Tag Archives: Fiction

Podcast

The Amherst Affair: Austin, Mabel & Emily, Too

mabelloomistodd

William Nicholson talks about his new novel, AMHERST. It’s about the passionate affair between Emily Dickinson’s brother Austin and Mabel Todd. And later we re-air part of our 2007 interview with Debby Applegate about her biography of another 19th century figure associated with Amherst, Massachusetts: fiery evangelical preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Her book is THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN AMERICA.

William Nicholson

William-Nicholson-007
William Nicholson

Amherst, Massachusetts in the late 19th century was the setting for one of the most famous illicit affairs in American history. In 1882, Mabel Todd, the beautiful young wife of Amherst College physics professor David Todd began a passionate longterm liaison with then 53-year old Austin Dickinson, Emily Dickinson’s brother — a liaison that lasted until the latter’s death in 1895.

AustinAustin and Mabel left behind a detailed record of their affair, which has provided British writer William Nicholson with ample material for his new novel, Amherst. But he also invents another, contemporary affair running in parallel to that of the two nineteenth century lovers.

Romance sparks between a young woman who has come to Amherst to write a screenplay about Austin and Mabel and a handsome, older professor of English at Amherst College. The novel employs the two affairs to explore the nature of love and attraction — and the role they play in the pursuit of selfhood.

amherst-9781476740409_lgThroughout Amherst, the figure of Emily Dickinson hovers like a muse. She and Mabel Todd never met in person, but nonetheless they had a mysterious bond. Emily approved of and may have abetted the affair between her brother and Mabel. And after Emily’s death, Mabel Todd worked tirelessly to bring the poet’s work to the world. It is in large part due to her efforts that we know and celebrate Emily Dickinson today.

William Nicholson is a prolific novelist, as well as a screenwriter. He was wrote the Oscar nominated screenplays for Shadowlands and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, among other films.

Listeners in western Massachussets can hear William Nicholson speak March 8, 2015 at the Amherst Women’s Club on Triangle Street. He will also give a talk and book signing at the Harvard Bookshop in Cambridge, MA on March 11, 2015.

Debby Applegate

The_Most_Famous_Man_in_America_book_coverIn 2007, WV spoke with historian Debby Applegate about another 19th century figure connected to Amherst’s history, Henry Ward Beecher.

In his time, Beecher was the most famous man in America. That’s also the title of Applegate’s biography of Beecher. Now, he’s probably more famous as the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of one of the most popular books of all time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But Henry has a fascinating story of his own — one involving Abolitionism, a new vision of religion and a scandalous affair.

We air a long excerpt from Francesca’s interview with Applegate in 2007 about The Most Famous Man In America. She was joined on the conversation by then WV associate producer, Michael Pollitt, who has gone on to his own projects since.

Hear the full interview here.

Podcast

Doing Right by Our Companion Animals

dog cat

Ellen Cooney talks about her newest novel, The Mountaintop School For Dogs. It’s a mystery about an unusual and redemptive rescue operation. We also replay our conversation with animal behaviorist Vint Virga about his book, The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human.

Ellen Cooney

EllenCooneyWe use the word “humane” to describe behavior that is compassionate and caring. But maybe we should use something like “canane” instead or, yes, even “felane.” Because, can we really hold up humans as exemplars of such behavior? Maybe we need to act more like our companion animals act toward us.  If more of us treated them as well as they treat us, we’d have a lot fewer traumatized, abused and neglected animals. We also might have fewer traumatized, abused and neglected humans.

MttopcvrEllen Cooney ponders these questions in her new work of fiction, The Mountaintop School For Dogs And Other Second Chances. Wrapped within a kind of mystery novel is an exploration of our relationship to the animals who share our lives. What happens when things go wrong, either through misunderstanding or evil intent?

Cooney’s protagonist is a young woman who has been through some traumas of her own. Answering a mysterious ad in the paper, she finds herself in the midst of a unique rescue operation for abused dogs. What she learns there not only changes the lives the animals she has come to help, but her life, as well.

Ellen Cooney is the author of numerous previous novels, including Lambrusco, which we spoke about with her in 2008. She lives in Maine with her canine companions.

Read an excerpt from The Mountaintop School For Dogs

Vint Virga
soul-of-all-creatures-680x440We love our cats and dogs and thrill to the sight of wild animals. But we tend to forget that we are animals ourselves — and thus share our fragile planet with what are really our cousins in the animal kingdom.

Veterinary behaviorist Vint Virga says that other animals have much to teach us about being human — not just the biological traits we share, but also other qualities like resilience, compassion and being present in the moment.

Virga draws on his 25 years of working with both domestic pets and zoo animals to explore these themes in his thoughtful and moving book The Soul of All Living Creatures.

Vint Virga has appeared as a featured guest on ABC World News, PBS Nature, and National Geographic Explorer. He is one of only 61 behavioral veterinarians in the US. The Soul of All Living Creatures won a Nautilus Book Award in 2014.

Read an excerpt from The Soul of All Living Creatures

Podcast

Thrity Umrigar, THE STORY HOUR & THE WORLD WE FOUND

Thrity Umrigar
Thrity Umrigar

19144598WV spends the hour with Indian-born novelist Thrity Umrigar, talking about her latest work of fiction, THE STORY HOUR (Harper Collins, August 2014) and her 2012 novel, THE WORLD WE FOUND. Also, we air a sneak preview from next week’s show: a conversation with scientist Paul Ehrlich about HOPE ON EARTH.

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Podcast

Robert Harris, AN OFFICER & A SPY & Francine Prose, LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB

Robert Harris
Robert Harris
Francine Prose
Francine Prose

Robert Harris talks about his terrific new novel about the Dreyfus Affair and the whistleblower who blew it wide open: An Officer And A Spy. And Francine Prose talks about her new historical novel about France in the 1930’s: Lovers At The Chameleon Club-Paris, 1932.

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Podcast

M.P. Barker, MENDING HORSES & Ellen Bryson THE TRANSFORMATION OF BARTHOLOMEW FORTUNO

M.P. Barker
M.P. Barker
Ellen Bryson
Ellen Bryson

M.P. Barker talks about her new historical novel for middle readers and above, Mending Horses. It’s a sequel to her wonderful first novel, A Difficult Boy. And then Ellen Bryson takes P.T. Barnum’s first circus as the setting to explore the outsider in all of us. Her novel is The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno. Continue reading

Podcast

Jason Mott, THE RETURNED & Christian Parenti (encore), TROPIC OF CHAOS

Jason Mott
Jason Mott
Christian Parenti
Christian Parenti

Jason Mott talks about his terrific debut novel, The Returned. It’s about what happens when loved ones who have died return to their families unscathed.

And world leaders are once again discussing climate change, this time at the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland. Meanwhile, the Phillipines is struggling to recover from supertyphoon Haiyan. We put climate change and conflict into context with Christian Parenti. We re-air our 2011 interview with Parenti about his book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

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Podcast

Kevin Baker, THE BIG CROWD; Steve Volk, FRINGEOLOGY (encore); & CAT SENSE reviewed

 

Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker

 

Steve Volk
Steve Volk

Kevin Baker talks about talks about his newest novel, THE BIG CROWD. It’s the first of a new trilogy about New York, City of Gold; we hear a true ghost story from Steve Volk, author of FRINGEOLOGY; and Francesca reviews John Bradshaw’s, CAT SENSE.

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Russell Banks, A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY & George Saunders (encore), TENTH OF DECEMBER

Russell Banks
Russell Banks
George Saunders
George Saunders

Novelist and short story writer Russell Banks talks about his new collection of stories, A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY. And George Saunders just received the National Book Award for his story collection, TENTH OF DECEMBER. We re-play Writers Voice associate producer Drew Adamek’s February 2013 interview with Saunders in the second half of the show.

 

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Podcast

Ruth Ozeki, A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING & Gretel Ehrlich, FACING THE WAVE

Ruth Ozeki
Ruth Ozeki
Gretel Ehrlich
Gretel Ehrlich

Ruth Ozeki talks about her acclaimed new novel, A Tale For The Time Being. It’s about a Japanese-American teenager, a Canadian-Japanese writer, and the time-twisting connection between them after the Japanese tsunami. And Gretel Ehrlich discusses her riveting new book, Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami.

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Podcast

Marisa Silver, MARY COIN & Jess Walter, WE LIVE IN WATER

 

Marisa Silver
Marisa Silver

 

Jess Walter
Jess Walter

Marisa Silver talks about her acclaimed new novel, MARY COIN. It’s about a famous photograph of a migrant worker taken during the Great Depression. And Jess Walter discusses his collection of short stories set during the Great Recession, WE LIVE IN WATER. Continue reading

Podcast

Lois Leveen, THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER & Eve LaPlante, MARMEE & LOUISA

 

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen

 

Eve LaPlante
Eve LaPlante

Lois Leveen talks about the remarkable true story of Mary Bowser, a freed slave who became a Union spy right inside the Confederate White House. Her acclaimed new novel, THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER, is based on it. And Eve LaPlante talks about her terrific new book, MARMEE AND LOUISA. It’s about the powerful relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her mother Abigail. Continue reading

Podcast

Episode Two: Sojourner Truth, Her Story & Meaning

Jacqueline Sheehan
Nell Irvin Painter

In the second episode in The River Runs Through Us, WV examines the life of Sojourner Truth and what she means to us. We talk with Jacqueline Sheehan about her novel about Sojourner Truth, THE COMET’S TALE; with historian Nell Irvin Painter, author of SOJOURNER TRUTH, A Life, A Symbol; and with Rachel Kuhn and Priscilla Kane Hellweg of the Enchanted Circle Theater about their musical play, SOJOURNER’S TRUTH: I Will Shake Every Place I Go To.

Our thanks to Mass Humanities for their support for this series.

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Podcast

Ursula K. Le Guin, THE UNREAL AND THE REAL & Archer Mayor, PARADISE CITY

Ursula K. Le Guin
Archer Mayor

Science fiction master Ursula K. Le Guin talks about her two-volume short story retrospective, just out from Small Beer Press: THE UNREAL AND THE REAL. And murder mystery writer Archer Mayor talks about writing police procedurals and his latest in the Joe Gunther series, PARADISE CITY. Continue reading

Podcast

Karen Thompson Walker, AGE OF MIRACLES & Kij Johnson, AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER OF BEES

Karen Thompson Walker
Kij Johnson

WV talks with two women writers of speculative fiction: Karen Thompson Walker talks about her acclaimed debut novel, AGE OF MIRACLES. It’s about what happens to one young girl, her family and her world when the Earth’s rotation slows down. And Kij Johnson discusses her new short story collection AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER OF BEES.
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Podcast

Linda McCullough Moore, THIS ROAD WILL TAKE US CLOSER TO THE MOON & Marisa Silver, ALONE WITH YOU

 

Linda McCullough Moore

 

Marisa Silver

Linda McCullough Moore talks about her short story collection, THIS ROAD WILL TAKE US CLOSER TO THE MOON & we air a 2010 interview with Marisa Silver about her short story collection, ALONE WITH YOU. Continue reading