Anais Concepcion

La Cuesta Encantada | Colette Sartor | Literary Roadhouse Ep 67

Discussion Notes: La Cuesta Encantada

Find this weeks story here: La Cuesta Encantada by Colette Sartore

Next weeks story is What Splits Us by Mark Farrington.

Rated: Clean

Due to unexpected audio issues, today’s episode has some background noise in places. We apologize for the inconvenience and did our best to bring you the best listening experience possible.

This week’s discussion of Colette Sartor’s La Cuesta Encantada divided the four hosts along gender lines. Maya and Anais loved the story, while Rammy didn’t find it emotionally appealing. Meanwhile, Gerald outright disliked it. Maya questions whether the women-focused theme turns off male readers, and loved the portrayal of older female friendships. Anais found the prose to be masterful and was moved to tears. Rammy thought the story was fine, but a bit long. No surprise there! Gerald agreed that the story could have been enriched by focusing on the main relationship and developing the male characters. When it came time to rate the story, Gerald and Anais debated the merits of writing a story to appeal to both men and women. The discussion gets very heated! Tune in to listen to the hosts really tear into this week’s short fiction.

Also, don’t forget to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you this story? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail.

Also your reviews on iTunes help us grow. Please search Literary Roadhouse in iTunes and leave reviews for all of our shows.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro | Ernest Hemingway | Literary Roadhouse Ep 66

Discussion Notes: The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Find this weeks story here: The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Next weeks story is La Cuesta Encantada by Colette Sartore

Rated: Clean

This week we discussed Gerald’s favorite author, Hemingway. Gerald wasn’t shy about his fanboy love for Hemingway and this story, particularly the sections that flash back to wars and living among the common people. Maya enjoyed the story over all, but was troubled by the poorly drawn female character. The hosts debate how Hemingway could have shown a more human female character which staying in the male narrator’s point of view. When it came to descriptions and theme, Anais liked the theme of fraud and imposter syndrome. Rammy liked the scenes between the couple on safari, but took some issue with some “explicit” content in the narrator’s past, which utterly confused the other hosts who didn’t find the story explicit at all! So what was (or was not) explicit? Tune in to find out.

Also, don’t forget to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you this story? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail.

Also your reviews on iTunes help us grow. Please search Literary Roadhouse in iTunes and leave reviews for all of our shows.

Attitude Adjustment | Tim Gautreaux |Literary Roadhouse Ep 65

Discussion Notes: Attitude Adjustment

Find this weeks story here: Attitude Adjustment by Tim Gautreaux

Next weeks story is The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

Rated: Clean

This week’s story had religious themes that left Gerald as the odd man out. Rammy enjoyed the story’s message of surrendering to a greater plan, while Maya believed that story’s message was about finding the good in pain and suffering. Anais enjoyed the prose and the political subplots. The hosts analyze the morality of the story, and debate whether or not it is religious in nature, and Gerald asks if the politics of immigration in the United States was handled too bluntly in broad strokes of wrong or right. But did everyone read the stories political and religious messages the same way? Tune in to find out.

Also, don’t forget to rate the story! We rated it a 6-6-6-4 (5.5 average). For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate Attitude Adjustment? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give the final tally on the next episode. We are also in desperate need of iTunes reviews. Please search Literary Roadhouse in iTunes and leave reviews for all of our shows.

We Launched a Patreon Campaign!

Literary Roadhouse Launched a Patreon Campaign!Literary Roadhouse is now on Patreon! For those of you familiar with Patreon, great! Check out our profile at patreon.com/literaryroadhouse

Patreon lets fans directly support their favorite content creators, such as podcasters! Literary Roadhouse is free to our listeners, but unfortunately not free to create. Through Patreon you can pledge a monthly financial contribution to keep the podcast going and growing. It can be as low as $1 a month, or as high as your wallet and heart allows.

We’re ambitious. We want to grow. We have three new shows we want to produce, but we need a little help to reach our goal. We currently publish 9 episodes a month, which means Maya and Anais spend 60 hours each month sound editing. We want to grow to 16 episodes a month across 6 shows, but need a little boost getting there. Hey, maybe we can even hire a professional sound editor too! Dream big. And monthly contributions, even small ones, help us reach our goals and create better podcasts for you.

And if you prefer to make a one time contribution, you can sign up, pledge the amount you want to donate, then cancel the monthly pledge. Don’t worry about hurting our feelings by canceling a pledge, we know it’s a one-time donation and greatly appreciate it.

As a monthly patron you would have access to our Patreon activity feed where we will post special, patron-only content, such as patron-only conversations with the hosts, and sneak peeks behind the scenes.

Just to be clear, we are not charging you for our podcasts, and we don’t plan on ever doing so. Our shows are still free to anyone who reads.

If you love what what we do as much as we love doing it, help us keep doing it. And thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Author Spotlight: Kobo Abe

Abe Kobo was born Abe Kimifusa in Tokyo in 1924. (Kobo is the Chinese reading of his given name.) His father was a doctor and taught medicine at a local college. As a small boy, his family moved to Mukden, Manchuria, home of the Manchurian Incident of 1931 in which the Japanese military staged an assault on Japanese railway tracks, and blamed the Chinese as a pretext for invasion. From 1931 to 1945, the Japanese ruled Manchuria as its puppet state under a brutal regime which terrorized local Russian and Chinese populations. From this distant and grim view of his native Japan, Abe grew critical of modern culture.

He returned to Japan in 1941, and enrolled at Tokyo Imperial University in 1943 to pursue medicine. However, his passion for writing, and indifference to medicine prevented a career as a doctor. He graduated in 1948 with a medical degree under the condition that he would never practice, an arrangement which allowed him to save face.

He was first published as a poet in 1947, and then as a novelist in 1948 for The Road Sign at the End of the Street. Though the first novel established his reputation in literary and avant-garde circles, he did not receive widespread, international acclaim until his 1962 novel The Woman in the Dunes.

For more information on Abe, I turned to Rachel Stewart who earned an M.A. in English Criticism and Theory from the University of Exeter. Her thesis titled The Nature of Worlding in Contemporary Japanese Literature will be published in the journal Literature Compass. (Full disclosure: Rachel Stewart is my lovely, delightful, sharply intelligent sister-in-law.)

Anais: On next week’s podcast we’re reading “The Magic Chalk” by Abe Kobo. I know you’ve studied much of his work, and Japanese fiction in general. What can you tell me about Abe as a writer, philosopher, and artist?

Rachel: How fantastic that you are delving into Abe Kobo. He is one of Japan’s better known authors, but his work still deserves a wider readership. He is essentially an absurdist who is often sold to the West as Japan’s Kafka, and that is on many levels true in the sense that he ridicules modernity, but I think he is less humorous than Kafka. From a literary history perspective that so often aims to categorise writers by nationality, he is an interesting case because he was brought up in Manchuria and that has led critics to claim he was better able to criticise modern Japanese culture.

Kobo was very much influenced by Western authors who were beginning to be translated and published in literary magazines at the time, perhaps most significantly Sartre. Kobo was largely concerned with the evolution of humans, which was no doubt influenced by his war experience. I think it’s important to remember when reading Kobo that the Western reader at the time would have had a typically exoticised view of Japan, which is to say cherry blossoms and geishas. His writing certainty helped to raise the status of Japanese literature.  His focus on figures who are marked by the notion of flight, markedly the nomad, deserter, Jew, and gypsy, brings attention to the individual within the state; the concept of which was a contentious topic at the time in Japan, and in many ways remains so.

For a complete contrast I would recommend a ‘High Literature’ author like Kawabata Yasunari or Yukio Mishima, both of whom were very right-wing in contrast to Kobo.

Anais: Could you talk a little more about the difference between Abe and the high literature, right-wing authors like Kawabata and Mishima? What are the main differences?

Rachel: Authors like Mishima and Kawabata were very much concerned with how Japan was perceived by the wider world. Yukio actually committed the most traditional suicide harikiri (seppuku) over the state of Japan’s political future amongst other things. They wrote about huge topics like death and impossibility – Kawabata’s House of Sleeping Beauties is a brilliant example – while Kobo was more concerned with the state of human nature in the postwar years. History plays an important role here as the upbringing of each author varies considerably as does the political atmosphere that they each grew up in. Put simply, Kobo commented on human evolution (or devolution) and society, whilst others are known to have fought against the changes that postwar politics brought to traditional Japanese culture.

Anais: How did ‘high literature’ authors like Mishima and Kawabata receive Abe?

Rachel: As far as I know, Kobo was well received in Japan, even by the very established authors we’re talking about alongside him. The interesting thing about Kobo is that for those who love him he is Japanese, but for those who don’t he is not Japanese, because of his upbringing in Manchuria.

Anais: What exactly is the distinction between ‘high literature’ and ‘low literature’?

Rachel: They’re Japanese terms used in elite Japanese circles, and only really discussed by big name scholars. It’s really a huge area that has a great deal to do with early postwar politics and literary history.  It’s especially difficult to talk about from a Western view point, because it is too closely tied to questions of evolving cultural identity, you see. These days the distinction has become fairly subjective, and it’s a topic that is quite difficult to be politically correct about. Generally, low literature means writing that is not quintessentially Japanese, for example, works that include English words and references to Western pop culture. Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana are classed as low, while a modern high writer might be someone like Murakami Ryu.

Anais: You said that in some ways the comparison to Kafka is accurate. In which ways is it not?

Rachel: I think there is a more tangible element to Kobo than there is to Kafka. Kafka is more allegorical, while Kobo is at times more of a magical realist. Amazingly they both succeed in having their characters turn into inanimate objects or animals in a way that comments on social issues. The biggest difference for me is that Kobo is more concerned with the individual in modern society (bearing in mind that individualism can be a contested topic in a very group-centered culture like Japan), while Kafka is more concerned with ridiculing society as a whole.

***

Abe also had a passion for film and theater, writing screenplays and plays for the stage as well. He collaborated with Japanese director Teshigahara Hiroshi on the film adaptations of his novels The Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, and The Ruined Map. They also collaborated on The Pitfall, which is a film adaption of a TV series. The screenplay was also written by Abe.

Abe founded a theater company in the 1970’s and put on productions in Tokyo, Washington and New York in collaboration with his wife, Machi, who survived him along with their daughter, Neri, after his sudden heart failure in 1993. He was 68 (Click here for fascinating NY Time obituary).

All Japanese names in this article are listed in the Japanese convention of surname before given name.

Author Spotlight: Jocelyn Johnson

Jocelyn Johnson (photo taken from author's website) Jocelyn Johnson (photo taken from author’s website)

Jocelyn Johnson has been writing since childhood, and her passion for writing accompanied her through global travel from Tokyo to Cusco, Rajasthan, Rio, and many places in between. Writing remained a constant throughout the evolution of her life as she went on to marry, become a mother, and a teacher. As her life changed, so did her writing.  Literary Roadhouse reached out to Ms. Johnson to ask about how her work has developed over the years, and what her first novel, written as a teenager, was about.

Literary Roadhouse: When did you start writing and why?

Jocelyn Johnson: Since forever, I’ve been writing and drawing stories.  I remember, in the 6th grade, devouring S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When I learned that she’d completed that work as a teenager, I spent a year drafting my own first novel on my IBM personal computer, back when each piece of printer paper was edged in perforated strips.

LR: What and who do you like to read?

JJ: I’m drawn to short stories and novels that surprise me and place me among outsiders. A few books I’ve loved in the last decade: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by  Charles Yu,  We the Animals by  Justin Torres, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell,  and  We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.  I recently reread the gorgeous, grotesque Beloved by Toni Morrison, and was, once again, appalled and riveted.

LR: You’ve been writing for such a long time. How would you say your writing has developed over the years?

JJ: I’ve developed an expectation to work harder, and on more complex problems. I’m willing to re-imagine characters, scenes, whole strands in order to figure them out. Also I try to be  a little braver and more emotionally honest in my fiction these days.

LR: What can you tell me about the first novel you wrote as a child? What did that explore? What were the characters like?

JJ: The novel I wrote as a teenager is about Shadow, a lovesick, mohawked boy from San Francisco who travels east to find his girlfriend after she is sent away for attempting suicide— light, right?  At the time, I was interested in disaffected youth; I was disaffected youth.  

When I decided to write a novel as an adult, I found an old draft of Shadow, and drew on the bones of that original story. Nearly all of the particulars changed when I re-imagined my protagonist as sixteen-year-old Aisha Bell, a young photographer girl of color who falls hard for another girl. The short story “The Hasselblad” was born from this transition in the novel.

Ms. Johnson’s essays and fiction have appeared in Life with Objects, Storyglossia, Salome Magazine, Literary Mama and elsewhere. Her work has placed first in the University of Virginia’s Museum’s Writer’s Eye Contest, been anthologized in Jane’s Stories “Bridges and Borders”, and received honorable mention in the E.M. Koeppel fiction award. Her short story “The Hasselblad” placed first in the Richard Bausch Short Story Contest at Our Stories (Spring 2012). Her first novel (written as an adult), Our Savage Hearts, is represented by New Leaf Literary and is currently on submission.

Jocelyn Johnson lives in Virginia with her husband, son, and two dogs. She blogs about parenthood, art, the world we live in, and the intersections between these things, at her website www.jocelynjohnson.com.

Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries

Let’s talk Ray Bradbury. You have likely heard of him. If you’re American, there is a good chance you read his novel Fahrenheit 451, or the Cliffnotes thereof (I’m onto you), in highschool – or kindergarten, if you went to private school. You may recall that the title refers to the auto-ignition point of paper where it catches fire without being exposed to an external flame. You were also probably taught that the book is about government censorship, and that Bradbury wrote this book in the early 50s in response to McCarthy era book banning.

That interpretation makes sense if you ignore everything Bradbury had said since the late 1950s. Shortly after the book’s release in 1953, Bradbury reinforced this interpretation in several interviews about the book, but in the late 1950s, his comments regarding Fahrenheit 451 became more nuanced.

His real purpose in writing the book, he insisted, was to warn readers about an illiterate society infatuated with mass media. Indeed, in the book, earbuds come between Mildred and Montag in their marriage. The government only begins censorship after society has abandoned books in favor of other types of media.* Bradbury stressed his concern that other types of media would replace books. Sound familiar?

Bradbury is decrying censorship, but he blames society for letting it happen. Don’t let Ray Bradbury down. He even wrote 27 books and over 600 short stories just for you.

Six. Hundred.

You take that number and then you go over it, and that’s how many short stories Ray Bradbury wrote. Here’s a list. Notice how the Wikipedia page dedicated solely to Bradbury’s short stories is listed as incomplete.

From now on I am going to rate all short stories on a scale of 1 to 6 Bradbury’s. Bradberries? Someone, anyone, please design for me a type of berry (raspberry?) with Ray Bradbury’s face imposed on it. I will use this berry to judge all other short stories.

Right, this post has a point. Well, now there are two actually.

1. Fahrenheit 451 is talking about us, more than it’s talking about the government. Don’t let Bradbury’s dystopia come true.

2. If you don’t read more stories, I will award you zero Ray Bradberries. Zero.

*Don’t remember this? Fahrenheit 451 is only 159 pages long. It’s worth a reread (or a first read).

Anais

Why I Need An Online Reading Group

Do you read what I read?

Maybe. Probably. I don’t read obscurely. Let me prove it. The last five fiction books I have read are The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut, The Green Mile by Stephen King, and World War Z by Max Brooks.

See? Nothing rare or unknown. Those books have been widely read, and yet I have very few people to discuss them with. It’s a bizarre complaint in the age of the Internet. How have I not found a community to discuss books with?

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The best answer I can invent, with no guarantee that this is my truth, is that I like to discuss stories with people that I know.

I have some evidence to this theory. When I finish a book, I harass my closest friends and family with a froth of words that loosely describe my rabid feelings about what I just finished. Take care to remember that these poor souls have not read whatever whipped me into a frenzy. And yet, they bear through it (often with admirable enthusiasm), knowing that eventually the caps lock will be released. Eventually, I have to breathe. Eventually, normal human interaction will begin anew.

But that isn’t fair to them, and now I have this podcast: the unexpected salvation to my personal relationships. But more importantly, a community where I can discuss stories with people that I know, and will over time get to know better.

I am talking about my co-hosts primarily, but the community isn’t limited to just the four of us. It’s open. Listeners can become commenters at will, and the most vocal will become as known to me as my co-hosts are. I can’t wait to meet them.

I am also particularly excited by the choice to read short stories. They will keep the community glued. They are short, accessible, and often jam-packed with as many thought provoking kernels of wisdom and questions as a novel.

Some of you may have noticed that I listed 2BR02B in my list of books. That is a short story, and still, I frothed over that story just as much as any of the other novels on that list. Short stories are not truncated novels. They are full stories that capture as much of humanity as a novel can. They can be just as funny, seductive, discomfitting or scary as any long form book.

And you can read them in one sitting. Perfect for a weekly podcast. All the story to chew on, none of the time-suck. I hope you’ll read some short stories with me — that you’ll read what I read.

Anais

The Case of the Third Co-host

Gerald Interview

The Suspect: Gerald Hornsby

The Mystery: Will Gerald join Literary Roadhouse as a co-host?

Evidence: Shortly after concluding today’s three-way video call with Gerald, Maya and Anais met on a call of their own. They agreed that Gerald will bring great energy to the podcast. “He has a great voice,” they said, “And his interests differ enough from ours that opinions and short story submissions should vary.”

They decided to invite him to join the podcast, but had no way to know for certain that Gerald would accept. They had a hunch that he would, but they’re serious podcasters. A hunch isn’t enough. They needed facts.

Anais believed that if Gerald submits to Maya a good headshot and a short bio for use on the podcast webpage, then that is a sure sign that Gerald is in. She slipped him a short story, left in an inbox he was sure to find at least six hours into the future. Time zones were never her forte.

She signed it, perhaps a bit too hopefully,

Your fellow co-host.