Category Archives: Books

Another Conversation With Nathaniel Popkin

After Nathaniel Popkin first appeared on Life Elsewhere in 2018 to talk about his novel, Everything Is Borrowed we didn’t hesitate to invite the Philadelphia-based author back. Then, in response to the American political crisis, the movement, Writers Resist proved a renewed interest amongst writers in political discourse and prompted Stephanie Feldman and Popkin to co-edit, Who Will Speak For America? The eloquent and intellectually curios Nathaniel Popkin returned to our show to discuss the anthology. Now Nathaniel is back to talk about his latest work of fiction – set against the backdrop of 1976 Philadelphia, The Year Of The Return follows the path of two families, the Jewish Silks and African American Johnsons, as they are first united by marriage and then by grief, turmoil, and the difficult task of trying to live in an America failing to live up to its ideals. Both hyper-real and feverishly imagined, and told in the unfiltered voices of the characters themselves, Popkin summons the electric dimensions of racial conflict, sexual liberty, and economic collapse during America’s post-Vietnam urban meltdown. Paul Silk and Charlene Johnson are journalists whose love for each other and commitment to social justice were formed in the peace movements of the 1960s. But the idealism of that era leads to the urban deterioration of the 1970s. Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia is a place of crime, white flight, and class resentment that is inhospitable to their interracial marriage, forcing them to move away. But when Charlene dies of cancer, Paul returns. Unmoored and unable to let go of Charlene, he wades back into the lives of the two families, with the hope of helping Charlene’s younger brother Monte, once a prodigy and now a troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. Their explosive reunion leads to the baring of personal revelations and dangerous secrets. This is a vivid story of families trying to reconnect with and support each other through trauma and loss, and a meditation on the possibility of moving on to a better future. We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel Popkin back to Life Elsewhere.

Plus new music from Felicia Douglass and Eric Gundel out Brooklyn who perform under the moniker, Gemma. You’ll hear Love Trade from Feeling’s Not A Tempo, their latest album, which we highly recommend. Montreal-based, multi-talented singer-songwriter, Sarah Krier gives us Wrap from her new long-player, Avoidable Injuries. Digital Vagabond hail from Denver, Colorado, Patrick Boyle is the composer, producer, and knob-twiddler on The Tyndall Effect, featuring Carly Lynn Meador aka Spirah on vocals. 

And, Norman B voices an opinion on guns, he first aired on a talk radio show in the early ’80s.

Show #336

Portrait by Peter Woodall

Summer Rayne Oakes. J Ryan Stradal. Gafacci.

“Is taking care of plants the best way to take care of yourself?” This question posed by Summer Rayne Oakes is creatively answered in her new book, How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart. She explores ways to elevate the common potted plant from a decorative object that makes one’s space “look good” to a gateway to something deeper. “Taking care of other living things is a basic human need.” Says, Summer, “Without exercising care for others, we become stuck in own heads, anxious, lonely, and unreceptive to beauty. Becoming a good plant parent can radically open your mind. Watering plants, listening to their needs, and breathing in their scents can mold you into a more mindful and caring person.” The urban houseplant expert and environmental scientist wants to bring nature indoors, Summer has managed to grow 1,000 houseplants in her Brooklyn apartment (and they are thriving). Her secret? She approaches her relationships with plants as intentionally as if they were people.

J Ryan Stradal, the author of the best-selling, Kitchens Of The Great Midwest returns to Life Elsewhere to talk about his latest novel, The Lager Queen Of Minnesota. Edith Magnusson’s rhubarb pies are famous in the Twin Cities–they were named the third-best in the state of Minnesota and St. Anthony-Waterside Nursing Home has quickly become the hottest dinner ticket in town. Still, she lays awake wondering how her life might have been different if her father hadn’t left their family farm to her sister Helen, a decision that split their family in two. With the proceeds from the farm, her sister, Helen Blotz, built her husband Orval’s family soda business into the top-selling brewery in Minnesota. She singlehandedly created the light beer revolution and made their corporate motto ubiquitous: “Drink lots, it’s Blotz.” But Helen dismisses IPAs as a fad, and the Blotz fortune begins its inevitable decline. Soon, though, she finds a potential savior that’s surprisingly close to home. . .Diana Winter earns a shot at learning the beer business from the ground up just as the IPA revolution begins. The stakes couldn’t be higher: just as she’s launching her own brewpub, she’s due to deliver a baby girl. When the unthinkable happens, it’s up to Grandma Edith–and a delightfully surprising cadre of grandmother friends–to secure the next generation’s chances for a better future. Can Grandma Edith’s Rhubarb Pie In A Bottle Ale save Diana’s fledgling brewery, and change their hearts and fortunes forever?

Also in the show, we go to Accra, Ghana to hear new music from Gafacci. The beat-maker is known for his unique sounds and infusing afro rhythms into his electronic-based instrumentals.  This Ghanaian style is called aokpor directly influenced by his father, Sega Gafatche, a former band member of juju music legend, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. On Gafacci’s new four-track EP, Tash BNM, (meaning Tash bought new music) he collaborates with vocalists Tinuke, Lazee, and Amaarae. Listen, enjoy and dance!

Show #335

The Killer. The Auteur. The Relationship.

Maureen Callan

Most people have never heard of Israel Keyes, one of the most ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” Keyes was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country. Over the course of fourteen years, Keyes would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home to Alaska, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter. When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day. Norman B talks with Maureen about American Predator – The Hunt For The Most Meticulous Serial Killer Of The 21st Century. “The most horrific book I have ever read!” He tells Ms. Callahan, adding, “But, I loved every page!”

David J & Rose McGowan

David J of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets fame has released a digital-only single, The Auteur (Redux / The Starlet’s Cut) featuring actress and activist, Rose McGowan. This release serves as a taster for his forthcoming double album Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure, which is set for release on in the autumn. The track features a stellar line up of musicians, including Paul Wallfisch (Swans), Larry Mullins AKA Toby Dammit (Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds), Sean Eden (Luna) and Emily Jane White (backing vocals). “The original version of The Auteur was released as part of an EP in 2002, an old song that tells a much older story but one which in light of the whole #metoo movement now has an addendum,” says David J. “The most vocal proponent of that righteous call for respect and culpability, Rose McGowan, makes a fitting and emotional appearance on this brand new version’s reprise”. David continues,Rose told me that she related to the lyrics on a very personal level and, because of this, she is also considering recording her own version of the song.”

Christopher Castellani

“I always think, less is more, when it comes to writing about sex.” Says Christopher Castellani, when the subject of physical intimacy comes up.  And, erotic descriptions of gay sex do come up, in Leading Men, Castellani’s sumptuous new novel. The author gently leads the reader through exquisitely realized scenarios that are full of passion; of lust; of yes – sex in a world of agreeable young gay men who appear to swan around languidly from one late night after another to nattering effortlessly as they lay photo-ready in the Mediterranean sun. Christopher paints his beautiful vistas of Portofino, or Rome or wherever he chooses so realistically, you have to remind yourself – often – that is a work of fiction. The clever title, Leading Men, perfectly announces the complexity and essence of this book – relationships. Christopher Castellani bases his gorgeous novel on the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, who were together from roughly 1947 to 1963, a stretch during which the playwright composed some of the American theater’s enduring classics, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and “The Rose Tattoo.” When they met, Tennessee Williams was already flush from the success of “A Streetcar Named Desire” From the first sentence, Castellani wows the reader with an almost unnoticed assertiveness, “Truman was throwing a party in Portofino, and Frank wanted to go.” No last name is given and just like his scenes of intimacy, Christopher allows us, the reader to fill in the unspoken words. It is this brilliant writing-gift that makes Leading Men so wonderful. Castellani conjures up a beautiful, haunting story. He introduces characters who are not only believable, you’ll be thumbing through John Lahr’s biography of Williams to find out how you could have missed them. In Leading Men, the author questions our idea, if not our ideal of what a relationship is – or could be. Make sure you don’t miss Christopher Castellani’s spirited conversation about his book in the next edition of Life Elsewhere.

The Podcast is available at NPR One, Apple Podcasts & Mixcloud

Sundays 12 noon ET at The Source WMNF HD3
Sundays 10.00am ET at WNRM The Root
Mondays 5.00pm PT & Wednesdays 2.00pm PT at 
NWCZ Radio
Thursdays 6.00pm ET at Internet Radio Network
Fridays at 9.00pm GMT on Cornucopia Radio

Life Elsewhere Music airs:
Sundays 11.00am ET at 
WNRM The Root
Wednesdays at 3.00pm Pacific Time on 
NWCZ Radio
Fridays at 10.00am Eastern Time on IRN
Cornucopia Radio airs Life Elsewhere Music throughout each week
You can hear all the volumes over at Mixcloud

Show #331

 

A Conversation With Kristin Hersh

“You need to know…perhaps forewarned if you can’t take the raw honesty of her emotions she expresses so readily.” Says Life Elsewhere host, Norman B. Adding, “Listen carefully, you’ll be captivated, but be prepared to be moved.” He is referring to Kristin Hersh, most recognized as the front person for the influential art-punk band, Throwing Muses and power trio, 50FOOTWAVE. In the early ’80s, Throwing Muses gained traction playing alongside bands like The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. Kristin’s solo career spun off in 1994 with the widely acclaimed ‘Hips and Makers’, featuring ‘Your Ghost’, a duet with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. Kristin has since released a steady stream of distinct solo albums with 2010’s ‘Crooked’ the first release in the inventive book/CD format she is now known for. In addition to a series of frighteningly intense mini-albums via 50FOOTWAVE, Kristin’s writing career has also flourished with the highly acclaimed ‘Rat Girl’ and the award-winning ‘Don’t Suck, Don’t Die’, a personal account of her long friendship with the late Vic Chesnutt.

Kristin’s tenth studio, Possible Dust Clouds was released a short while ago and she is soon to embark on tour with Throwing Muses. Often known as the Queen of Alternative Releases, Kristin’s latest album showcases her extraordinary talent, a powerful, yet at times vulnerable voice and writing talent that reaches deep into her psyche. ‘We talk about, Possible Dust Clouds, but we also talk about so much more.” Norman B says. “I could chat with Kristin for hours and hours. Her smile comes through the airwaves. And, she delivers memorable quotes instead of searching for a perfect answer.” For example, this is Kristin Hersh on music: “My map is music.” On music videos: How bizarre is it that you are expected to imply that you will sleep with thousands of strangers!” And, “Everyone should be insulted by every move you make that implies that you are going to sleep with anyone except the person you love!” On feminism: “It will mess with you if you think you have to draw on a different face before you leave the house.” And, “It doesn’t mean you have to put on shoes you can hardly walk in to be considered lovable?”

photo by Peter Mellekas

The Podcast is available at NPR One, Apple Podcasts & Mixcloud

Sundays 12 noon ET at The Source WMNF HD3
Sundays 10.00am ET at WNRM The Root
Mondays 5.00pm PT & Wednesdays 2.00pm PT at 
NWCZ Radio
Thursdays 6.00pm ET at Internet Radio Network
Fridays at 9.00pm GMT on Cornucopia Radio

If you miss any editions of Life Elsewhere, go here then go to the Listen On-Demand panel, choose the date of a show and click play.

Life Elsewhere Music airs:
Sundays 11.00am ET at 
WNRM The Root
Wednesdays at 3.00pm Pacific Time on 
NWCZ Radio
Fridays at 10.00am Eastern Time on IRN
Cornucopia Radio airs Life Elsewhere Music throughout each week
You can hear all the volumes over at Mixcloud

Show #328

Vices & Taboos

                            

Much of the health advice we receive today tells us that in order to be healthy, we must consume a Spartan diet, exercise with the intensity of an Olympic athlete, and take a drug for every ailment. We constantly worry about the foods we should or shouldn’t be eating and the medical tests we have neglected to take. And all that worry costs us dearly–financially, emotionally, and physically according to naturopathic physician Dr. Harry Ofgang and health journalist Erik Ofgang in their new book, The Good Vices. The sub-title is From Beer To Sex, The Surprising Truth About What’s Actually Good For You. Clearly, the Ofgangs have a sense of humor, but we questioned if sex or beer should be labeled as vices. Make sure you listen to hear their answers.

Aging, sex, and death. When combined together, these three emotive words become taboo for many people. In Jill Ciment’s latest novel, The Body In Question she thrusts the question of age and sex and death to the forefront of her imaginative and provocative story set in central Florida. A sensational murder trial is about to get underway. Two of the jurors: Hannah, a married fifty-two-year-old former Rolling Stone and Interview Magazine photographer of rock stars and socialites (she began to photograph animals when she realized she saw people “as a species”), and Graham, a forty-one-year-old anatomy professor. Both are sequestered (she, juror C-2; he, F-17) along with the other jurors at the Econo Lodge off I-75. As the shocking and numbing details of the crime are revealed during a string of days and courtroom hours, and the nights play out in a series of court-financed meals at Outback Steak House (the state isn’t paying for their drinks) and Red Lobster, Hannah and Graham fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath as jurors never to discuss the trial. During deliberations, the lovers learn that they are on opposing sides of the case. Suddenly they look at one another through an altogether different lens, as things become more complicated. After the verdict, Hannah returns home to her much older husband, but the case ignites once again after public outrage over the verdict. Then, the judge receives an anonymous letter telling of “two fellow jurors who had sexual contact.” This happens as her husband is dying. Ciment reveals in our conversation, her own story of aging, sex, death and how she used her experiences for her moving and powerful book.

The Podcast is available at NPR One, Apple Podcasts & Mixcloud

Sundays 12 noon ET at The Source WMNF HD3
Sundays 10.00am ET at WNRM The Root
Mondays 5.00pm PT & Wednesdays 2.00pm PT at 
NWCZ Radio
Thursdays 6.00pm ET at Internet Radio Network
Fridays at 9.00pm GMT on Cornucopia Radio

If you miss any editions of Life Elsewhere, go here then go to the Listen On-Demand panel, choose the date of a show and click play.

Life Elsewhere Music airs:
Sundays 11.00am ET at 
WNRM The Root
Wednesdays at 3.00pm Pacific Time on 
NWCZ Radio
Fridays at 10.00am Eastern Time on IRN
Cornucopia Radio airs Life Elsewhere Music throughout each week
You can hear all the volumes over at Mixcloud

Show #327

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