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Listen to This Listen to That

Listen to This, Listen to That: First Encounters

by Dan Froid

What to burn, and what to curse? It was, yesterday, the last day of April, and Walpurgisnacht, or Witches’ Night. On that night, if I remember this correctly, witches gather at the tallest peak in Germany. I could, at this point, lead you to “Night on Bald Mountain”—which by the way, concerns a different night, a different sabbath, but, truer to my sensibilities I’d rather steer you toward Marianne Faithfull’s “Witches’ Song.” Faithfull is possibly a beautiful witch. “We will form the circle, hold our hands and chant / Let the great one know what it is we want,” she intones.  “Remember death is far away and life is sweet,” she sings.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Women Political Poets

by Dan Froid

I studied neither American history nor government in high school, not really. For enterprising students who desired to put off their vacations, my high school in northeastern Nebraska offered a rather bizarre version of summer school, a system whose existence is puzzling. A week or so after the end of the academic year, we gathered at an old, old building. I believe it had, unsurprisingly, been the school for those with learning disabilities—which not only placed them spatially far from other students, but relegated them to this dump. The building was, in fact, a dump. Only the classrooms nearest the entrance were usable; the rooms further back were riddled with mold. One door which bore the label “Janitor’s Closet” opened onto a steep staircase; the same door bore a second label, bright orange, warning that what lay beyond was hazardous: “Asbestos Hazard.” Nobody goes there now.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Fruitful Tension

by Dan Froid

My favorite fact about Enya: She has sung in ten different languages, seven of which are real. (Two of them are dialects of Elvish, the other invented for Enya by her lyricist.) My second-favorite: She owns her own castle in Ireland, fitted with maximum security precautions. I know a lot about Enya. As a deeply weird fourteen-year-old, I found myself developing a fascination with her. In the springtime—exactly this time of year, I believe—I took a Quiz Bowl trip to central Nebraska, and it was Enya all the way. I was the resident expert on literature: I had to answer questions about Ovid and the Brontës and Flaubert. Rather surprisingly, given the relative dearth of my counterparts, question sets were heavy on literature. And so, because this was a weak spot apparently endemic to regional teams, I, a freshman, was recruited to help.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Facts and Fictions

by Dan Froid

“I wanted to write a beach read for smart people,” Joy Castro says of her novel Hell or High Water. She explains in “Facts and Fictions,” Episode 17 of Air Schooner, her intent to create a book that’s not only fun to read but intellectually stimulating, full of complexity. Her novel takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, centering on a reporter who investigates sex offenders who went off the grid after the hurricane. Castro tells us, “I did a lot of historical research about the city of New Orleans. The stolen Africans who lived under the different regimes [which] all had slavery norms.” She also investigated issues of rehabilitation and recidivism for sex-offenders.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Family Matters

by Dan Froid

“I’ve had this sort of ongoing romance with the subjunctive . . . to imagine this possible future that didn’t look like anything you’d seen in the world around you.” That’s how Julie Marie Wade describes her interest in memoir in “Family Matters,” Episode 18 of Air Schooner. I like that: the romance of the subjunctive. That’s a real pleasure of the imagination, or a real nightmare, to set up a scenario and follow it to its furthest conclusion. Family matters present surely the biggest daydreaming minefield: it’s so easy to go back to petty conflicts, or strained relationships, or whatever, and conjecture other possibilities. In the episode, we hear Sharon Olds do this, too, in “I Go Back to May 1937,” which for me is essentially an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Stranger Fiction

by Dan Froid

Yesterday I ate some chocolate, Dove-brand dark chocolate with almonds. I opened the purple foil and popped it into my mouth; beneath the chocolate lay a secret inscription. “Feed your sense of anticipation,” it read. What? Feed my what? Feed my sense of anticipation. Presumably the chocolate wrapper urges me to give myself something exciting, or, better, something both exciting and vaguely luxurious to which to look forward, like, presumably, more Dove chocolate. Or feed, indeed, my already anxiety-prone mind with…more anxiety? Sounds terrific. I’ll accidentally send a gossipy message to the subject of the gossip. I’ll delay working on a paper until the night before it’s due. I’ll take the wrong exit off the highway a half-hour before I’m due to arrive somewhere. And then I’ll think: How do I get out of this mess? I’ll certainly anticipate something.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Strange Love

by Dan Froid

I wonder what a first date with Bluebeard would be like. He’s immensely wealthy but also immensely ugly. You know he’s been married several times, and that all of his marriages have ended badly. But you don’t know why. And that’s pretty much all you know about him. So if you’re on a date with Bluebeard—coerced, most likely, by the promise of wealth, if not domestic comfort—what do you talk about? Does he read? He probably has a huge library but never touches his books. I’m thinking of that scene in The Great Gatsby, where the guy with the owl eyes is surprised that Gatsby has actual books in his library, that it’s not all just for show. Do you think Bluebeard’s library is real?

Listen to This, Listen to That: Location, Location

by Dan Froid

I’ve been thinking about place: where we spend our childhoods, where we move and live, the places we find wonderful or detestable or just endurable. Writer and filmmaker Julie Dash recalls her childhood in “Location, Location,” Episode 43 of Air Schooner. Though she was born and raised in Long Island, both of Julie Dash’s parents came from South Carolina, and her life and experiences have been inflected by the Gullah/Geechee culture of that state.

Listen to This, Listen to That: Animals

by Dan Froid

I was thinking about the divide between humans and animals recently—big subject, maybe, but I was reading Frankenstein and felt compelled to consider where the creature fits in. A classmate in the seminar asked us, Why do we read? We wonder, why does the creature read? Does it transgress against our nature to do so? Although animals lack rationality, they certainly do not lack curiosity—and curiosity could go a long way toward considering why a dog must investigate its surroundings, or why I must read. 

Listen to This, Listen to That: Side Door

by Dan Froid

“If I go through that side door, if I go into the world via something magical, or heightened, or strange, or absurdist . . . I can access the emotional stuff more clearly,” Aimee Bender explains.

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