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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:04 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

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.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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Evie
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Posts: 2105


Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.



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Hector



Joined: 10 Jan 2009
Posts: 294


Location: Leeds

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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Evie
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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!


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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.



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