionally this has meant taking up arms and fighting for land or religion or rule. But what about culture? What if the battlefield were a literary one? What if supremacy was determined not by the sword but by the pen? In this episode, Jacke and Mike choose their sides and get ready to wage a literary battle between two proud, rivalrous, and highly literate nations.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

227 “The Country Husband” by John Cheever

John Cheever (1912-1982) scratched the surface of the American suburbs and found that they were built over a deep pit of despair. His short stories and novels, which chronicled the lives of those damaged psyches trying to put an alcohol-fueled gloss on the world’s dark stains, earned him admiration and acclaim – and seem to have done little to ease his own pain. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at one of Cheever’s masterpieces, “The Country Husband” (1954), which tells the story of a man who survives a plane crash only to find that nothing in his world as a husband and father has changed. What other breaks in the continuum might there be? Can any of them pull him out of his nightmarish fugue state? Is a dying star destined to fall and fade, or can it point the way to something grand?

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Et Voila” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

226 Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) went from a childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a wildly successful literary career, as his poems, short stories, and essays stunned the world with their inventiveness, intellectual seriousness, and flights of imagination. He was more than a writer, and maybe more even than an icon: he was what we might call a human literary genre, the creator of a type of literature that he alone practiced and perfected. In this episode, Jacke and Mike celebrate the works of Borges and take a look at the writers he influenced.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Tango de Manzana” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

225 “A Village After Dark” by Kazuo Ishiguro

In this special quarantine edition, Jacke takes a brief look at the life and works of Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his short story “A Village After Dark.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Onion Capers” and “Magistar” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

224 Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was born in Algeria to French parents. After his father died in World War I, when Albert was still an infant, the family was reduced to impoverished circumstances, forced to move in with relatives in an apartment without electricity or running water.

From these humble beginnings, Camus went on to become one of the most famous and celebrated writers in the world, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature at the improbably young age of 44. In this episode of the History of Literature, we look at his works, including The Stranger and The Plague; his entanglement with the existentialists (a label he rejected); the analysis of his works by Jean-Paul Sartre; and the three possible philosophical responses to humanity’s essentially absurd condition.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Parisian” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

223 “Speech Sounds” by Octavia Butler

Imagine a plague that ravages the world and impairs the ability of humans to communicate with one another. What kind of society would we have? Who would take power and how would they hold it? What would the world be like for the powerless? How would children adapt and survive? In “Speech Sounds,” Octavia E. Butler invites us to consider these questions – and helps us look for rays of hope in even the bleakest of landscapes.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006), the daughter of a shoeshine man and a housemaid, went from a poor but proud childhood to becoming “the grand dame of science fiction.” Known for her physically and mentally tough black heroines, her work combines the dynamism of invented worlds with astute observations of race, gender, sexuality, and power.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Backbay Lounge” and “Magistar” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/