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Un-silencing voices of writers who embody the courage of free expression.

Books Unbound – The Mulatto

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Books Unbound revisits “The Mulatto,” a short story that first appeared in 1837 in an anti-slavery magazine published by free people of color in France. Its author was the 19-year-old Victor Séjour, who had come as a student to Paris from New Orleans. Séjour was a French-speaking person of color whose baptismal record identifies him as a free quadroon. His father had come to New Orleans among refugees of the Haitian Revolution. “The Mulatto” is set in Haiti, and is thought to be the first short story published by an American of African descent.

It’s a frank melodrama, a mode of extreme passion and good-and-evil morality that permeated 19th-century fiction and drama. An oedipal tragic secret lies at the heart of a story fueled by rape, injustice, revenge and murder. Gothic elements of horror speak to the violence done to family within the institution of slavery. Séjour went on to have a highly successful career as a dramatist, with twenty of his plays in a variety of genres produced at the Comédie Française.

“The Mulatto” was originally part of a Books Unbound series on race in literature that was broadcast in early 2015. Indiana University associate professor Maisha Wester discusses the racial implications of gothic melodrama.

Our reader is Lauren Robert. Sarah Torbeck hosts, with Jack Hanek as the announcer. Special music comes from the Twelve Grand Études of Frédéric Chopin, which were published the same year as “The Mulatto”, performed by Martha Goldstein courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The episode was produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe, with the interview produced by Doug Storm. Special thanks to Community Access Television Services for recording this week’s reading.

Executive producer: Joe Crawford

Theme music: The Impossible Shapes

 

Books Unbound – The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, Conclusion

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The Life Of Lazarillo de Tormes, His Fortunes and Misfortunes concludes with an improbably happy ending. Lazarillo is a clueless but sly servant boy who learns to survive a series of abusive masters through trickery and petty crime.

Published anonymously in the 16th century, Lazarillo was one of only six novels banned by the Index of Prohibited Books during the Inquisition. This classic of Spanish and world literature is also an early example of the picaresque novel, episodic fiction in which a roguish protagonist evades conventional authority and navigates a series of predicaments. Novelist Jane Smiley calls Lazaro the first protagonist in fiction to represent the ordinary person whose primary concern is eking out a living. Set mostly in Toledo, Spain, the novella is also notable for its depiction of poverty amid the anti-poor laws enacted during the period, and the changing attitudes toward charity in an increasingly capitalist society.

Excerpted from the translation of Robert S. Rudder, the Books Unbook presentation of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes is newly expanded from a version first broadcast in the fall of 2014 as part of a series on classic satiric fiction. Tony Brewer is the reader, Sarah Torbeck the host, and Berklea Going the announcer.

The episode was written and produced by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Robert Shull and Doug Storm.

Lazarillo features period music by the 16th-century Spanish composer Diego Ortiz, who was born in Toledo, as performed by Jordi Savali on his albums La Folia and Recercadas del Trattado de Glosas. Books Unbound theme music by The Impossible Shapes.

Series producer: Cynthia Wolfe
Executive producer: Joe Crawford

Books Unbound – The Life Of Lazarillo de Tormes, Part 1

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The Life Of Lazarillo de Tormes, His Fortunes and Misfortunes is a classic of Spanish literature, written anonymously and one of only six novels on the Index of Prohibited Books during the Inquisition. Lazaro is a clueless but sly servant boy who learns to survive a series of abusive masters through trickery and petty crime. The original book was controversial mainly for its satire of Catholicism and the clergy, and the version available to modern readers is an edition censored for re-publication. A sequel that was critical of the political power structure remained banned.

Written in the 16th century, Lazarillo is an early example of the picaresque novel, episodic fiction in which a roguish protagonist evades conventional authority and navigates a series of predicaments. Novelist Jane Smiley calls Lazaro the first protagonist in fiction to represent the ordinary person whose primary concern is eking out a living. Set mostly in Toledo, Spain, the novella is also notable for its depiction of poverty amid the anti-poor laws enacted during the period, and the changing attitudes toward charity in an increasingly capitalist society.

Excerpted from the translation of Robert S. Rudder, the Books Unbook presentation of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes is newly expanded two-part program from a version first broadcast in the fall of 2014 as part of a series on classic satiric fiction. Tony Brewer is the reader, Sarah Torbeck the host, and Berklea Going the announcer.

The episode was written and produced by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Robert Shull and Doug Storm.

Lazarillo features period music by the 16th-century Spanish composer Diego Ortiz, who was born in Toledo, performed by Jordi Savali on his albums La Folia and Recercadas del Trattado de Glosas. Books Unbound theme music by The Impossible Shapes.

Broadcast on MCCSC Commencement day, the episode concludes with the poem “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur, read by Cynthia Wolfe and dedicated to the Class of 2015.

Series producer: Cynthia Wolfe
Executive producer: Joe Crawford

Books Unbound – Not Somewhere Else But Here

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“Not Somewhere Else But Here” is a companion piece to Books Unbound’s April 25th episode on Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and was originally broadcast as a prologue to a living reading of the memoir. Excerpts from classic fiction on incarceration and poems explore the theme of confinement, how it shapes identity, and the nature of escape. The program is structured in three conceptual sequences, the first locating the impulse to confine in the family.

I. familial repression and freudian crime

• “They Shut Me Up in Prose” by Emily Dickinson (read by Erin Livingston)
• “Captivity” by Louise Erdrich (Lauren Robert)
• “Cage” by Josephine Miles (Joan Hawkins)
• “last speakers of a dead language shut up” by Tony Brewer (Tony Brewer)
• “Black Woods” by Kevin Pruffer (Tony Brewer and Cynthia Wolfe)
• “Hole” by Matt Morris (Erin Livingston, Tony Brewer, and Cynthia Wolfe)

II. law and order: incarceration

• excerpt from “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe (Jack Hanek)
• excerpts from Notes from a Dead House, Chapter One, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Sarah Torbeck and Pavel Abramov, with additional music from “Motherland” and “Freedom” by Russian political and peace activist Yuri Shevchuk and DDT)
• “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich, with a statement from her 2001 column in the Los Angeles Times, “Credo of a Passionate Skeptic” (Joan Hawkins)
• “The Man in Question” by Daniel Borzutzky (Tony Brewer) listener advisory: this poem contains blunt statements about sexual activity
• “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka (Frank Buczolich)

III. confinement and the mind: escape

• “The Sail of Ulysses” by Wallace Stevens (Cynthia Wolfe)
• “Everyone Sang” by Siegfried Sassoon (Lauren Robert)

Heather Perry is this week’s host. Produced by Cynthia Wolfe with assistance from Heather Perry, Sarah Torbeck, and Jack Hanek. Script by Cynthia Wolfe with contributions from Sarah Torbeck, Tony Brewer, and Frank Buczolich. Edited by Cynthia Wolfe.

Special music for the episode from “Chitarra Ocarinistica Bad Reise” and “Seven Replies to Unasked Questions” by Fred Frith and his workshop, and “Elegy for an Angel” by Lindsay Cooper, Fred Frith, Gianni Gebbia and Lars Hollmer, from the album Angelica ’92; and from the album Voyage That Never Ends by Stefano Scodanibbio

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Books Unbound theme music: The Impossible Shapes

Books Unbound – “Exploring with Robert McAlmon, Part Three”

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Robert McAlmon was a ubiquitous presence among the “Lost Generation” of American expatriate writers during the 1920s and ’30s in Paris. Bisexual, he entered into a marriage of appearances with the heiress and lesbian writer Bryher. With her father’s great wealth, he started a press that published the early work of many of the most famous Modernists—and paid bar tabs and hotel bills for his friends Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. By the end of the 1930s, he was sinking into obscurity, bitterness, and alcoholism.

Books Unbound’s three-part program on this lesser-known Modernist concludes with poems and prose pieces from McAlmon’s 1921 collection Explorations, with a third short story from his fiction collection A Hasty Bunch (1922) to complement “A Vacation’s Job” and “A Boy’s Discovery” in parts one and two.

The first segment features McAlmon’s complete cycle of poems about what was then still the novel sensation of flying in an aircraft: “Aero-Rhythms” (Joan Hawkins), “Perspicuity” (Cynthia Wolfe), “Etherism” (Hawkins), “Aero-Metre” (Erin Livingston), “Consummation” (Tony Brewer), “Volplanetor” (Wolfe), and “Aero-Laughter” (Frank Buczolich).

The short-short story “Light Woven into Wavespray,” read by Phil Kasper, infuses gorgeous descriptions of seaside leisure with McAlmon’s pervasive ennui and contempt, and intimations of his sexuality. The central panel of the episode is “Mood Decisions,” a prose sequence (read by Brewer and Livingston) rife with biting humor, sharp images, and snark.

The episode closes with more poetry. Now almost a century old, the prescient “White Males” (Hawkins) treats its titular subject as a violent species facing extinction. Also included are “Today’s Music” (Wolfe), “Words” (Buczolich), and “A Modern’s Half Day” (Hawkins)

Special music for the episode comes from two classical composers who were active at the time of McAlmon’s literary career. The poems on flight are accompanied by excerpts from Igor Stravinsky’s symphonic poem “The Song of the Nightingale” (1917), conducted by Pierre Boulez and performed by the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. McAlmon writes about Stravinsky in the prose piece “Thought Ghosts on Music” in Explorations:

“Strawinsky — a snigger chortled between Mozart and Schumann — ‘laughing up his sleeve at us, and not letting us in on the joke with titles as does Strauss,’ men behind me declared. The innovation jarred senses that ten conscientious years of musical training had grooved. An innovation that might cause them to retrain their senses. I could hear Strawinsky tittering up his sleeve, and hear the titter giggling along his ribs, making them to rattle — and that is another theme for modern music. I enjoyed Strawinsky. He might mean anything because he meant nothing.”

Additional music comes from Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, written during the time A Hasty Bunch and Explorations were published. The sonata is performed by Carlos Benito de la Gala and Alberto Gorrochategui Blanco on their album Kodaly and Ravel (KalilaDimna, 2011). Wind sound effect for the flight sequence was created by Mark DiAngelo via SoundBible.com.

Sarah Torbeck hosts, with announcer Jack Hanek. This episode was produced, written, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Heather Perry, Sarah Torbeck and Jack Hanek.

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes

Books Unbound – Exploring with Robert McAlmon, Part Two

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“Exploring with Robert McAlmon” is a three-episode series of fiction and poetry by one of the lesser-known Modernists. McAlmon has been called a leading “spokesman of the post-war nihilistic pessimism of the Lost Generation.” He was publisher and hard-drinking companion of many of the major Modernists writing in English, including James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway.

Graduation day at Indiana University brings the conclusion of “A Vacation’s Job”, as a white male college student combats his intellectual ennui with a summer job supervising manual laborers. David’s “racial tourism” brings him into contact with the vital culture of African Americans in the 1920s, but his experiences are constrained by racist prejudices and sense of superiority. (Listeners are advised that the story contains offensive and derogatory racial and ethnic characterizations and language that reflect attitudes of the 1920s.) “A Vacation’s Job” is read by Phil Kasper.

The short “A Boy’s Discovery” deals with sexual identity and childhood vulnerability, and like “A Vacation’s Job, hints at autobiographical elements, such as the author’s own peripatetic upbringing and bisexuality. Shayne Laughter reads a wistful, comic but unsparing story about growing up in small-town America. Both stories come from McAlmon’s 1921 short-story collection A Hasty Bunch.

Sarah Torbeck hosts, with announcer Jack Hanek. This episode was produced, written, and edited by Cynthia Wolfe, with production assistance from Heather Perry, Sarah Torbeck and Jack Hanek.

Special music for the episode comes from the 1920s classics ““Take Me Away from the River” by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra; “Sidewalk Blues” by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers; and Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, written about the time A Hasty Bunch was first published. and performed by Carlos Benito de la Gala and Alberto Gorrochategui Blanco on their album Kodaly and Ravel (KalilaDimna, 2011)

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes

Books Unbound – Exploring with Robert McAlmon: ‘A Vacation’s Job,’ Part One

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“Exploring with Robert McAlmon” is a three-episode series of fiction and poetry by one of the lesser-known Modernists. Born in 1895, McAlmon grew up in the small towns of the Midwest as the son of an itinerant Presbyterian minister, and he never developed the habit of staying in place. He knew and offered support as a publisher to many of the key figures of Modernism, publishing Ernest Hemingway’s first book and typing in the manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He also published Mina Loy’s Lunar Baedeker, selections from which were heard in the November 23 episode of Books Unbound.

The series begins with “A Vacation’s Job,” a selection for graduation season to be continued next week, published in McAlmon’s 1922 collection A Hasty Bunch. A smugly superior white male college student takes a summer job among manual laborers. He thinks of himself as an enlightened intellectual, but through techniques of ironic point of view, McAlmon reveals his unexamined racist hypocrisies. (Listeners are advised that the story contains offensive and derogatory racial and ethnic characterizations and language that reflect attitudes of the 1920s.) The story’s exploration of masculinist themes and male friendships is interesting in light of McAlmon’s own strong belief that bisexuality is normative, and that both homosexuality and heterosexuality are partial and restrictive.

The reader is Phil Kasper. Sarah Torbeck hosts, with announcer Jack Hanek. This episode was produced, written, recorded and edited by Cynthia Wolfe, with assistance from Sarah Torbeck and Jack Hanek.

The episode concludes with an observance for the deaths in Nepal after the April 25 earthquake. Cynthia Wolfe reads “Death Speaks” by Nepalese poet Dinesh Adhikari, in a translation by Wayne Amtzis.

McAlmon regularly refers to jazz and avant-garde classical in his work, and the episode features lavish portions of 1920s music. Special music for the Nepalese observance (and during a description of the desert in the story) comes from the Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel, written 1920–1922, and performed by Carlos Benito de la Gala and Alberto Gorrochategui Blanco, from their album Kodaly and Ravel (KalilaDimna, 2011).

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Theme music: The Impossible Shapes

Books Unbound – “Killing Voltaire: An Observance for Charlie Hebdo”

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“Killing Voltaire: An Observance for Charlie Hebdo” is a collaborative response by the Books Unbound community to the deadly attack January 7 on the offices of the French satiric weekly. The episode was originally broadcast January 17. (Note to WFHB listeners: Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, previously announced for this date, has been postponed to April 25.)

Classic and contemporary free-speech quotations from the Voice of Reason (Patsy Rahn), probing passages from authors by the Provocateur (Tony Brewer), and readings from Voltaire himself on fanaticism, blasphemy, and liberty vs. destiny (Frank Buczolich) are interwoven with selections made by the readers or by series producer Cynthia Wolfe, including:
• Excerpt from a posthumously published essay by the assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politskovskaya, selected, read, scripted and produced by Sarah Torbeck, with a sample of the original Russian read by Pavel Abramov.
• “Fragment, 1959,” Lauren Robert reading a poem by Anna Akhmatova, selected by Doug Storm.
• Excerpt from a 2012 speech by Salman Rushdie, selected, read and produced by Jack Hanek.
• Excerpts from “Balqis,” a long poem alternating love elegy and political passion by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, selected and read in Arabic by Ali Alnahhabi, and by Berklea Going in a loose English adaptation.
• “The Auroras of Autumn”, eight of ten cantos of the poem by Wallace Stevens on unease in the house of the mind, containing the famous line “The house will crumble and the books will burn”, selected by Cynthia Wolfe and read by Doug Storm.
• Afterword by Maria McKinley, reading a passage on the true source of personal daring from Eudora Welty’s memoir One Writer’s Beginnings.
The episode also features Guillaume Ansart, associate professor at Indiana University and a specialist in 18th-century French literature and satire, with perspectives on Voltaire, Enlightenment values, and the French tradition of satire. Special music for the episode comes from the Floodplain album of Kronos Quartet.

Produced by Cynthia Wolfe, with assistance from Doug Storm and Sarah Torbeck.
Script by Cynthia Wolfe, with contributions by readers.
Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Theme music by The Impossible Shapes

“Lost Borders” by Mary Hunter Austin, Conclusion

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The interconnected story cycle “Lost Borders” by Mary Hunter Austin concludes. Austin’s character types and settings are in many ways familiar from other westerns, but her perspectives are feminist, conservationist, and anti-gun. She died in 1934, and her books soon went out of print—just as Hollywood was establishing its masculinist myths of a Wild West dominated by gun violence.

Although Austin offers sympathetic portrayals of male psychology throughout, female characters are central to the final two stories, with the frontier allowing women to push against social boundaries. In “The House of Offence” (read by Lauren Robert), a deteriorating fence represents the social dividing line temporarily crossed when an upstanding Christian woman reckons with the humanity of the madam who runs the brothel next door. The title character of “The Walking Woman” (read by Sarah Torbeck) triumphs through love and work in a harsh communion with the land.

Jack Hanek hosts. Sarah Torbeck has read the role of the author throughout. The recurring poem that appeared at the beginning of the original book is read by Berklea Going. Special music comes from the album River of Light: American Short Works for Violin and Piano (Naxos, 2011), as performed by Tim Fain and Pei-Yao Wang. Books Unbound is produced, written and edited by Cynthia Wolfe with assistance from Sarah Torbeck.

“‘Lost Borders’ by Mary Hunter Austin, Conclusion” was produced during WFHB’s Spring Fund Drive, and contains messages from the Books Unbound community. For information on how to support this and other programs from WFHB, call 812-323-1200 or visit wfhb.org.
The Books Unbound podcasts allow you to listen to the complete “Lost Borders” story cycle from beginning to end in Austin’s original order:
• “The Land, “The Hoodoo of the Minnietta,” “A Case of Conscience,” and “The Ploughed Lands” in Part One
• “The Return of Mr. Wills,” “The Last Antelope,” and “Agua Dulce” in Part Two
• “The Woman at the Eighteen Mile” and “The Fakir” in Part Three
• “The Pocket-Hunter’s Story,” “The Readjustment,” and “Bitterness of Women” in Part Four

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Books Unbound theme music: The Impossible Shapes

Books Unbound – “Lost Borders” by Mary Hunter Austin, Part 4

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The interconnected stories of ‘’Lost Borders’’ are set in the desert landscape of southern California, where author Mary Hunter Austin moved with her mother and brothers in 1888 at the age of twenty. The ailing Austin found strength in this challenging environment, and came to regard the land as a central character in her writing.

The Books Unbound podcast presents the stories in the order of the original book, which will differ from the broadcast: “The Pocket-Hunter’s Story,” read by Frank Buczolich, with a web-extra introduction on pocket-prospecting from Austin’s first book, ‘’Land of Little Rain’’; “The Readjustment” (Katy Ratcliffe); and “Bitterness of Women” (Berklea Going, who also reads recurring fragments from the poem that appeared as the book’s epigraph). This episode’s stories show in particular Austin’s skill at balancing both sympathetic and critical perspectives on male psychology—with a frisson of the supernatural and the monstrous.

Jack Hanek hosts. Special music comes from the album River of Light (Naxos, 2011), as performed by violinist Tim Fain and pianist Pei-Yao Wang. Books Unbound is produced, written and edited by Cynthia Wolfe with assistance from Sarah Torbeck.

“‘Lost Borders’ by Mary Hunter Austin, Part Four” was produced during WFHB’s Spring Fund Drive, and contains messages from the Books Unbound community. For information on how to support this and other programs from WFHB, call 812-323-1200 or visit wfhb.org.

Executive producer: Joe Crawford
Books Unbound theme music: The Impossible Shapes

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