Babel, Isaac


Oh, aren’t we lucky!? A double-bluffed, double-dipped, double-headed dose of Isaac Babel. When you’ve had a listen here and discover that you’re still running low on your recommended daily serving of Babel, you might head here to find a new recording of an old reading of another one.

And because I’m not above shallow attempts to inveigle you into listening, let me mention that this story includes a pivotal scene with one man sucking the blood from the neck of the other. How’s that for a quick million?

Also, note that tomorrow (7th January 2010) will feature the debut of my audio recording of Jon Frankel’s The Man Who Can’t Die. I’m not as good at pure self-promotion as a I am inveigling, or else you would have found out about this podcast through some anthropomorphic cartoon string bean singing a jingle about it on the television. But I’m excited about it and hope you are too.

Bowles, Jane

Emmy Moore’s Journal

(credit: LIFE Magazine)

There was a time when I was little (and I was so cute, and so little!) when I wanted to be Jane Bowles. I was obsessed with the puppet show, unhealthily so, though thinking back now, I can’t think of any self-respecting adult who’d have introduced such a cute little thing to it.

But so I did not grow up to be Jane Bowles, nor a master puppeteer, though I’m lucky to have grow up (more or less) to be the sort of girl who’s still really excited to find a hefty copy of her collected works in a used bookshop in a far off town.

That said, I’m also the sort of girl to take her dog swimming in a hotel pool, so that’s quite enough autopanegyric.

A story:

Birrell, Heather

Trouble at Pow Crash Creek

It’s probably one of the better things in life — right up there with creative breakthroughs and lasting love and the slurp of streetside oysters — to have one’s hat tipped to new and great authors. In my case, it doesn’t happen often, because I’m finicky and discriminating with my own tastes, or as others have said, snotty. Some of my closest friends, in fact, have sworn never again to share enthusiasm of their own discoveries, for fear of my response. I’m not proud of this.

So, several months ago, I may or may not have been at a certain big bookish event, and I may or may not have chatted briefly with a representative of an independent publisher known for foresightedness and inventiveness and openmindedness and other qualities sometimes surprising of publishing types. And during this chat, that may or may not have happened, the publisher may have mentioned an author in her catalogue that may (or may not) gel with my very fussy and finicky tastes, and later, I may or may not have gotten my sticky mitts on an illicit copy of that author’s book of short stories.

And it’s hard to say whether or not any of this actually happened, or whether or not this story is related to that anecdote. I mean, it was several months ago, and we all know what happens to memory. But however I may have come across tonight’s author, when I did it was not unlike experiencing a breakthrough while slurping an oyster on the street with one’s lasting love.

If we’re lucky, you’ll feel the same.

Leiber, Fritz

Space-Time for Springers

Can I tell you something about my speculative fiction habits? Of course I can– this my barroom restroom wall and the red marker’s in my slimy mitt.

Here’s the thing: I just love stories about sentient animals. I can’t get enough of talking dogs or super-intelligent rats or telekinetic polar bears– this is the stuff of unconditional love. And I know the analogies presented in this trope can only go so far, sure. But I don’t care– I could start a website called Miette’s Podcasted Stories of Intelligent Animals, and be perfectly happy doing so.

As it is, looking through the archives, there’s not much represented here yet — there’s the Saki, which is hilarious, and now Leiber, which is one of those that will hopefully make you check yourself in the mirror and pucker your nose in search of a stray whisker. I have several others in mind, but meanwhile, do feel free to fill it with your suggestions as well.

Joyce, James

An Encounter

I’m so excited about Bloomsday that I’m sharing the love a day early this year. In fact, I was so excited that I almost went ahead and read all the stories from Dubliners that I haven’t yet done for you, but then it hit me that I’d have to move forward next year with my plan to do Ulysses in its entirety. And, well, I don’t know if I have the pipes for that yet. And I don’t know if you have the perseverance to listen to me indulge the Joyce itch. Because then I think, well, if I were to consider reading Ulysses, then what I really should do is find some balls and put them on the table (eh, proverbially) and read the Wake to you. And that’s just crazy thinking.

Meanwhile, Happy Bloomsday and here’s another from Dubliners.

Dinesen, Isak

The Sailor-Boy’s Tale

Twice now I’ve sat down to read something from Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales
, and twice when pawing through for a good story, I’ve ended up spending hours re-reading the stories in here, to the point of distracted negligence, but to the point of great self-satisfaction nevertheless.

One day I’ll just relent and read them all to you, but that’d be a big project, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already running on the fumes of big projects. And if you’re smarter than me, you’ll have discovered a long time ago that when you have too many big projects, the best way to make absolutely certain that you don’t forget to do another one is to tell the Internet about it then whet its palette with anticipation. And you can do so with such a painful and potentially-affected self-consciousness as to ensure that you’ll be forgiven if it takes you a decade to follow through on that promise. And if you’re as tight-fisted as me, you’ll know that this way of going about things is way cheaper than seeing a shrink.

But in any event, if you don’t know the Winter’s Tales, you should read them yourselves. For now, I’ve settled on that which I find most fabulist and late-springish in its step.

Davies, Rhys


Where I am, dear listeners, it’s hot. And for reasons which terrify some, confound others, and lead to the sort of mass collective eye-rolling that I’d rather avoid (because the energy produced therein would raise the outside temperature another half-degree), I’m not the sort to articondition the air. Which means: it’s hot, here, big vats of frying oil hot, and there’s no reprieve inside these walls.

And while I’d like to reach out and cry for help, I’m not sure you’d be able to distinguish the tears from the passel of sweat. So I’ll offer instead that if you’re now in one of those more mildly temperate climates, you should be counting celestial bodies. And if you, too, are sweating hard, well, we’ll do in sympathy, and doesn’t that sound nice, in its own way?

Lem, Stanislaw

How the World Was Saved

A delivery truck pulled out in front of me the other day, freshly deflowered by a graffiti artist who chose to express him- or herself by relaying the following, in big blue caps:


Which is nice, but only kinda. And some advice to other budding young taggers in need of epic gestures of romance: maybe you might consider keeping the paint safe in the can until you’re a little more sure of things, right?

And if that specific Sarah is reading, I’m sure he or she was just having a moment. I’m sure you’re loved, totally!

Maloney, Russell

Inflexible Logic

Dearest listeners of the internet, I know. I’ve been gone. Many of you have pointed this out to me, though by the time I returned to read your pleas and queries, I was back, relieved of goneness, and racked with guilt over how abandoned you’d all been left, was at a loss at what I might read to redeem myself.

And excuse me for saying so, but I think I’ve outdone myself here. QED: tonight’s story involves mention of Proust and Montaigne, chimpanzees, booze, guns, the laws of probability, and haughty old rich guys. And if that isn’t enough, tonight’s blathery preface involves mention of raccoons, trailmix, and the implication of a bloody battle of which there was only one survivor.

And if that’s not exciting enough for you, next time I’ll read to you while underwater and chained up in front of Times Square.

Bolaño, Roberto

A Literary Adventure

Never having been one for bandwagonry (after all, the bumper’s too high for me to jump, and I don’t have much in the way of carnival skills from which is allegedly derived the phrase), but it can’t be helped: if everybody and their thrice-removed step-great-uncle (or is it great, then step?) is talking about Bolano, the only thing for the likes of me to do is to just talk Bolano.