It is a rainy bank holiday Saturday here in Paris so of course that means books. I am enjoying good coffee, fresh pain au chocolat and catching up on reading and writing, and podcasts about those two things.
For a number of reasons, this week I have been particularly keen to listen to podcasts by and about women handling the topic of how marginalised figures and their stories are represented in literature. Luckily my favourite podcasts tackle these issues with sapience and sensitivity.
I love the Literary Friction show on NTS (and lots of great NTS shows tbh) and look forward to every episode. I am a bit late to this one but, eck, was it a gripping one. Carry and Octavia, talk to Kit de Waall about how rarely the voice of the working classes is heard in British literature.
This podcast focuses on a new brilliant anthology called Know Your Place. They talk to authors who contributed to the anthology and started with the brilliant Kit de Waall who wrote the novel My Name is Leon and an essay for an anthology called What Happened to Working Class Writers (I have ordered it). As a working-class writer from the north of England, Kit’s commentary on how working-class writers are underrepresented and treated is very poignant and really touched a nerve.
Also, as a literature tour guide I try to focus less on ‘old white men’ and duscuss women’s contributions and look at how poverty and disadvantage influenced writing. Kit talks about this and is very insightful, eloquent and strong individual who I am so glad is becoming such a prominent literary figure.
The above podcast episode reminded me and made me revisit a podcast that featured Lisa McIrney, who’s novel The Inglorious Heresies was one of my fave reads last year and won The Bailey’s Women’s Prize. Set in ‘the arse end of Ireland’ as she deems it – Cork to be precise, which I’ve heard is actually lovely – her novel is blunt, sweary and unflinching. She has written a sequel, which I can’t wait to read, and I adore how she talks about portraying working, and underclass characters, in a way that challenges the general media’s stereotypes and expectations. It is such a great conversation to listen to and I feel refreshed every time I listen to it.
I love The Poetry Foundation Podcast from the publishers of Poetry magazine, an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry.
(Warning: this ep deals with the treatment of women by men and recent news.)
This podcast contains readings of poems that appear in each edition and in this edition they look at a poem by Natalie Shapiro, who was inspired by the old American expression relating to sun showers, “The Devil is Beating His Wife”, in the poem of that name she looks at the mistreatment of women, which corresponds to revelations in the press around men’s attitudes towards women and behaviour. It is a powerful and witty poem that uses repetition to protest and highlight the way that spreading justifications or overlooking behaviours can able abusive men. The poem, reading and conversation around it in this podcast is really interesting, as are all the poets and poems that this podcast features.
Alice Slater and Bethany Rutter are both brilliant and, like many others, I loved when Alice appeared on Bethany’s last podcast series, Hello Friend, so I was so pleased when they created What Page are You On. Each episode takes on different literary themes and Bethany and Alice are avid readers with strong voices and fascinating opinions, creating a series that is relatable, informative and totally addictive. One word of warning though, it will sometimes make you spit out tea from laughing so hard and you will end up buying loads of books because their tips are tops.
In the first episode, called Fat Books, they talk about how fatness is portrayed in literature. They look at Roxanne Gay’s memoir Hunger and how it is highly personal and, as a result, not necessarily universally relatable but brings up some important points. They also mention Gabrielle Deydier’s book about being fat in France, which I am planning to read in French because it hasn’t been translated into English yet. The podcast also explores fatness in fiction (I love Dumplin too) but I will say no more because you should just go and listen to it.