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MikeAlx

New Series on American Writers

This week sees the start of a new 8-part series on US authors of the post-war era, presented by Mark Lawson. Looks promising. Quite well-timed, as they seem to be dropping like flies lately!

Details of the first prog here:-
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qj2nv
Chibiabos83

Thanks so much for flagging this up - it looks fascinating, and I'd have missed it otherwise.
Evie

Ooh, thanks Mike - I would have missed it too.  I like Mark Lawson a lot, glad he is doing this.
Evie

Wow - eight episodes too!  Hope it's as good as it looks.
MikeAlx

Yes, pity about the time it's on though - but thankfully we have Listen Again!
Hector

Thanks Mike - that looks exactly like my cup of tea.

Regards

Hector
Freyda

Here is a link to the article ML wrote as a titbit to get us listening.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2...erican-literature-great-novelists
Evie

Oh, I have been forgetting all about this!!  Has anyone been listening - is it good?
Chibiabos83

I listened to the first one and have the more recent ones recorded and waiting to be listened to. Early signs were promising, from what I recall.
Evie

I just listened to the most recent one (ep.4, about the American landscape) - flippin' brilliant!  Hopefully won't forget the rest.  Really interesting comments from Updike, Ford, Irving, DeLillo, Keillor, Smiley, Robinson and others - wonderful stuff.
Evie

Excellent again this week - it was about sex, with wonderful contributions from John Updike in particular, and also Philip Roth and Armistead Maupin, among others.  Shame Henry Miller only got the very briefest of mentions - I think he is an underrated writer.  I must, must, must read more Updike!  He told a wonderful story of making notes for one of his novels on the service sheet during church services when his mind wandered during the sermon.  Great insight, just to know he was a regular churchgoer!  He sounds quite wonderful in his contributions.

I meant to say that I found Richard Ford very interesting last week, in terms of the American landscape.  He is from Mississippi, but lives in New Jersey, and sets his novels there, for the most part.  I knew he went to the same school that Eudora Welty had been to, and have often wondered why he didn't write more about the south - and it was great to hear his southern accent, given that his books are so firmly evocative of the north east coast.  But he said it was very deliberate - that the tremendous literary tradition of the South was almost stifling to him - Twain, Faulkner, McCullers, Welty and others had not left much for others to do, he needed to get away in order to be a writer.  Interesting stuff.

Excellent series, anyway, and I'm sorry I missed two or three earlier on, as I kept forgetting about it.
Chibiabos83

I must catch up with this - I'm four episodes behind. In the middle of Rabbit, Run at the moment, and one of the things that strikes me particularly strongly is how good Updike is at writing about sex. I felt the same when reading Couples. I'm sure there are others who rate him as quite dismal in this respect, given how individual our responses to sex (and sex writing) are, but he's tops with me.
Evie

He talks about both those books in the programme.  He has such a warm, friendly, twinkly sort of voice, and had a lovely line about how 'you can go from church to bed without a change of personality'.

Mark Lawson is great - he is articulate, asks interesting questions, but doesn't make judgements or push his own ideas or view of anything - the perfect host.
MikeAlx

I've yet to catch up with this series, but I concur, Mark Lawson is a great interviewer, especially when it comes to authors. I particularly like it when he interviews crime writers on Front Row, as you can tell he's a real enthusiast of the genre.
Hector

I've been enjoying this series too. The fact that some of the interviews are from a number of years ago doesn't seem to make any difference as Lawson threads them seemlessly together on a certain topic.

I've not heard this week's but will listen over the weekend. Roth and writing about sex go hand in hand (a bit like Portnoy). I think the most shocking of his books (not to sound like a Daily Mail reader) is Sabbtath's Theatre and a particular scene involving flowers and a grave. I'll save you the details.
Evie

Very Happy

Philip Roth actually talks in the programme, with a tinge of regret, about how Portnoy means no one really thinks about what he is actually writing!
TheRejectAmidHair

Evie wrote:
  I knew he went to the same school that Eudora Welty had been to, and have often wondered why he didn't write more about the south - and it was great to hear his southern accent, given that his books are so firmly evocative of the north east coast.  But he said it was very deliberate - that the tremendous literary tradition of the South was almost stifling to him - Twain, Faulkner, McCullers, Welty and others had not left much for others to do, he needed to get away in order to be a writer.


That's interesting - I hadn't actually realised that Richard Ford was a Southern writer. But if he feels a bit awed by the literary traditions o fthe South, it's a bit strange that he has chosen to transplant himself in the north-east, as that has quite a substantial literary culture of its own comparable in stature to that of the South - Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, James, Wharton, etc.
Evie

I don't think it's that he felt awed - just that he felt he wanted to have his own identity as a writer separate from that tradition - he didn't want to be a 'Southern writer'.  That particular programme showed how different regions are much stronger than a sense of overall American identity - something I have discovered in some detail through travelling each year with mainly southern Americans - and I think Ford did not want to be circumscribed by his regionality.  Yuk, horrid phrase...I think he wanted not to be expected to be part of that tradition.  It would be very hard to tell, I think, from his books alone, that he comes from the deep South.

I am not explaining very well, which means I was not listening as well as I should have been.  He acknowledges a debt to the broad influence of the great writers of the South, but he feels they said everything about the South that needed to be said, and he says he has nothing to add - what he wants to write can be done better by writing about somewhere else.
TheRejectAmidHair

Oh, I see - yes, that does make sense. While all literature of quality transcends its local concerns, literature of the American South, even at its best, is particularly strongly rooted in that locality, and I think I can understand why a Souther writer should wish to escape from that.
Evie

I think the South has such a strong sense of its own identity, in a way that makes it feel separate from the rest of the US - at least, that's what my Alabama friend tells me - that perhaps it can categorise a person in a way that other regions don't quite.  He (my friend from Alabama) says he feels Southern rather than American, and even within the South feels closer to other towns along the Gulf coast (he is in Mobile) than to people in the northern part of his own state.

But I hadn't thought about this being related to the reason why Ford had moved to the north and wrote about the north - I knew he was from Mississippi, and had wondered about it all, but it does make more sense now.

This is the kind of thing that Mark Lawson is exploring  - the way the literature of the US reveals these cultural facets - it's fascinating.
Evie

I only heard a bit of this this morning (having missed last week's all together), but Mark Lawson had some fabulous deadpan put-downs of Dan Brown! Very Happy
Evie

I have now caught up with the last episode of this marvellous series.  Excellent research on the part of Mark Lawson, some lovely interviews with a variety of authors, and lots of fascinating insights.  I hope they repeat it - I missed at least one episode, but would love to hear all of it again.  Shame it's not one of those series where the whole lot is available for longer than a week on iplayer.

Exactly the sort of bookish programme I have been longing for, a truly excellent series.  Well done to Mark Lawson (always good, and exactly the right person for this), and well done to the BBC for giving us an 8-part series.
Castorboy

Richard Ford is the guest on the BBC World Book Club discussing, I assume, his latest novel The Sportswriter. The programme is on the World Service on May 1st.
Evie

I belong to the Richard Ford page on Facebook, and received a note about this, asking if I wanted to submit a question - I suppose I should give it some thought!

The Sportswriter is not his latest book, but is probably his best known - it's the start of a trilogy, and was written in the mid-80s.  It's one of my favourite modern novels, and was really the book that opened me up to modern American fiction, which has become such a favourite part of my reading.

He's an interesting and articulate chap, in the interviews I have heard, so it promises to be a good discussion.

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