Joining us on Backlisted this week is novelist and memoirist Susie Boyt (My Judy Garland Life, Loved and Missed). The book Susie has chosen for us to discuss is The Dream Songs (1969) by John Berryman, the publication of which briefly made its author the most famous poet in America but also, unfortunately, hastened his decline and ruin. But the work shines on. Also in this episode Andy is struck by the contemporary resonance of Vivian Gornick's The Romance of American Communism while John drinks in Public House: A Cultural and Social History of the London Pub edited by David Knight and Cristina Monteiro. Please note, this episode contains references to suicide.
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Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker
1:13:24Our guests are publisher Alexandra Pringle and Simon Thomas, editor and co-host of the Tea or Books? podcast. They are here to discuss Cassandra at the Wedding, the fourth and final novel by Dorothy Baker, first published in 1962 by Houghton Mifflin in the USA and Victor Gollancz in the UK. What is it about this darkly funny tale of two devoted sisters that continues to appeal to generations of readers? Also in this episode John enjoys Notes from an Island by Tove Jansson and Tuulikki Pietila, newly reissued by Sort Of Books, while Andy returns to early 1980s London via Michael Bracewell's new book Souvenir (White Rabbit). For more information visit backlisted.fm. Please support us and unlock bonus material at https://www.patreon.com/backlisted.
The Dream Songs by John Berryman
1:12:45Joining us on Backlisted this week is novelist and memoirist Susie Boyt (My Judy Garland Life, Loved and Missed). The book Susie has chosen for us to discuss is The Dream Songs (1969) by John Berryman, the publication of which briefly made its author the most famous poet in America but also, unfortunately, hastened his decline and ruin. But the work shines on. Also in this episode Andy is struck by the contemporary resonance of Vivian Gornick's The Romance of American Communism while John drinks in Public House: A Cultural and Social History of the London Pub edited by David Knight and Cristina Monteiro. Please note, this episode contains references to suicide.
Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee
1:02:02We are joined by novelist Mary Costello for a special episode recorded live at Galway International Arts Festival in Ireland on September 10th 2021. The book we're debating is Elizabeth Costello (2003) by South-African born Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee, a novel that politely asks the reader to consider, amongst other matters, animal rights, the power of faith and the limits of fiction itself. Also in this episode, new books by two Irish authors: Sally Rooney's novel Beautiful World, Where Are You and John Moriarty’s The Hut at the Edge of the Village, a collection edited by Martin Shaw and published by the Lilliput Press.
Summer Reading 2021
1:00:53It’s time for our annual look at what we’ve been reading over the summer break. John, Andy and Nicky discuss David Keenan’s fourth novel Monument Maker; Open Water, a promising debut novella from Caleb Azumah Nelson; Deborah Levy’s three-volume ‘living autobiography’, Things I Don’t Want to Know, The Cost of Living and Real Estate; a reissue of Percival Everett’s satirical diatribe Erasure; Life With a Capital L, Geoff Dyer’s selection of essays by D.H. Lawrence; and Vivian Gornick’s The End of the Novel of Love and Unfinished Business, in which the author re-reads favourite classic books and comes to fresh conclusions about them. All these titles can be purchased from the Backlisted bookshop at https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/backlisted.
Fat City by Leonard Gardner
1:06:58Perhaps the greatest boxing novel ever written, Leonard Gardner's Fat City was first published in 1969; it was shortlisted for the National Book Award; Joan Didion and Denis Johnson are amongst those who have sung its praises. The book was made into a film in 1972 starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges, directed by John Huston from a screenplay by Gardner himself. In this episode Andy, John and Nicky explore both the novel and the film and the ways in which Gardner shows the reader the whole of a society through the prism of sport. We also hear from the author as to why he has never published another novel. Plus in this episode John reignites his love of D.H. Lawrence with Frances Wilson's acclaimed new biography Burning Man, while Andy shares an extract from Leonora Carrington's magical novel The Hearing Trumpet, read by actress Siân Phillips.
Heart of the Original By Steve Aylett
1:16:26Joining us on Backlisted this week is writer John Higgs, whose fascinating new book William Blake Vs The World is out now. We were thrilled John chose Steve Aylett's guide to originality, creativity and individuality, Heart of the Original, first published by Unbound in 2015 and as original, creative and individual a book as we have ever featured on this podcast; be prepared to experience a "small-particle tulpa storm" of ideas. Also in this episode, John enjoys the waspish melancholy of Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights, while Andy introduces a reading from Black Teacher by Beryl Gilroy, a trailblazing Guyanese woman's memoir of post-war London.
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
1:08:05Returning to Backlisted this week are literary agents Becky Brown and Norah Perkins, joint custodians of the Curtis Brown Heritage list of literary estates and previously our guests on episode #109, Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. This time we are discussing the work of crime novelist Dorothy B. Hughes and in particular her suspenseful and subversive novel In a Lonely Place (1947), freely adapted as a classic film noir by director Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Also in this episode Norah and Becky pitch titles by Kay Dick, Stella Gibbons and R.C. Sherriff to Andy, John and Nicky. Make sure you have a pen and paper to hand...
Are You Somebody? by Nuala O'Faolain
1:12:35Joining John and Andy this week is novelist and host of the books podcast Sentimental Garbage, Caroline O'Donoghue (Promising Young Women, Scenes of a Graphic Nature, All Our Hidden Gifts). We are discussing Nuala O'Faolain's revelatory memoir Are You Somebody? (1996), the original publication of which caused a sensation in her native Ireland. The book went on to top the New York Times bestseller list for six weeks; it still has the power to astonish. Also in this episode Andy has been exploring John Higgs's new book William Blake Vs The World and John is moved by Consumed: A Sister's Tale, the family memoir of Arifa Akbar, a former guest on Backlisted.
A Goat's Song by Dermot Healy
1:14:43Joining John and Andy this week are novelist Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto, Winterwood) and Unbound's editor-at-large Rachael Kerr. We got together to discuss Dermot Healy's remarkable second novel A Goat's Song (1994) and the peripatetic life of its author, one of the great Irish writers of recent times. Patrick, Rachael and John all knew, worked and occasionally drank with Dermot Healy and this special episode reflects their personal connections with a much-loved and much-missed man. Also in this edition Andy considers the most recent novel of another legendary Irish writer, Girl by Edna O'Brien; while John shares his admiration for Shola Von Reinhold's Lote, winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses 2021.
The Evenings by Gerard Reve
1:13:08Joining John and Andy this week are novelist Marie Phillips (Gods Behaving Badly, Oh, I Do Like To Be...) and novelist, screenwriter and poet Joe Dunthorne (Submarine, O Positive). The book we are discussing is Gerard Reve's debut novel De Avonden AKA The Evenings, which caused a sensation when published in the Netherlands in 1947 and is now considered a classic. In the words of Herman Koch, it may be 'the funniest, most exhilarating novel about boredom ever written'. Reve was only 24; he went on to have a long, successful and frequently scandalous career but only a handful of his books have been translated into English. Also in this episode John digs Bella Bathurst's new book Field Work: What Land Does to People & What People Do to Land and Andy surveys Landscapes of Detectorists and discovers prose to treasure.