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92Y's Read By

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A new podcast where today’s finest writers read the work that matters to them—from their homes, to yours. Produced and commissioned by the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center, a home for live readings of literature for over 80 years.

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A new podcast where today’s finest writers read the work that matters to them—from their homes, to yours. Produced and commissioned by the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center, a home for live readings of literature for over 80 years.

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iTunes Ratings

8 Ratings
Average Ratings
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Cover image of 92Y's Read By

92Y's Read By

Latest release on Aug 09, 2020

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A new podcast where today’s finest writers read the work that matters to them—from their homes, to yours. Produced and commissioned by the 92nd Street Y's Unterberg Poetry Center, a home for live readings of literature for over 80 years.

Rank #1: Read By: Garth Greenwell

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Garth Greenwell on his selection:

This essay is a marvel. From the tiniest, the most banal drama—a writer is distracted from her book by the fluttering of a moth at the window—Virginia Woolf distills one of the most penetrating explorations I know of the eternal questions: What does it mean to live? What does it mean to die? Woolf’s sentences are glorious, ostentatious, baroque, austere. How can an essay on death be finally so profound and joyful an affirmation of life? The essay is three or four pages long. It's one of the grandest things I know in literature.

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 16 2020

10mins

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Rank #2: Read By: Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay on her selection:

There is this thing that happens, all too often, when a black woman is being introduced in a professional setting. Her accomplishments tend to be diminished. The introducer might laugh awkwardly, rushing through whatever impoverished remarks they have prepared. Rarely do they do the necessary research to offer any sense of whom they are introducing. The black woman is spoken of in terms of anecdote rather than accomplishment. She is referred to as sassy on Twitter, maybe, or as a lover of bacon, random tidbits bearing no relation to the reasons why she is in that professional setting. Whenever this happens to me or I witness it happening to another black woman, I turn to Audre Lorde. I wonder how Lorde would respond to such a micro-aggression because in her prescient writings she demonstrated, time and again, a remarkable and necessary ability to stand up for herself, her intellectual prowess and that of all black women, with power and grace. She recognized the importance of speaking up because silence would not protect her or anyone. She recognized that there would never be a perfect time to speak up because, “while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

Drawn from her editor's introduction to The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, forthcoming this fall. Pre-order at Bookshop.org.

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 14 2020

9mins

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Rank #3: Read By: George Saunders

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George Saunders on his selection:

There are a few passages in literature that I go back to whenever I’m feeling out of touch with something I know to be true, namely that the whole point of life (even, and especially, during, a pandemic) is to get more loving, more tender.  As Tolstoy wrote, “Men think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love. But there are no such circumstances…If you feel no love, sit still. Occupy yourself with things, with yourself, with anything you like, only not with men.”  One my favorite “tenderizing” passages is from Gogol’s great story, “The Overcoat,” and it describes the life of one Akakii Akakievich, a lowly St. Petersburg functionary.

"The Overcoat," at IndieBound

Mar 31 2020

10mins

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Rank #4: Read By: Margaret Atwood

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"Once upon a time, you say, there were germs with horns. They lived in the toilet and could only be defeated by gallons and gallons of bleach. You could commit suicide by drinking this bleach, and some women did."

Margaret Atwood reads "Our Cat Enters Heaven," "Chicken Little Goes Too Far" and "Winter's Tales" from her collection of modern fables, The Tent.

The Tent at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 07 2020

14mins

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Rank #5: Read By: Rachel Cusk

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Rachel Cusk on her selection:

Tennyson’s In Memoriam crops up in the dullest Victorian stretches of an English Literature degree, and so the glimmering self-utterance that stutters into life across its (intimidating) number of lyric sequences has the impact - for the browbeaten student - of the birth of modernity. I read it then, and picked it up again much later in life, in a time whose trials and revelations it seemed almost to have prophesied. If this is the most one can expect literature to do, it does it. The lyrics I’ve chosen are the two in which I find the most sustenance, partly for the contrast offered by their two very different readings of the process and moral structure of change.

In Memoriam 95 [By night we linger'd] at The Poetry Foundation

In Memoriam 106 [Ring out, wild bells] at The Poetry Foundation

Apr 02 2020

6mins

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Rank #6: Read By: Billy Collins

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Billy Collins on his selection:

I chose poems from William Matthews (1942-1997) and Thomas Lux (1946-2017) because I wanted to honor two fallen soldiers who fought for an increase of beauty and truth in the world, who also knew that a good poem must at least be a series of good lines—that is, they found their way to the end of a poem one line at a time. In their own different ways and with highly different voices, they both understood the importance of broad humor and subtle ironies in freeing a poem from the claustrophobia of purely autobiographical designs. All poems are autobiographical in that it takes a human being to write one. But these two faced the world, not the mirror, when they wrote, and thus followed the advice that “poems should at least be interesting.” Plus, it’s no secret that they were both irreplaceable pals of mine—as well as teachers by the distinctive example of their best work.

Apr 04 2020

5mins

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Rank #7: Read By: Nicole Krauss

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Nicole Krauss on her selection:

I recently finished a collection of short stories, and while writing it I sometimes turned to Leonard Michaels to remember what's possible in the form, and to rest in his fluency. “Isaac” is from Michaels’s first collection, Going Places, published in 1969. I chose it because… why did I choose it? Because it’s New York City. A hospital. Incomprehension in the face of the things that befall us. And because its language—bright, sharp, funny—is live-wire alive in the face of it all. 

The Collected Stories at Indiebound

This story contains language which may not be suitable for children.

Apr 18 2020

9mins

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Rank #8: Read By: Colm Tóibín

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Colm Tóibín on his selection:

When W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory met at the end of the nineteenth century, she, thirteen years his senior, had published very little. She was a widow living in a large house called Coole Park in County Galway in West Ireland. He was every inch the young poet. She had one son, Robert, who spent most of his time in London. Until his marriage in 1917, Yeats spent many summers at Coole. He and Lady Gregory collaborated on many projects, including plays and the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. In 1918, after Robert Gregory was killed in the First World War, Yeats came to Coole, joining Lady Gregory and her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Yeats there wrote his two great elegies for Robert: “In Memory of Major Robert Gregory,” a public poem remembering a hero, and the other, “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” in a more hushed tone, written for a ghostly voice, attempting to offer his old friend comfort by finding a new context for his death, suggesting balance and completion for the dead airman rather than strife or tragedy.

These poems were written in a time of loss, in a place where no visitors came, when the house was isolated so that the poet could work.

Apr 07 2020

12mins

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Rank #9: Read By: Louise Erdrich

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Louise Erdrich on her selections:

We have become isolated and strangely passive in many ways during this pandemic. These poems shake the reader into clarity and reassure us that our true natures, our most elegant passions, will one day again be called into the world.

“Manhattan is a Lenape Word” and “If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert,” by Natalie Diaz

“Praise the Rain,” by Joy Harjo

“The Museum of Stones" and “Letter to a City Under Siege,” by Carolyn Forché

“A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function” and “Loving that Land O’Lakes Girl,” by Eric Gansworth

“Public Grief” and “The Coldness Was Coldness,” by Heid E. Erdrich

May 02 2020

28mins

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Rank #10: Read By: Elif Batuman

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Elif Batuman on her selection:

I chose to read from Epictetus because he has always made me feel better at times when I have felt anxious about things outside of my control. Basically, Epictetus transforms “things out of my control” from something I have to worry extra about, into something I get to be proud of myself for not worrying about at all! For Epictetus, freeing ourselves from worry is a heroic feat, like being in the Olympics. I wrote about him once here.

Discourses and Selected Writings at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 05 2020

15mins

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Read By: Geoff Dyer

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Geoff Dyer on his selection:

I've chosen two passages, both about place. The first is from the start of D. H. Lawrence’s essay, "Taos," published in 1923. Lawrence had arrived in New Mexico with his wife Frieda at the invitation of Mabel Dodge in September the previous year. As was his way, Lawrence began making  pronouncements about the place almost from the moment he arrived. The second passage is from "The Country and the City" by Raymond Williams, published fifty years later, in 1973. It’s from the chapter where Williams discusses the magnificent country houses or stately homes that are such beautiful—and persistently alluring—features of the English countryside.  

The Bad Side of Books: Selected Essays of D.H. Lawrence, edited by Geoff Dyer at Bookshop.org

The Country and the City by Raymond Williams at Bookshop.org

Music: “Shift of Currents” by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Aug 09 2020

9mins

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Read By: Jennifer Egan

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Jennifer Egan on her selection:

The House of Mirth was the first literary classic that I picked up entirely on my own, without prodding from a teacher or a parent, and adored.  I read it as a teenager, during a stifling summer visit to my grandparents, when my literary tastes were unsophisticated (Archie comics were high on my list).  I recall the experience as my coming-of-age as a reader—when I learned, years before discovering that I wanted to write, what transformative power a work of fiction can have.  Because my attachment to The House of Mirth is so personal, I tend to reread it with slight trepidation that the magic may have fled.  But each time, I find the novel’s tragic power intact, even as the nature of the tragedy seems to shift—from the perils of living by one’s looks (teenage reading) to the cruelty of the world toward women (young adult reading) to the struggle for personal freedom in a money-obsessed culture (adult readings) to my most recent (middle-aged, I’ll reluctantly call it) appreciation of the novel as an artifact of the Gilded Age that lays bare that era’s pathologies.  All of which moves me to assert that Edith Wharton’s second novel is a masterpiece, a pinnacle of American letters that remains electrifying and relevant in our 21st Century.

The House of Mirth with an introduction by Jennifer Egan at Bookshop.org

Music: “Shift of Currents” by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Aug 02 2020

22mins

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Read By: Anne Carson

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Anne Carson on her selection:

Edwin Denby is a pleasure and an education to read.  He lived from 1903 to 1983 and wrote dance criticism, more general cultural criticism, and poetry. His observation of what happens on stage is so punctilious, his way of telling you about it so simple and clear, his manner of telling so gracious. He was friends with magical people like Alice B. Toklas and Frank O'Hara and seems to have been a bucket of fun. His critical writing achieves a standard rarely seen anymore.

Dance Writings and Poetry at Bookshop.org

Music: “Shift of Currents” by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Jul 26 2020

16mins

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Read By: Leslie Jamison

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Leslie Jamison on her selection:

More than anything, I love Brian Doyle for his awe. It's not a blinding or a blunting awe, the kind of awe that scours away the grit and grain and difficulty of things -- it's more like supple attention, an awe not just for hummingbird hearts the size of pencil erasers or whale hearts with valves like swinging saloon doors, but for a mother's papery hand in the thicket of her son's hair -- for the way that tenderness and mortality live side by side, proximity and loss are never far apart. It's an awe for the infinitudes that live in the daily and the ordinary, because what else do we have? It's an awe that gulps the little things the way a hummingbird heart gulps oxygen. It's an awe that knows we're all going to die. It's an awe that knows we'll never be known as fully as we dream of being known. It's an awe that keeps looking anyway, keeps knowing anyway. I've used Doyle as ammunition to fuel reckless love affairs; I've read him to my toddler daughter. His voice feels like an invitation to be baffled by the world, and stunned by it.

One Long River at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Jul 19 2020

15mins

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Read By: The 2020 Discovery Poetry Contest Winners

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Asa Drake on her selections:

I read two poems by Ai, "Cuba, 1962" and "Guadalajara Cemetery." I found her book Vice when I started working for the public library. I don't know how this book found its way into Central Florida, but her poems made me feel at home again in the South, where everything outside of me is beautiful and violent, and somehow means more work.

Luther Hughes on his selections:

For the last several years, I have suffered from depression. It kind of hit me out of nowhere. I've attempted suicide and contemplated it more than several times. "Ice Storm" by Robert Hayden is a poem I love because it exemplifies moments in my life where anything, even nature, will make you question not only beauty, but a higher power--God, really. "The Worst Thing" by Sharon Olds, even though this poem is about her divorce, reminds me of this, too, but it also pushes me to say "the worst thing." To face it with my whole heart. "won't you celebrate with me" by Lucille Clifton and "Instructions on Not Giving Up" by Ada Limon remind me to keep pushing. To breathe. To live.  

Ana Portnoy Brimmer on her selections:

In Nicole Cecilia Delgado's collection, Apenas un cántaro, a graffiti credited to "la Pensión Meza, cuarto 14" reads: "Vivir es despedirse." To live is to say goodbye. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about departures, leave-takings, distance, even before the Covid-19 pandemic and (extra)exacerbated political crisis came into view. The poems "In Exodus I Love You More," by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (translated by Fady Joudah), and "Lamento Borincano," by Puerto Rican poet Nicole Cecilia Delgado, seemed like appropriately heart-wrenching reads during moments in which goodbyes (those said, unsaid, feared, postponed, awaited, stolen, uncertain) permeate so much of our linguistic and emotional landscapes, and as we contemplate distance as a political condition. Finally, as a Puerto Rican poet and organizer of profound decolonial conviction myself, it seemed so fitting to read the work of a Palestinian and a Puerto Rican poet, side by side, both places of shared struggles, fighting against colonialism and occupation, and as voices for this meditation and moment. 

En la colección, Apenas un cántaro, de Nicole Cecilia Delgado, un grafiti acreditado a "la Pensión Meza, cuarto 14" lee: "Vivir es despedirse." He pasado mucho tiempo pensando en las despedidas, los adioses, la distancia, incluso antes de que la pandemia del Covid-19 y la crisis política (extra)exacerbada se volvieran realidad. Los poemas "In Exodus I Love You More", por el poeta Palestino Mahmoud Darwish (traducido por Fady Joudah), y "Lamento Borincano", por la poeta Puertorriqueña Nicole Cecilia Delgado, me parecieron lecturas apropiadamente desgarradoras para momentos en los cuales las despedidas (aquellas dichas, no dichas, temidas, pospuestas, esperadas, robadas, inciertas) forman gran parte de nuestras esferas lingüísticas y emocionales, y mientras contemplamos la distancia como condición política. Finalmente, como poeta y organizadora Puertorriqueña de profunda convicción decolonial, me pareció oportuno leer el trabajo de un poeta Palestino y una poeta Puertorriqueña, lado a lado, ambxs siendo lugares de luchas compartidas, batallando contra el colonialismo y la ocupación, y como voces para esta meditación y momento. 

Daniella Toosie-Watson on her selections:

I don’t know how to write love poems. At least when I’ve tried, it’s been wildly challenging. I’m learning how to write intimacy and tenderness, and when I first read this poem by Ilya Kaminsky I thought it was just the perfect way to write those things. I aspire to write and craft love with this kind of subtlety and care.  I chose to read the Carl Phillips poem because it articulates my feelings around sex that I’ve never been able to put to words: “into the self that is partly the animal you’ve always wanted to be, that—depending—fear has prevented or rescued you from becoming.” When I first read that line it was a punch to the gut. You know those poems that you wish you wrote? This is one of those poems for me.

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Jul 12 2020

15mins

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Read By: Douglas Kearney

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From Douglas Kearney's "Playing the Changing Same:"

There’s a saying that goes, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” It’s worn, maybe, but not played out. More than whatever truth it holds, I’ve been drawn to the maxim’s symmetry and paradox, something I might describe to my students as holding a contradiction in its hands.

Yet, it does make an argument. If I take the saying and break it down, as a philosopher might have once suggested, to its very last compound, I find myself at: “change/same.” In this, I see the formula for “pattern”: a structure that requires—and amplifies—the simultaneous presence of change and sameness. In full, the adage includes “more things,” and this, I think is important to remember. In “more things”—imprecise and multiplicitous—we have the opportunity for variation, difference, changes on the changes. These should not, however, distract us from recognizing the big pattern, the changing same at the saying’s bottom. And that big pattern? It stays happening despite the differences playing over its surface.

To read the full essay, visit 92y.org/ReadBy

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Jul 05 2020

29mins

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Special Re-release: Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay on her selection:

There is this thing that happens, all too often, when a black woman is being introduced in a professional setting. Her accomplishments tend to be diminished. The introducer might laugh awkwardly, rushing through whatever impoverished remarks they have prepared. Rarely do they do the necessary research to offer any sense of whom they are introducing. The black woman is spoken of in terms of anecdote rather than accomplishment. She is referred to as sassy on Twitter, maybe, or as a lover of bacon, random tidbits bearing no relation to the reasons why she is in that professional setting. Whenever this happens to me or I witness it happening to another black woman, I turn to Audre Lorde. I wonder how Lorde would respond to such a micro-aggression because in her prescient writings she demonstrated, time and again, a remarkable and necessary ability to stand up for herself, her intellectual prowess and that of all black women, with power and grace. She recognized the importance of speaking up because silence would not protect her or anyone. She recognized that there would never be a perfect time to speak up because, “while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

Drawn from Gay's editor's introduction to The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, forthcoming this fall. Pre-order at Bookshop.org.

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Jun 02 2020

9mins

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Read By: Caryl Phillips

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Caryl Phillips on his selection:

It’s over thirty years since I first came upon the work of C.P. Cavafy. A friend of mine, a Polish poet, had recommended Cavafy’s Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. I worried a little that, not being a poet, there would not be any real point of connection. However, from the first page I recognized something in Cavafy’s work that struck a chord with me. Cavafy lived between two worlds—the Egyptian and the Greek—and had a complex relationship to the word “home.” He underpinned his work with historical detail and had little interest in the world of publishing. His was an essentially reflective, and reclusive, muse—looking back at time past and wondering about what lay ahead. This seems to be exactly what many of us are now doing. Taking this time to think about how to stitch together our past and present so that when we return to “normal” we might have a more balanced, and purposeful, sense of what we should do with the rest of our lives.

Collected Poems of C.P. Cavafy, trans. Keeley and Sherrard at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 30 2020

5mins

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Read By: Rivka Galchen

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Rivka Galchen on her selection:

I chose this story because it deals with anxieties both rational and irrational. I love the way the narrator of this story works so hard to be cheerful. We see the labor, sometimes absurd, sometimes heroic, that goes into feeling okay with the basics of the world: that time moves, that calamities happen, that our hearts are unreasonable and panicked. Also Cheever describes California palm trees as "disheveled and expatriated" and like "rank upon rank of wet mops"—those incidental accuracies and pleasures are (for me) sunshine. I admire the story for offering a moment of grace—an almost silly one—that I can believe in. At least briefly.

The Stories of John Cheever at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 28 2020

23mins

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Read By: Claudia Rankine

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Claudia Rankine on her selection:

This untitled poem, by the Peruvian poet César Vallejo, was written in November of 1937. He was living in Paris, having traveled back from Spain, and he was working on what would become the posthumous poems. He worked between September and December of that year and then fell ill and died in March of 1938.

The Complete Posthumous Poetry, trans. Clayton Eshleman and Jose Rubia Barcia

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 23 2020

4mins

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Read By: David Mitchell

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David Mitchell on his selection:

I hope you’re well, whoever you are, wherever you are. If my readings were songs on a playlist, I’d call it "A Winter, Some Ghosts and The Summer." I hope you enjoy it, and I hope to revisit New York soon.

1) John Connolly is a contemporary Irish crime writer and fantasist. This is my favourite very short ghost story. Thanks to John for letting me read it here.

2) Wisława Szymborska was a Polish poet, translator and essayist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. This cool shot of vodka of a poem is translated here by Joanna Trzeciak.

3) Henry Cecil was a lawyer and writer from the mid-20th century, mostly forgotten now. This story came from a spooky anthology I owned as a kid, called The House of Nightmare. It has a killer ending...

4) Edward Thomas died in the trenches in 1917. The poem evokes a ‘before the war’ moment, when a golden peace was on borrowed time. The train platform in the poem strikes me as a liminal space between life and death.

5) The Country Child is another book from my childhood about a childhood. I love the animism of the trees in this passage. Alison Uttley also wrote A Traveller in Time. She had a historian’s eye and a poet’s ear.

6) “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal.” William Wordsworth at his shortest. Having to learn ‘the one about the daffodils’ at school bleached Wordsworth for my generation. Discovering this poem, a few years later, put the colour back in.

7) I found James Wright’s collection The Branch Will Not Break in Auckland, NZ on my first visit to the country as a published author. I loved it then and I love it now. On the face of it, the final line from “Lying in a Hammock…” is a downer: why do I find it so uplifting?

8) Ursula K. Le Guin woke up my hunger to write narrative, and to (try to) make other people feel what this novel made me feel. Most hungers consume, but the writing-hunger sustains. I didn’t know Ursula well, but we emailed occasionally. She was sharp, funny and gracious, and the world is a little less magical now she’s no longer in it. Luckily, we still have her writing to make the world more magical than it otherwise would be. This exquisite passage from A Wizard of Earthsea, written (so she told me) on her kitchen table at night after she had put her kids to bed, doubles as a metaphor for the whole, glorious, transformative Wow of Art.

Nocturnes at Bookshop.org

“A Word on Statistics” at Poetry Foundation

“Adlestrop” at Poetry Foundation

The Country Child at Penguin UK

“A Slumber did my Spirit Seal” at Poetry Foundation

The Branch Will Not Break at Bookshop.org

A Wizard of Earthsea at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 21 2020

31mins

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Read By: Luis Alberto Urrea

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Luis Alberto Urrea on his selection:

Annie Dillard’s books came to me in one of those writerly seasons of transition. I could dip into any of her first volumes and get lost. It’s the way she conflates what some people call “nature writing” with philosophical depths at play, with sudden bursts of homespun vernacular and finally what can only be a kind of theological verve. She is one of the masters who pushes me into a new way of seeing.

In "Living Like Weasels," Annie Dillard is telling us how savage and sacred our moments of life, how fleeting. She is reminding us to live all of our moments ferociously. I think that is the perfect message for all of us right now.

Teaching a Stone to Talk at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 19 2020

13mins

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Read By: Garth Greenwell

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Garth Greenwell on his selection:

This essay is a marvel. From the tiniest, the most banal drama—a writer is distracted from her book by the fluttering of a moth at the window—Virginia Woolf distills one of the most penetrating explorations I know of the eternal questions: What does it mean to live? What does it mean to die? Woolf’s sentences are glorious, ostentatious, baroque, austere. How can an essay on death be finally so profound and joyful an affirmation of life? The essay is three or four pages long. It's one of the grandest things I know in literature.

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 16 2020

10mins

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Read By: Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay on her selection:

There is this thing that happens, all too often, when a black woman is being introduced in a professional setting. Her accomplishments tend to be diminished. The introducer might laugh awkwardly, rushing through whatever impoverished remarks they have prepared. Rarely do they do the necessary research to offer any sense of whom they are introducing. The black woman is spoken of in terms of anecdote rather than accomplishment. She is referred to as sassy on Twitter, maybe, or as a lover of bacon, random tidbits bearing no relation to the reasons why she is in that professional setting. Whenever this happens to me or I witness it happening to another black woman, I turn to Audre Lorde. I wonder how Lorde would respond to such a micro-aggression because in her prescient writings she demonstrated, time and again, a remarkable and necessary ability to stand up for herself, her intellectual prowess and that of all black women, with power and grace. She recognized the importance of speaking up because silence would not protect her or anyone. She recognized that there would never be a perfect time to speak up because, “while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

Drawn from her editor's introduction to The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, forthcoming this fall. Pre-order at Bookshop.org.

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 14 2020

9mins

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Read By: Adam Gopnik

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On Adam Gopnik's selection:

“'How are we to live in an atomic age?' I am tempted to reply: 'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation."

- from "On Living in an Atomic Age," by C. S. Lewis, anthologized in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays.

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 12 2020

5mins

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Read By: Meg Wolitzer

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Meg Wolitzer on her selection:

I chose this story because it’s such an intuitive and ruefully funny close-up of a marriage. My mother, Hilma Wolitzer, looks at the often desperate ways that partners keep each other going; this can be a lifelong work. The characters’ dream of moving from the congested city to the seemingly peaceful suburbs remains alive yet unrealized, a shared fantasy that almost drives them apart. I love “Sundays” for how slyly subversive and honest it is.

"Sundays" at Esquire

An Available Man at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 09 2020

17mins

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Read By: Margaret Atwood

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"Once upon a time, you say, there were germs with horns. They lived in the toilet and could only be defeated by gallons and gallons of bleach. You could commit suicide by drinking this bleach, and some women did."

Margaret Atwood reads "Our Cat Enters Heaven," "Chicken Little Goes Too Far" and "Winter's Tales" from her collection of modern fables, The Tent.

The Tent at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 07 2020

14mins

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Read By: Elif Batuman

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Elif Batuman on her selection:

I chose to read from Epictetus because he has always made me feel better at times when I have felt anxious about things outside of my control. Basically, Epictetus transforms “things out of my control” from something I have to worry extra about, into something I get to be proud of myself for not worrying about at all! For Epictetus, freeing ourselves from worry is a heroic feat, like being in the Olympics. I wrote about him once here.

Discourses and Selected Writings at Bookshop.org

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

May 05 2020

15mins

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Read By: Louise Erdrich

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Louise Erdrich on her selections:

We have become isolated and strangely passive in many ways during this pandemic. These poems shake the reader into clarity and reassure us that our true natures, our most elegant passions, will one day again be called into the world.

“Manhattan is a Lenape Word” and “If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert,” by Natalie Diaz

“Praise the Rain,” by Joy Harjo

“The Museum of Stones" and “Letter to a City Under Siege,” by Carolyn Forché

“A Half-Life of Cardio-Pulmonary Function” and “Loving that Land O’Lakes Girl,” by Eric Gansworth

“Public Grief” and “The Coldness Was Coldness,” by Heid E. Erdrich

May 02 2020

28mins

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Read By: Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman on his selection:

I chose this story because I cannot get it out of my head. Sometimes it feels like every argument we have, every discussion, every idea, is about balancing joy and misery. Omelas is a utopia for thousands built on the misery, and the knowledge of the misery, of one. It is an exercise in complicity: Le Guin makes us create her joyous city with her. We build it in our head.

And then it destroys us, and she destroys us, and we are forced to think about what we made in our heads, and how it stacks up against the imperfect world we live in. 

Let us all march to a place that may not be there at all.

The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories at IndieBound

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0

Apr 30 2020

21mins

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