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#203: The Sorceresses’ Amanuensis

Alice Hoffman’s 1995 novel, Practical Magic, is the story of two sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens, who are born into a family of witches. The catch is that their ancestor, Maria Owens, cursed the family, so that any man one of them falls in love with dies an untimely death. It’s a classic fairy tale, and like most fairy tales it didn’t have a sequel—until this year. After going back to the 1960s generation of the family with The Rules of Magic, and all the way back to the 1600s with Magic Lessons, Hoffman returns this year to the present with the fourth and final story of the Owens family, The Book of Magic, which sees the youngest Owens, Kylie, maybe—finally—break the curse for good.


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6/24/2022

#236: Split City, U.S.A.

In 19th-century America, unhappily married couples faced divorce laws that varied wildly by state. Some states only allowed suits for “divorce of room and board”—but not the end of a marriage. In New York, divorce was permitted only in cases of proven adultery; South Carolina banned it entirely. But in South Dakota, things were different, and by the 1890s,people were flocking to Sioux Falls to take advantage of the laxest divorce laws in the country. In particular, the women seeking separation caught the most attention, as historian and senior Atlas Obscura editor April White writes in her new book, The Divorce Colony. These women—usually wealthy, almost always white, and trailing newspaper reporters—dared to challenge the status quo barely a generation after married women had won the right to own property, and well before they achieved the vote.Go beyond the episode:April White’s The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American FrontierRead the Atavist article that started it allMeet the women profiled in the bookTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe:iTunes• Stitcher•Google Play•AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
6/16/2022

#235: The Joyce of Cooking

Today is June 16, Bloomsday, the day in 1904 on which James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place. But this year also marks the 100th anniversary of its publication, and to celebrate the occasion, The American Scholar asked five writers for their thoughts on Joyce’s modern masterpiece. One of them, Flicka Small, wrote about the food in the novel, from the inner organs of beasts and fowls that Leopold Bloom eats with relish to the Gorgonzola on his sandwich—not to mention Molly Bloom’s sensuous seed cake, Blazes Boylans’s suggestive peaches, and everything that Stephen Dedalus can’t afford to eat. Flicka Small came to her lectureship at University College Cork by way of her earlier career as a chef, giving her a singular perspective on the wild array of foods that appear on that famous day in Dublin, Ireland.Go beyond the episode:Read Flicka Small’s contribution to our Joyce centennial, “Know Me Come Eat With Me”Read the other four essays: Robert J. Seidman on why Ulysses is as vital as ever; Keri Walsh’s celebration of the novel’s first publisher, Sylvia Beach; Donal Ryan on the three times he’s read it; and Amit Chaudhuri on just having fun with the flowBloomsday 2022 is on in Ireland and around the worldWhip up some pan-fried kidneys, a Gorgonzola sandwich, or some sugarsticky sweetsWe borrowed the title of this episode from Alison Armstrong’s excellent 1986 cookbook, The Joyce of Cooking, which you can find in used bookstoresTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe:iTunes•Stitcher•Google Play•AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
6/10/2022

#234: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Humorist Sloane Crosley is best known for her witty essay collections, such as I Was Told There’d Be Cake and Look Alive Out There, both finalists for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Her new book is a novel, Cult Classic—a mystery, romantic comedy, and conspiracy thriller rolled into one, with a sprinkling of mind control and A Christmas Carol for good measure. We first meet the novel’s heroine, Lola, as she sneaks out of a dinner with friends in Manhattan’s Chinatown for a cigarette and unexpectedly bumps into an ex-boyfriend. The next day, she runs into another one. Then another. What for many of us would merely seem like a bizarre series of uncomfortable encounters—or a personal nightmare—turns out to be something much stranger for Lola, who discovers that her very weird week has resulted from the machinations of a group that insists it’s not a cult. Sloane Crosley joins us to talk about love, psychology, and her new novel, Cult Classic.Go beyond the episode:Sloane Crosley’s Cult ClassicExplore her back catalogIn case you seek a novel about love gone wrong ... we have you covered with these 14 bad romancesTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe:iTunes•Stitcher•Google Play•AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!