This mind bending episode is about a woman named Shea and her tulpas, or “intelligent companions imagined into existence.” Shea’s tulpas emerged out of writing she did during a period of suicidal depression–she describes it as if her characters came to life to save her. After finding a community of “tulpamancers” on Reddit, Shea begins pursuing a life in which her fictional characters become her real friends.
Two of the hosts of Slate’s weekly culture podcast have an all out, knock down, drag out fight about whether it was ethical for the Italian reporter Claudio Gatti to reveal Elena Ferrante’s true identity. The intensity of the argument between culture critic Stephen Metcalf and Slate editor-in-chief Julia Turner make the ongoing debate around the EL offices about the merit of Lorrie Moore (she’s great, it’s settled) seem downright genial. The other two segments on Bruce Springsteen’s memoir and Westworld are worth a listen, too.
Gladwell looks at the story of Harry Enfield, a comic in 90’s Britain who satirized Margaret Thatcher and her supporters, and examines whether satire can really help effect social and political change. Drawing from examples of literature and TV, such as Tina Fey making nice with Sarah Palin on SNL, Gladwell wonders if satire has become toothless or even counterproductive.
In this episode, Karina Longworth tells the story of Dorothy Parker–poet, queen of the famed Algonquin Round Table and half of a screenwriter duo that helped pen Hollywood classics like A Star is Born. In the interwar period, Parker supported socialist causes, which put her in a difficult position after WWII, when the House Un-American Activities reared its ugly head and insisted that the studios blacklist left-leaning writers. This is the story of a writer who followed her conscience, at the cost of her career.
This episode is about Robin Woods, an inmate serving sixteen years in prison, who decides he’s going to read a book for the first time in his life. The book is Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, and Woods has to regularly consult a dictionary as he goes. This habit turns him into the closest of close readers, and one day Woods finds an error in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. He writes to the encyclopedia editor, and the two strike up a long and complicated friendship. Neither man will ever be the same.
Radiolab borrows a story from Radio Ambulante, the podcast founded and produced by Daniel Alarcón, author of the novel At Night We Walk in Circles. The episode, reported by Luis Trelles, is about a group of Cuban punk rockers called Los Frikis who, in the late 80’s, began to inject themselves with HIV positive blood so that they would be sent to live in sanatoriums that existed largely outside the control of the communist regime. Although Los Frikis weren’t writers in the traditional sense, they sacrificed their lives to be able to consume and create art–at once a chilling protest and a metaphor for the irrationality of youth.