“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