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Lit Century

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Lit Century

Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols

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Hosts Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols choose one book for each year of the twentieth century (Nella Larsen's Passing, 1936, Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, 1966; Mohandas Gandhi's Indian Home Rule, 1909) and talk about it in its historical and literary context. Join the hosts and their special guests to find out what the 20th century was all about.
 
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Unusually heavy rainfall led to widespread flooding in the Mississippi Valley in 1927. The Coolidge Administration's Secretary of Everything, Herbert Hoover, was tasked with flood relief. What kind of relief you got depended heavily on your skin color. Meanwhile, a different sort of flood was rising on the New York Stock Exchange.…
 
In this episode, writers Alex Higley and Willie Fitzgerald join host Catherine Nichols to discuss three short stories by Wright Morris: "The Sound Tape," "The Character of the Lover," and "The Cat in the Picture." Higley, who brought the stories to Lit Century, talks about how he discovered Morris's writing through his photographs and photo-texts. …
 
In this episode, hosts Catherine Nichols and Sandra Newman talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. Why is modernity (and the swimming pool) always deadly in twentieth century fiction? Where and how did Fitzgerald lose control of his material? Would it be a different book if Fitzgerald had chosen a different narrator? And most …
 
In this episode writers Alex Higley and Willie Fitzgerald join host Catherine Nichols to discuss two stories from Alice Munro's 1991 short story collection Friend of My Youth. The first is the title story, in which the narrator retells (and reinterprets) a story she was told by her dying mother about two Presbyterian sisters; the second is "Meneset…
 
In this episode, writers V. V. Ganeshananthan and J. Robert Lennon join host Catherine Nichols to discuss Jamaica Kincaid's 1990 novel Lucy. The novel is about a girl who travels from Antigua to the United States to be an au pair for a wealthy white family, and forms a close relationship to the mother of the family, reacting against her relationshi…
 
Hosts Elisa Gabbert and Catherine Nichols discuss Christopher Pike's hit 1989 novel Remember Me and his less-known Fall Into Darkness (1990). Remember Me's ghostly protagonist explores an idiosyncratic afterlife and enters the dreams of her family and friends to solve her own murder at her friend's slumber party. In Fall Into Darkness, a teenage gi…
 
In the early 1920s, Gandhi's first nationwide satyagraha campaign saw unprecedented Hindu-Muslim unity, but led to violence and failed to achieve its aims. Gandhi spent some time in prison, but by 1930, with a Labour government in power, Gandhi and the Indian National Congress felt ready to declare independence.…
 
Hosts Elisa Gabbert, Isaac Butler, and Catherine Nichols discuss W. G. Sebald's 1992 novel, The Emigrants, a hybrid fiction/nonfiction work made up of four long narratives about four people who emigrated from Germany around the time of WWII. A Sebald-like narrator travels in the footsteps of these characters, mentally and geographically, in an eleg…
 
In this episode, critic K. Austin Collins joins hosts Catherine Nichols and Isaac Butler to discuss Albanian author Ismail Kadare's 1971 novel The General of the Dead Army. In this novel, an Italian general comes to Albania 20 years after World War II to find the bodies of Italian soldiers who died there and return them to their families, and ends …
 
`In this episode, writer, actor, and performance artist M. Leona Godin joins host Catherine Nichols to discuss Helen Keller's 1908 book The World I Live In. Helen Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, lecturer, vaudeville performer, and political activist. At nineteen months, she suffered an illness that left her deaf and blind; The World I Li…
 
In the early twentieth century, France had the world's largest motion picture industry, but it was soon eclipsed by that of the USA, a larger nation where movies were extremely popular. By 1920, 8 out of 10 motion pictures made in the world came from the United States.
 
Hosts Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols discuss Yukio Mishima's 1963 novel The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, a disturbing, sui generis book about a young boy watching the developing relationship between his urbane, well-heeled mother and a quiet sailor with dark, secret dreams of glory. The boy also has secrets: he is spying on the sai…
 
In this episode, geneticist Maria Naylor joins host Catherine Nichols to discuss James Watson and Francis Crick's 1953 paper "A Structure for DNA," for which they won the Nobel Prize (with many references also to Watson's book about the discovery, The Double Helix). The discovery of DNA's structure had a rich social context, which ultimately determ…
 
In this week's episode, art historian Robert Wiesenberger joins hosts Catherine Nichols and Isaac Butler to discuss artist Jenny Holzer's "Truisms" from 1978, "Truisms" is a group of declarative sentences Holzer first put up anonymously on posters all over New York City: "Labor is a life-destroying activity.," "Lack of charisma can be fatal," "Priv…
 
In this episode, novelist and poet Kathleen Rooney joins hosts Catherine Nichols and Elisa Gabbert to discuss Robert Aickman's 1988 collection of stories The Wine-Dark Sea, with particular focus on the title story and the uncanny dollhouse story "The Inner Room." Aickman's work is often characterized as horror fiction, but he preferred the term "st…
 
In this episode co-hosts Catherine Nichols and Sandra Newman discuss Jacqueline Susann's 1966 mega-bestseller Valley of the Dolls, looking at how it treats women's bodies, sexuality, success, and glamour purely as sources of misery. In this book (nominally a cautionary tale about drug addiction) the only real joy comes from pills. Learn more about …
 
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