Podcasting to the spirit of Updike
John Updike wrote that “museums and bookstores should feel, I think, like vacant lots — places where the demands on us are our own demands, where the spirit can find exercise in unsupervised play.” That energy animates a new bi-weekly podcast from the owners of the Book Shop of Beverly Farms. Siblings Hannah Harlow and Sam Pfeifle bought the store, which opened in 1968, three years ago, and recently started “John Updike’s Ghost,” a podcast named after the long-time resident of Beverly Farms, and “patron saint” of the store. The chatty, cheery conversations cover books that land and don’t, the power of handselling, books they’ve sped through and ones they’ve put down. They leap across genre, talk local hooks, travel funny tangents and offer up unexpected takes (Pfeifle says in one episode that Duran Duran don’t get enough credit, that they moved music forward as much as the Talking Heads), and then return to the literature. There’s enthusiasm, big opinions, easy brother-sister banter, and listeners get a sense not just what they might read next, but what it is to run a bookstore, and create this sacred atmosphere of unsupervised play. Find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, or through the store’s website, bookshopofbeverlyfarms.com.
A centenary of ‘Ulysses’
This February 2 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in Paris, the rich, rollicking, novel of linguistic acrobatics that takes place over the course of one day in Dublin, on June 16, 1904, and stands as one of the premiere examples of modernism and literature of the 20th century. To celebrate the centenary, the Boston-based Here Comes Everybody Players will give a virtual performance called “Four Characters from Ulysses,” those characters being Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and the city of Dublin itself. The actors, including Mary Durkan, Steven Ó Broin, Donal O’Sullivan, and Cathal Stephens, will perform excerpts from the book. “Would the departed never nowhere nohow reappear?” Joyce writes. “Ever he would wander, selfcompelled, to the extreme limit of his cometary orbit, beyond the fixed stars and variable suns and telescopic planets, astronomical waifs and strays, to the extreme boundary of space.” The performance, which includes an introduction by Joyce scholar Katherine O’Callaghan and live music, promises to be a similar sort of odyssey. It takes place on February 2 at 4 pm and registration is required. Visit hce-players.org.
Poems of the senses
In “The Wild Language of Deer,” winner of the Slate Roof Press Chapbook contest, poet Susan Glass pays deep, abiding attention to the rhythms of the natural world, percussive, whispery, its scents (“the bedclothes smell of linden trees”), flavors (“mint and lemonbalm”), moods, and shifting atmospheres. In the title poem, she writes: “The deer appears in my family room / and I throw down every myth I’ve ever read … I pull wet sentences from the clay of her flanks.” Something almost otherworldly hovers at the edges of these poems, a quiet attunement that brushes humbly up against the big mysteries. And there’s simple human work, too, as when she describes sanding wood as “work that salts wrists / and forearms and shoulders.” A frontpiece and title page feature Braille, where the usual dots are formed with deer hoofprints. A Braille foldout centers the collection, meant to give the sighted a sense of Braille as an artform, and a tactile experience as well. The result is a collection that is a deep and varied sensory experience.
“Don’t Cry for Me” by Daniel Black (Hanover Square)
“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison (Knopf)
“How to Be Normal” by Phil Christman (Belt)
Pick of the Week
Kelly Link of Book Moon in Easthampton, Massachusetts, recommends “Summer in the City of Roses” by Michelle Ruiz Keil (Soho): “A gorgeous, tender, warm-hearted reworking of mythic material that also feels resolutely set in the world that we live in.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.