31 RTB Books in Dark Times 7: Vanessa Smith (JP)

U. Sydney professor Vanessa Smith–author of Intimate Strangers, and also of this lovely short piece about Marion Milner–joins John to discuss her pandemic reading. She praises a Milner (quasi)travel book, but she also makes the case for M F K Fisher and a book about the glories of hypochondria.

Tasmanian selfie: John, Vanessa, mysterious mathematician (r to l)

Then the old friends share their newfound love for spiky Australian novelist Helen Garner, doyenne of share-house feminism.

The indomitably introspective Marion Milner

Marion Milner, Eternity’s Sunrise (1987, at the age of 87)

Brian Dillon, “Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives

Lytton Strachey, “Eminent Victorians” (about Florence Nightingale’s hypochondria and agoraphobia)

Jane Austen takes on hypochondria in Emma (think of gruel-eating Mr. Woodhouse) and in Sanditon

M. F. K. Fisher, “How to Cook a Wolf

Helen Garner, “The Spare Room” (2008; rigorously honest about impending mortality)

Helen Garner, “The Childrens Bach” (1984; John and Vanessa planned a seminar on this one)

Helen Garner, “Monkey Grip” (1977; heroin, be the death of me….)

Listen to the episode here:

Read the Transcript here:

Upcoming Episodes: Next week, Paul Saint-Amour, Modernist to the stars (and the lucky students of U Penn) rhapsodizes about science fiction’s time travel metaphysics.

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

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