68* Martin Puchner: Gilgamesh to Amazon (EF, JP)

Book Industry Month continues with a memory-lane voyage back to a beloved early RtB episode. This conversation with Martin Puchner about the very origins of writing struck us as perfect companion to Mark McGurl’s wonderful insights (in RtB 67, published earlier this month) about the publishing industry’s in 2021, or as Mark tells it, the era of “adult diaper baby love.”


Aside from being a fabulous conversation about Martin’s wonderful history of book production through the ages (The Written World) this episode brings back happy memories of Elizabeth and John piling their guests into a cozy sound booth at Brandeis, the kind of place that’s utterly taboo in Pandemic America.So travel with us back to 2019 for a close encounter with the epic of Gilgamesh. The three friends discuss the different stages of world writing–from the time of the scribes to the time of great teachers like Confucius, Socrates and Jesus Christ, who had a very complicated relationship to writing.

M0005812 Sumerian Cuneifurm Tablet.

In Recallable Books, Martin recommends the fan fiction website Wattpad; Elizabeth recommends “No Reservations: Narnia,” in which Anthony Bourdain goes through the wardrobe.  John feints at recommending Dennis Tenen’s book on the writing within coding before recommending the Brautigan Library.

Come for the discussion of writing, stay for the impressions of Gollum!

Discussed in this episode:

The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History and Civilization, Martin Puchner

Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse, David Ferry


No Reservations: Narnia,” Edonohana

Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation, David Tenen

The Brautigan Library

Listen to the episode here:


(episode transcript available here: Episode 6 Puchner 3.28.19)

Author: plotznik

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

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