Tobias Wolff reads the Denis Johnson classic short story "Emergency" on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. Time to buy milk for the preemie rabbits and save some lives. Some of my favorite dialogue ever written, the kind that makes me laugh aloud on the subway. (And news to me--I learned that Johnson himself played the patient with the knife in his eye in the movie version of Jesus' Son!)
Zadie Smith talks about language, social class, and inclusion/exclusion in her NYPL lecture "Speaking in Tongues." From Pygmalion to Obama (both president and memoirist). What exactly is "keeping it real," and does education make that impossible? And if so, is that a tragedy, as it has been painted in the past, the so-called "tragedy of the mulatto?" Or, are people like Obama (and Zadie Smith too) teaching us a new way to think about "real?"
Luis Alberto Urrea lectures at Bread Loaf 2008: "The Road Out of Tijuana is Paved with Ink." Talk about keeping it real. Dude has wild stories to tell about his aunt, La Flaca, and her terrifying fireside tales, along with other early experiences that formed who he is as a writer. Instructive and entertaining. Sorry I could not figure out how to deep link to this episode. Click on the "lectures" tab in iTunes. Also recommended from Bread Loaf: Robert Boswell's lecture on omniscient narration, a pared-down version of his essay from The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction, my new favorite craft book ever.
Alan Davis Drake's podcast of Anton Chekhov's unabridged short stories is fun and well-produced. It's a good way to get up to speed on the classics. There are two things I love about Chekhov (so far)... One: he makes characters' motives transparent--often selfish ones--without completely sacrificing their likeability. Is this the essence of comedy? Or at least the kind of comedy I love, which laughs at the self and the other at the same time? And two: he doesn't appear to be following strict rules of beginning-middle-end. You know how I feel about that crap. Character motive pulls you right on through. That, and the feeling you're sitting around a campfire or card table hearing the story. The structural surprises are welcome and satisfying.