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Renata Adler’s Speedboat starts and stops, accelerates and leaps, soars and crashes just like some sort of . . . well, you get it. Join David, Nathan, and Nick as they discuss this compact novel filled with vignettes of 1970s life and all of the sardonic observations that come along with it. But do the vignettes combine to create something more imp…
 
Just because you bought a copy of W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants in the fiction section doesn’t make it fiction. Or does it? Join Nathan, David, and Nick for a conversation about fiction vs. non-fiction vs. creative non-fiction vs. journalism vs. memoir vs. Nick’s favorite genre of “who cares as long as you like it." Topics discussed also include: the…
 
Bay Area musician Taylor Vick of Boy Scouts joins the podcast this episode to share her love for George Saunders’ The Tenth of December. Listen in as Taylor and Nick talk about the book’s use of absurdist mechanisms to move the reader, the connections between Saunders’ work and Boy Scouts, and their own attempts to explore new areas of art, despite…
 
In this episode, friend of the podcast and book club Eric Heiman joins David and Nathan to talk about W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn. The three get into the melancholic depiction of entropy eating away so much of human life, the sense of historical vertigo, and the (un)fictionality of the novel. Join the three as they discuss the style, form, and su…
 
Aatif Rashid, author of the novel Portrait of Sebastian Khan, joins the podcast to profess his love for Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. The one with, like, a million volumes? The one that’s jam-packed with the subtleties of human interactions, relationships, and communications (or lack thereof)? The one that you saw on all of those “…
 
Ah yes, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. You probably read it in high school or college as a young seeker of truth, but have you read it later in life? Do the messages change after you too have gone out into the world and been both drawn to and broken by its sweet, empty promises? And most importantly, have you been pronouncing Siddhartha properly all t…
 
Down with Napoleon! Long live Mother Russia! Ole Kutuzov and the gang aren’t the only winners here. Anyone who has read through the entirety of War and Peace — David, Nathan, and Nick now counting themselves as part of the club — knows that Tolstoy’s masterpiece and its ruminations on free will, history, and tragedy of both micro and macro proporti…
 
Novelist Mark Haber joins the podcast to talk about one of his underdogs: Santiago Gamboa and his excellent novel Necropolis. Necropolis is a novel full of narratives, soaked in storytelling, and driven by a cast of colorful characters seeking some kind of redemption. Mark and David dive into the novel's plots and craft, and Mark touches upon his o…
 
Musician Ned Russin of Title Fight and Glitterer joins the podcast to share his love for Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station and to also chat about his own latest creations: Glitterer’s new record Life Is Not a Lesson and his first published novel Horizontal Rust. It’s an all-encompassing conversation on experience, reality, and authenticity — …
 
Third time’s the charm! David, Nathan, and Nick march on through Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, having now conquered Volume 3. Listen in as they talk through Tolstoy’s increasingly direct commentary on the nature of history, Pierre’s Christ-like and/or quixotic vibes, and how it all relates to . . . cryptocurrency? If Tolstoy gets to include lengthy …
 
In celebration of National Poetry Month, singer-songwriter and poet Valerie June calls into the podcast and chats with Nick about her love of The Gift: Poems by Hafiz (Renderings by Daniel Ladinsky), the relationship between lyrics and poetry in her own work, and viewing the world through a positive lens. Additional topics include: Townes Van Zandt…
 
David, Nathan, and Nick continue their journey through Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, this time tackling Volume Two. Characterized by a little less war and a lot more peace, this volume offers plenty of saucy romance, costume-fueled shenanigans, and overly long hunting scenes. Listen in as we recap the many love triangles, discuss the nature of moral…
 
Nick chats with Jesse Cash, guitarist and vocalist of the progressive metal band ERRA, about Cormac McCarthy on this latest episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast. The book at hand is Suttree, a tale of a troubled man who has left an affluent past to live in a dilapidated houseboat and hang out in the underbelly of society. The two discuss …
 
David, Eric, and Nick discuss Volume 1 of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the first of four episodes on the heaviest of heavy books. Topics include: War and Peace as the ur-text for all war novels to come, the nature and role of translation, and how Tolstoy’s realism can be surprisingly light and humorous when dealing with dark subjects. But the que…
 
George Salis, author of Sea Above, Sun Below joins David to discuss The Satanic Verses, the controversial, exuberant, magical, and magnificent novel by Sir Salman Rushdie. They discuss the poetry, the allusions, and the history of this "Everything" novel in their own labyrinthine and interconnected way.…
 
Meet Alfred Brown IV, educator and vocalist of the LA hardcore punk band Dangers. He’s into Amy Hempel. Like, really into Amy Hempel. Listen in for a deep conversation covering everything from the unintended emptiness of slogan-heavy lyrics to Hempel’s short story rhythm to questioning the need to categorize any type of writing — fiction, non-ficti…
 
Dear World, Kōbō Abe sees your absurdity and raises you one box! A box to live in, specifically. And a box to meld with the psyche of the inhabitant. If it’s not clear, we’re talking about Abe’s 1973 novel The Box Man, a how-to guide on how to construct your own box in which to dwell and/or a challenging narrative (or, perhaps, narratives?) on the …
 
Clarice Lispector’s 1946 novel The Chandelier is the topic of fervent discussion for David, Nathan, and Nick in this latest episode. Not for the faint of heart (but perhaps for those near to wild ones), this modernist work probes a deep abyss of metaphysical questions including, but not limited to: What is anything? etc. etc. Forever dividing a sin…
 
On this episode of the podcast, David is joined by author and translator João Reis, author of The Translator's Bride, to talk about lovable literary scamp, the warm and cuddly and optimistic Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard's Old Masters: A Comedy. They discuss the common aspects of Bernhard's style in general—a monologic riff rife with musical patt…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick chats with Alexis Marshall, vocalist of the noise rock band Daughters, about Jean Cocteau’s 1929 novel Les Enfants Terribles (or as it is known in its English translation: The Holy Terrors). Topics of discussion include: Marshall's own approach to writing poetry and lyrics, how The Holy T…
 
Twenty years ago, Mark Z. Danielewski unleashed the labyrinthine horror novel House of Leaves, a work of fiction that would make both Daedalus and Derrida proud, a sprawling, convoluted, multi-narrative that pushes the bounds of reading and interpretation. But is there a minotaur of meaning lurking somewhere in the halls of the text? Or is it simpl…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance Podcast, Nick chats with Brett Campbell of the Arkansas doom metal band Pallbearer about M. John Harrison’s Viriconium. They talk through how the themes of Viriconium made it into the band’s music, how Harrison’s use of shifting time and memory and place subvert expectations of genre fiction, and how i…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick chats with Alex Edkins of the Toronto punk band METZ on the day that their latest record, Atlas Vending, came out. Alex highlighted J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise as a favorite, so we talk through the psychological, inner-space prophecies of the book and relate it back to our current technology…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick chats with Michael Berdan from the New York City noise-rock-slash-industrial-metal band Uniform about Hubert Selby Jr.’s The Room. We talk about the importance of tone and aesthetic in both vocal delivery and fiction’s prose, about Berdan’s deeply personal connection to Selby Jr.’s writin…
 
Hey you there, you listener of substance! All full of the choice whether to listen to this podcast and/or the choice to do good or evil. We get you. John Steinbeck gets you too, as proven in his 1952 masterwork East of Eden. One part character epic, one part soap opera, and one part philosophical tract on the merits and challenges of individual age…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick is joined by Steve Von Till of the seminal metal band Neurosis for a conversation about Ted Hughes’ Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. Von Till’s prolific career now includes his latest solo record, No Wilderness Deep Enough, and his first published book of poems, Harvestman: 23 U…
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick is joined by Dylan Desmond of the Seattle doom metal band Bell Witch for an in-depth discussion of Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Listen in as we discuss what exactly Desmond connects with in Tolstoy’s writing, how this short novel was remarkably ahead of its time in documenting …
 
What’s that you say? Didn’t read Steinbeck in high school? Well then welcome to the safe space of Cannery Row, where one is not judged by achievements or accolades, but by the innate goodness found deep within. Ahhhh, just kidding, this one’s more about having a rollickin’ good time gettin’ into fights with fishermen, getting thrown into (and buyin…
 
What do you call it when a cynical intellectual, a loyal party member, and a Moravian folklorist walk into a bar? A joke! Or rather, The Joke. Milan Kundera’s 1968 debut novel, that is. Join Nathan, David, and Nick for a lengthy — and tricky — discussion on the individual vs. the collective, the tendency of history to turn into myth, and tips for t…
 
Good luck summarizing this one, nerds! Listen in as we examine William H. Gass’ holy casket of hellfire and judgment, Omensetter’s Luck, a wild stream of preacher prose, suicide and/or murder mystery, and small-town cat gossip. Seemingly intelligent points are made by the B.O.S.S. gang regarding the book’s odd three-part structure, its allusions to…
 
Obsessions! Cacophony! Typography! Listen in as we dissect William H. Gass’ post-modern cult classic, Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, a bizarre kaleidoscope of killer sentences, 1960s design, and, of course, gratuitous nudity. David argues that the book’s overtly sexual content actually maps to Gass’ love of language. Nathan provides a breakdown of …
 
They say that reading Albert Camus’ The Plague in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is trendy. Well, it’s not so bad being trendy. Join us this month as David, Nathan, and Nick unpack Camus’ classic work and ask all of the questions on everyone’s minds: Is it logical to do good? Are pestilences real or mere abstractions? Is the philosophical nove…
 
What do you get when you create a society with no fixed gender, a whole hell of a lot of snow, a shitload of shifgrethor, and a week off every month for carnal activities? You guessed it: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Listen in as Nathan, Stephanie, and Nick discuss the many flavors of science fiction, Le Guin’s nuanced role as a p…
 
Pragmatic non-hierarchical structures! Breaking the space time continuum! The sociopolitical and philosophical dualities that exist between two planets — but also inside us all! Join David, Eric, and Nick as they dissect Ursula K. Le Guin’s often revered classic The Dispossessed. They wonder if the book is the left-wing equivalent of The Fountainhe…
 
What’s the deal with how choppy this Nabokov book is? Is the character of Pnin actually the target of a faculty conspiracy? Or is the real conspiracy the fact that David is secretly employed as a salesman for the word-a-day industry? Join Nick, Nathan, and David for another rousing discussion on Vladimir Nabokov, this time on the (sometimes) belove…
 
Drama! Comedy! Opacity! Turpitude! All are up for grabs in Vladimir Nabokov’s holiday classic, Invitation to a Beheading. Listen in as Nathan, David, and Nick try to figure out just what exactly is going on in Nabokov’s oft-overlooked gem that may or may not be about: personal exile, political exile, gnosticism, or the inability to get a good night…
 
In this edition of The Substance of Influence Nick chats with Ross Farrar, vocalist of the Northern California punk band Ceremony, about the connections between the band’s latest record In the Spirit World Now and the classic Saul Bellow novel Humboldt’s Gift. Listen in as we discuss the similarities between Bellow’s blend of rough intellectualism …
 
In this edition of The Substance of Influence, Nick chats with University of California-Berkeley English Professor Catherine Flynn about her new book, James Joyce and the Matter of Paris. Listen in for discussion on the (un)romantic Paris of yesteryear, the sources of all those cool modernist moves, and why Joyce’s fiction is, um, a bit smelly. In …
 
In this installment of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Nick is joined by University of California-Berkeley English Professor Catherine Flynn to dissect the endless permutations of Samuel Beckett’s oft-overlooked Watt. Is there meaning behind Sam’s lists upon lists upon lists? Is this a reality more real than realism itself? And will there be a…
 
You may be thinking: If I had a dollar for every time I felt like I was just sitting in the waiting room of life—except that the room was an open field with a single tree in it and my best bud just wouldn’t keep his boots on—I’d be rich! Or in a hit Samuel Beckett play. Whether it is about morality or acceptance or the morality of acceptance, Becke…
 
[Update (8/12/19): After recording and releasing this podcast, it has come to our attention that Sarvis has been barred from teaching in Florida public schools following allegations he engaged in inappropriate communications with students on social media. We in no way condone this alleged behavior. This episode will remain available and those that …
 
Have you heard the bad news? God is dead. But in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, you can't keep a good god down—even when you murder a consumptive flim-flam man, seduce a fifteen-year-old, and blind yourself with quicklime. So put glass shards in your shoes, turn up your headphones, and drink every time we say "nihilism." (This episode’s summary wa…
 
In this latest installment of the Books of Some Substance podcast San Francisco State University English Professor Sarita Cannon returns to talk about the violent grace (or graceful violence?) of Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Listen in as Nick and Sarita talk about the curious relationship between Catholicism and the g…
 
On this, our first episode of The Substance of Influence episodes, David speaks with fiction writer and poet Chaya Bhuvaneswar, winner of the 2017 Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize for her first book White Dancing Elephants. They discuss authorial voice, being a reader and a writer, influence in general, direct influence in particular with Chaya's…
 
In this latest installment of the Books of Some Substance podcast David, Nick, and Eric go for a disorienting ride through the comedic darkness of László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango. This paragraph-shunning tome from the “Hungarian Master of the Apocalypse” is perfect for the reader seeking that good ole bleak, rain-soaked, mud-packed, worm-eatin’, …
 
In this episode of the Books of Some Substance podcast, Stanford English Professor Roanne Kantor stops by to chat with Nick about Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes. While providing a fertile ground to discuss what exactly Global Anglophone literature is, the 2008 novel also packs many a nod to Latin America greats García Márquez and Varg…
 
If by chance—and what else really controls it all other than chance?—you are into examining the futility of it all, or, of course, the scorn of it all, then the latest B.O.S.S. podcast on László Krasznahorkai’s The Last Wolf in which David, Stephanie, and Nick examine the tale of how a washed up German author tells the tale of traveling to the barr…
 
Did you just stop at digging up her body? How crippling is your love? In this episode, San Francisco State University Literature Professor Summer Star joins Nick and David for a rousingly dark conversation on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Is this story within a story within a story meant to be identifiable to anyone? Are those really ghosts? Is…
 
That day they discoursed in a cool and oft solitudinous basement. Eric and Nick and Dean Rader of the University of San Francisco examined Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West and inquired what Cormac McCarthy had in mind. Sulphurous and detached and surgically endeavored as that mind may be. They passed through the beauty and bleaknes…
 
A man sits down at a cafe. Pauses. Thinks. Writes a sentence. Pauses. Thinks. Writes another sentence. Pauses. Thinks. Will that next sentence be about solving an age-old puzzle of a pirate’s submerged treasure? Or perhaps it will be about cloning Carlos Fuentes? Or maybe it will just be about an attack of giant, shimmering silk worms. Only César A…
 
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