Books in Dark Times (Spring 2020)

If what we do at the darkest moments is a glimpse of our inner nature, what we read then tells us just as much…

Hannah Arendt has this to say in her unforgettable 1968 book,  Men in Dark Times

“That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth–this conviction is the inarticulate background against which these profiles were drawn. Eyes so used to darkness as ours will hardly be able to tell whether their light was the light of a candle or that of a blazing sun. But such objective evaluation seems to me a matter of secondary importance which can be safely left to posterity.”

So, we decided to devote several RTB episodes to this hunt for candles or suns. We spoke with dear old friends: Steve McCauley (who already talked to us about the comic novel), renowned editor Alex Star, John’s brother David (host of The Slate Political Gabfest), Seeta Chaganti (professor of English at UC Davis and author of Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages), Paul Saint-Amour (Co-editor of Modernist Latitudes), and Vanessa Smith (author of Intimate Strangers).

We started these conversations with various writers and scholars and thinkers with a few simple questions:

What books are currently giving you comfort? why?

What books are giving you joy? why?

What do you read even though it gives you neither comfort nor joy?

What is the oldest book you are reading or plan to read? The funniest? The saddest? The lamest? What childhood books? Why?

Look at your bookshelf now: what books are crying out to be read?

Find our archive of episodes from this series here:

41 RTB Books in Dark Times 13: Lorraine Daston, Historian of Science (JP)

In this final episode of Books in Dark Times, John chews the bibliographic fat with Lorraine Daston of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her list of publications outstrips our capacity to mention here; John particularly admires her analysis of “epistemic virtues” such as truth to nature and objectivity in her … Continue reading “41 RTB Books in Dark Times 13: Lorraine Daston, Historian of Science (JP)”

39 RTB Books in Dark Times 12: Carlo Rotella (JP)

Carlo Rotella of Boston College is author of six books, among them the amazing Good With Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt (University of California Press, 2002) and most recently The World Is Always Coming to an End:  Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (University of Chicago Press, 2019). … Continue reading “39 RTB Books in Dark Times 12: Carlo Rotella (JP)”

37 RTB Books In Dark Times 11: Elizabeth Bradfield (JP)

Elizabeth Bradfied is editor of Broadsided Press, professor of creative writing at Brandeis, naturalist, photographer–and most of all an amazing poet (“Touchy” for example just appeared in The Atlantic). Her books include Interpretive Work, Approaching Ice, Once Removed, and Toward Antarctica. She lives on Cape Cod, travels north every summer to guide people into Arctic … Continue reading “37 RTB Books In Dark Times 11: Elizabeth Bradfield (JP)”

And here are all the books mentioned in the Series to date….

From the conversation with Alex Star, editor at Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

From the conversation with Brandeis novelist Stephen McCauley

From the conversation between John and Elizabeth:

From the conversation between John and his brother, David:

From John’s conversation with Seeta Chaganti:

From the conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson:

From the conversation with Vanessa Smith

From the episode with Paul Saint-Amour:

From the episode with Ben Fountain:

From the episode with Martin Puchner:

From the episode with Elizabeth Bradfield:

From the episode with Carlo Rotella:

From the conversation with Lorraine Daston:

So, dear listeners, where do you stand? We really want to know, and there are a number of great ways you can reach us. You can leave us a comment on this post to start the conversation, or if you’re feeling inspired, voice record your thoughts, email them to us at recallthisbookpod@gmail.com and we might include them in an upcoming podcast episode!