We discuss Thomas Mann's 1912 novel Death in Venice, which follows a famous German author on his vacation, where he becomes obsessed with a young boy and develops cholera. I'm really boiling it down, here. The book has many wonderful passages about art and writing, which Scott and I discuss at length, in addition to the novel's frightening similarity to our own time of quarantine.
We have a solo show this time! In it I discuss Yuri Herrera's masterful crime novel The Transmigration of Bodies. It's...timely!
"A plague has brought death to the city. Two feuding crime families with blood on their hands need our hard-boiled hero, The Redeemer, to broker peace. Both his instincts and the vacant streets warn him to stay indoors, but The Redeemer ventures out into the city’s underbelly to arrange for the exchange of the bodies they hold hostage."
I discuss how to build a world and the characters in it with very few words, the novel's sexual politics, and most importantly its meditation on plagues and death.
Afterwards I give a few tips that have been working for me to stay sane in quarantine.
Today on the show, Rob and I discuss a book that tackles ecosystemic problems in a holistic, innovative, and sober way. Climate is highly recommended to anyone out there suffering from feelings of hopelessness or despair with regard to the environment.
In this episode, we cover: the problem with lowering carbon emissions, techno-optimism, climate catastrophism, battling despair, Gaia theory, regenerative agriculture, and the solution to the "overpopulation" problem.
In this episode, Rob and I discuss John Zerzan's Twilight of the Machines. The description on Powell's reads:
"The mentor of the green anarchist and neo-primitive movements is back with his first book in six years, confronting civilization, mass society, and modernity and technoculture—both the history of its developing crisis and the possibilities for its human and humane solutions.
As John Zerzan writes, 'These dire times may yet reveal invigorating new vistas of thought and action. When everything is at stake, all must be confronted and superseded. At this moment, there is the distinct possibility of doing just that.'"
Rob and I discuss the history of civilization as put forth in the book, primal anarchism, static language vs. language of becoming, symbolism, depression, immediacy, and whether or not art is inherently bad. We also discuss how to apply the ideas presented in this book. How do we begin to tear off the Band-Aid that is our modern lives?
The second part of our conversation gets much more "Jes Grew" than the first. While we talk about the novel (including a recap of the Egyptian mythology), we delve deep into the Jes Grew vs. Atonist divide, and what our modern art could learn from dropping a "good vs. bad" aesthetic to focus more on whether or not the work of art feels alive or inert. We also talk about whether or not Warren J. Harding was our first black president.
In the first part of our discussion about Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo, we talk about the plot of the novel, Jes Grew, the Harlem Renaissance, the concept of The Talking Android, Charles S. Wright, and the problem with creating art from the perspective of misery.
This week I'm talking to the WLT book review and online editor Rob Vollmar about Pentti Linkola's Can Life Prevail? A celebrity in his native Finland, Linkola is a traditional fisherman and essayist known for his radical environmentalism. We look at the deep questions of his most important work, which asks some...uncomfortable questions. Is this a work of genocidal ecofascism, and is there anything that can be pulled from it?
I look forward to conversations with Jeff, because I know he's not afraid to go to deep, interesting places when we talk about art, inspiration, and craft. In this one, we talk about Alan Clark's Elephant, art that acts as a creation/destruction machine, the importance of ritual, a theater piece designed to contact the dead, and viruses at war with each other.