The podcast seems to have invaded the dreamworld of xTx:
A listener named Joseph corrects my pronunciation of ‘Amherst’:
Really like the show. I just listened to Episode 162 and felt compelled to write and inform you that you’ve been mispronouncing the word Amherst. I first noticed it this past fall in the D.T. Max episode, and didn’t think much of it, but after this recent episode I thought that you might want to know that it’s not Am-Herst, but rather Am-erst. You seemed to be really stressing that H in your chat with Amity Gaige. I’m not trying to be snarky or pedantic or anything like that, just thought you might like to know. It’s a common mistake. People familiar with the area might be silently judging your pronunciation, and I like you and the show enough that I thought it might be worthwhile to [say something], sort of like if you had food stuck in your teeth or your zipper was down or something like that, you know?
Thanks, Joseph. Am-erst it is.
A listener named Jeremy inquires about my health:
Long time, first time, and all that.
Couldn’t help but notice the following from the recent monologues:
1) You work out. You throw weights around. Afterward, sometimes, in an endorphin haze, you run back to your unit, dodging individuals on the sidewalk handing out magazines.
2) You suffered a hernia. You had hernia surgery.
Are these two events related?
Hi, Jeremy. First: The phrase ‘throw weights around’ seems way too generous. Second: No, the two events are not related. I got the hernia (it was umbilical) by, um, lifting books. True story. I think I talk about it on a previous episode. I was getting rid of hundreds of books, lifting big heavy boxes, and, well…
I’m getting old.
‘Max Millwood,’ the podcast’s regular, intensive, pseudonymous critic (he calls his reports ‘Listi Watch’) hated the monologue to Episode 167:
You sounded so morose [at] the top of the monologue that we at Listi Watch wondered if you had forgotten to take your Prozac. You revealed to us that you had procrastinated taping the introduction because of online dilly-dallying. This really did show when you went into a lazy riff on Fiona Apple calling the world ‘bullshit.’ The fact that Apple’s ‘Courtney Love-lite’ speech resonated with someone as smart as you, really shows the effects of extreme internet perusal. How much did that googling numb your senses? The world is bullshit? Really? How about the the (right) assessment: that the world is neither bullshit or wonderful — that it is what it is, and we make our own way through our minds, bodies, and the ones we keep in our lives. Bradley, you’re better than this… People who believe the world is bullshit will never be great. Be great, Brad.
I feel compelled to add that ‘the world’ Fiona is referring to is not the world, writ-large, but rather the world of corporate media, fashion, and entertainment (and, in her particular case: music). And this world is, I would argue, largely made of bullshit. It was an adolescent speech in many ways, sure, but come on: She was 18 when she made it! Personally, I think it showed some good instincts, and, if nothing else, some real balls. It’s unusual to see someone bite the hand like that, at that age, and on such a big stage. A weird, minor, misunderstood cultural moment, lost, to a large extent, amid the bad static. And yes, its inclusion was the product of too much time spent dicking around online. Mea culpa.
Millwood continues with his thoughts on Tupelo Hassman, guest on Episode 167:
She was a guest who seemingly didn’t want to talk about much; she was very reluctant and hesitant. But her life’s immensity (which seemed a bit fictionalized seeing as she had something of an aloof Stepford Wife quality on your show) redeemed any conversation-averse qualities. The conversation got off to a rocky start, as you nervously extended the pregnancy bit about 6 minutes too long. What’s more, she seemed to swat down every follow-up you were giving her. She was unwilling to take flight with you.
Really? I thought Tupelo was totally agreeable.
He then takes issue with my interviewing style:
There is a habit I’m sure you’re aware of, and that Listi Watch has refrained from mentioning just because it’s so elemental to your interviewing style, but you hold very partisaned interviews. You’ll ask your guest a question, she’ll respond, and rather than take off with her response, you just talk about your experience to the question/issue at hand. So rather than play ping-pong with your guests, Brad, you serve the ball, she hits it back, you catch it with your hand and serve it again. Just play, baby.
Seems fair enough.
Gabrielle Gantz had a more positive response:
A listener named Erik sends in some kind words:
I just want to say that I love the podcast (I’ve listened to every one since I found out about it, starting with episode 17) and that hearing what you and other writers are going through gives me a whole bunch of hope, even if it doesn’t seem like there’s much out there.
I don’t have any idea about the current state of publishing, whether people are reading more or less than they used to, or whether this whole ship is going down, but I get the feeling that it has always been a pretty bleak industry for a career choice and that you have to wade through a whole lot of dark waters (often swimming upstream) until you find little islands of light here and there. I always return to your podcast when I’m feeling like this endeavor is pointless. Hearing the thoughts and fears of your guests makes me feel a little less alone in all this, and for that I thank you.
My pleasure, Erik. Thanks for listening.
The good people at Hobart (is that you, Elizabeth?) seem to be lobbying for….who?….to appear on the show.
If you have requests, ladies and gentlemen, feel free to leave them on the comment board. Or else email me. I’m always open to ideas.
Millwood returns with his assessment of the Episode 168 monologue, and it is positive:
This was a very strong monologue. It gave us a bit of your narcissistic self-scrutiny that fills in the holes of, say, a Louis CK. Where Louis is a slob, you are a “good guy.” There were some fabulous exctractable phrases from the monologue that in-and-of-themselves provide a nice arc in the monologue. “I’ve got to grow up” turned into “I need to relax,” which finally resolved with “I can manage this.” Then there were just the bouts of humor: “I shouldn’t poison myself for my sister.” Lastly, you demonstrated some nice vocabulary gymnastics with “arrhythmically.” Just as we were getting comfortable in our seat for the Nadelson interview, you even anointed your monologue with a title, whether you knew it or not: The Cajun Element. Great, great monologue.
And he was equally generous regarding the interview with Scott Nadelson:
We were worried [about] the vague geographical banter which we’ve heard from you in 75 percent of your shows (city vs. city, East vs. West, etc.), but we were soon appeased when that broke out into remarkably fluid conversations on home as metaphor, Darwinian childhood psychologies, to Poland, etc. You lassoed it beautifully back to literature when you went into his publication story. As you’re wont to do, you allowed yourself to break out into the large issues like masculinity and, ironically enough, back to geographic significance. This was like a Nolan Ryan fastball, this interview. Nice work, Brad.
Chloe Caldwell likes the Episode 168 monologue as well:
Millwood’s thoughts on the Episode 169 monologue:
You started out this monologue with the good ol’ meta trick of talking about not knowing what to talk about. From mockumentaries to post-modern literature, this decades-old device has lost its appeal to much of The Enlisted, and expectedly fell flat….[which] made us wonder if you prepare for your monologues or just speak spontaneously. It’s an odd thing to wonder because your monologue is delivered with a confident cadence that suggests preparation, yet sometimes the topics of the monologue are so inconsequential that it suggests a fatigued improvisation.
I do prepare. There are notes. But, you know, I’m doing two shows a week, soup-to-nuts, and am very busy otherwise. So it’s tough. Oftentimes I’m scrambling for subject matter; other days I’m just plain exhausted. Doing the best I can. (Note: This is why talk show hosts in higher realms have staff writers.)
On a (much) more positive note, Millwood has rave reviews for the Episode 169 guest, Fiona Maazel:
She brought a cunning intelligence that at times surpassed yours in its relentlessness, which I say only to illustrate how outstanding she was. She brought up some far-reaching ideas, from American distinction to North Korean reality, that were unusual to find on “Other People.” And just when you think a woman this smart will be above us, she talks about Meetup.com. Maazel was my personal favorite guest so far.
His one beef (coupled with some personal revelation):
I will admit that it was frustrating to hear you two fall prey to the ubiquitous nostalgia-fetishizing from people over the age of 30. To make your arguments credible, the two of you of course brought up the pros of the Internet, but the whole section sounded generally pessimistic. Brad, I’ll have you know that the Internet is able to connect like-minded people in an exponentially more efficient way than ever before. Without it, I never would’ve found the woman who might be my soul-mate, to soul-cellular degrees. I never would’ve found the vlogs of a young hiker who hikes for the same reasons I do. I never would’ve found a friend in you and your program. This is a definitively good thing. STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT EVERYTHING. NO GUILT! NO GUILT! NO GUILT!
He continues his gushing:
Maazel started to take the lead in the intellectual race between the two of you. She was flat-out impressive when she talked about the emotional estrangement that resulted in rugged American individualism. You earnestly tried to keep up with her, but the lead had been taken. But there were moments when it was nose-to-nose though. On two occasions, Maazel preempted something you were just going to say. But she would take the lead once more when shooting you down regarding North Korea’s leaders’ cognizance and George Plimpton’s essence. Just the fact that she did shoot down your ideas was so refreshing for a politically-cautious, overly-generous industry of writers.
I can understand this sentiment. Writers are such a polite bunch, generally speaking. Sometimes overly so. And in a (semi-) professional interview setting such as the one we have here, politesse can sometimes get in the way of good conversation. (I’m probably as guilty of this than anyone.)
Should also add that hailing someone for winning an ‘intellectual race’ against me is, I fear, to damn them with faint praise. Heh.
A listener named Molly—I read a letter of hers on a previous episode—checks in again:
Thanks for pointing out Arundhati Roy’s work. She’s an inspiration.
Also: Thanks for your response. I really appreciated it and my stomach did this rollercoaster-response-thing when you read the letter on the show awhile back. I was in the throes of insomnia and final days before thesis defense and it really did a number on me, in a good way.
I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you that I defended and it went well, seeing as you know nothing about me, but — I finished. And yeah, it went well. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how your honesty and candidness has helped open them up in the ways they interact with people, and I’ve often thought the same thing. It’s strange to say, but conversations feel different somehow. I keep thinking about the importance of curiosity. Actually everything keeps coming down to curiosity and awareness, and it’s empowering, and yeah, thanks for making such a vital human quality so infectious. It’s helped me a lot with getting through the murkiness of thesis.
It’s always fun listening to the show, thanks again for all your hard work.
Awww. Thanks, Molly.
Finally, Millwood weighs in, harshly, on Episode 170, my conversation with Emily Rapp:
This review can either be nice or honest. For the sake of living up to the Listi Watch motto of “Keeping Brad Listi Honest since 2013,” you can probably guess which track we’ll take. [Emily's] son’s death is an absolute tragedy, and it is of my opinion that the senseless death of a child is proof enough that God probably doesn’t exist.
However. The empathy in your heart as both a father and a peer not only hijacked the show, but it makes it hard for me to criticize the hour-long cunnilingus you gave this reverse-sexist guest. And your monologue wasn’t great either. It’s the first show of May, and we are crossing our fingers that this show won’t be indicative of the rest of May’s shows.
It’s not the fact that [Rapp] started the interview eating food [that bothers me most], or calling the disease that killed her son “the number one shittiest disease” (just to later sarcastically say about the whole thing, “good times”). It’s not that. It’s her flagrant sexism that you ignored while your head was buried in her genitals, taking a breath only to read a quote from her work.
Just in case you didn’t hear it from down there, Emily gave us some of her ‘man-hate’ with the blanket sentiment that if a man wrote the book she did, he would get universally celebrated, but because she was a woman, there was more criticism surrounding the book. I’m sorry, Emily, isn’t your outrageously blasé demeanor in this interview excused only because we, as your listeners, are assuming the gender bias that states that all mothers unyieldingly adore their offspring? Isn’t [the] shocking emotional removal in your voice predicated entirely on this beneficial gender bias?….The man-hating continued when Rapp talked about how a boyfriend of hers would react to Ronan’s condition. When she talked about how the boyfriend was loving toward Ronan, she said, “I didn’t think that was going to happen,” as in: “Isn’t [it] surprising that a guy would be so caring toward my terminally ill child!” Good job, men! Emily approves!
Dude. Cut the woman some slack. I don’t think it’s fair to judge her by her tone of voice, or choice of phrasing, in the context of a fluid, off-the-cuff conversation about very, very difficult (and exhausting) subject matter. How can you fault her for attempting humor, or for resisting the drift into sadness? If anyone deserves measured judgment, it’s a woman ten weeks removed from the loss of a child.
Also: When she expressed her surprise over her boyfriend’s warmth, I think what she meant was: I was surprised he didn’t run in the other direction. Which is to say: Most guys—most people—probably wouldn’t sign up for that kind of ultra-heavy grief experience when they’re out dating, particularly as they’re just getting to know someone. Rather than bashing him, or bashing men, with this anecdote, I feel she was offering praise.
So…yeah. I thought Emily was great to talk to, and courageous for agreeing to do so. And her writing is flat-out spectacular.
That said, I do believe that reverse-sexism is a worthy topic of conversation and one that I wouldn’t mind addressing somehow in a future episode.
Chloe Caldwell offers her two cents:
And finally, there’s this bit of lovely Internet bullshit: